Timur Flores Ling Schnyder is a Swiss-Malaysian singer who has just released her first single and debut music video titled Not A Criminal. This boppy and easy-to-dance-to tune is paired with a thrilling music video that has viewers excited for the next song. The electro-pop artiste has signed with KRU Music, and her new song is part of a six-track EP that will be released in instalments over the rest of the year, along with Malay and Mandarin versions of each track.
After graduating with a master’s degree in engineering from Oxford, Timur knew her passions lay elsewhere. “That’s the thing about growing up with Asian parents: [Music] is not something you consider as a viable career option,” she tells Options. “I am good at maths and science, so what’s a good fit for that? Engineering. It seemed like the natural choice. I finished my degree and came back to Malaysia to start work at a bank. It was a perfectly fine job, but there was no passion. So, I stepped back and took a moment to think, and the one thing I love doing is singing and performing. I can stand in front of the computer just writing music and then I don’t even notice time fly by. That’s what I want.”
Music has always been a part of Timur’s life. She started piano lessons from a young age, along with her siblings, and picked up the saxophone as part of her Year Six challenge at school. “Singing has always just been something that I did, and I sing everywhere. One year, my brother’s birthday present from me was that I wouldn’t sing for a whole 24 hours. He did appreciate it very much,” she laughs. Timur’s myriad classes and after-school activities included ballet, which she managed to pursue until Grade 7, and gymnastics, which she admits was something she did not excel at.
What many may not know is that this up-and-coming singer’s father was none other than the late Rolf Schnyder — once the owner and CEO of Swiss watchmaker Ulysse Nardin. Timur recalls interning at the company and learning how to take apart and assemble basic watch mechanisms. “I remember thinking, ‘Oh, maybe dad will let me take over the company one day’, but it was not really my thing,” she says. While she may not have shared her father’s love for horological marvels, Timur remembers his dedication and fervour when talking about watches, and adds that it was quite infectious.
Schnyder was certainly a man of action, who embodied the phrase “you can do anything you set your mind to”. “He was very spontaneous and loved to just do things. He was even willing to try extreme sports. My dad, at the age of 74, went skydiving. He had a fear of heights, and still did it! He taught me how to be brave and to be strong.”
Timur says her parents were very supportive in her growing-up years. “My mum was very involved; she wanted us to always do different activities and she would organise something for each day. Dad was the one who really encouraged me to sing. He would say, ‘I love to hear you sing’ or ‘When you sing like this, it’s really lovely’. And he loved to watch me perform.”
Although she is a self-proclaimed introvert, Timur is bubbly and quick to smile. She attributes her down-to-earth demeanour to her parents. “I would like to think I am quite relaxed and not very materialistic even though I come from a relatively privileged background. I think that’s because of my upbringing. My parents instilled those values in all three of us,” she says. The way she speaks of her family makes it quite clear how closely knit they are. Timur even bemoans the strangeness of not seeing her siblings regularly because of travel restrictions caused by the pandemic.
Even now, with her music career, Timur relies on her family’s opinions. “Not all my music is written by me; most of the songs are from other writers. But when we were going through the song selection process, I got my family to give me feedback. They listened to all the songs and would literally give me scores out of 10 and what they thought of each song … The only thing is I sometimes have to hold back from sending songs to my mum. She is so proud of me and so supportive, so she wants to show all of her friends the music. But I’m like ‘Mum, you can’t! It has not been released yet.’”
On the process behind creating her music and why this endeavour took the two years of the pandemic to complete, Timur says: “I submitted songs, and we had both local and international composers do the same, and we had a blind listening. The songs didn’t have lyrics at this point because selection comes first. After the first round, we weren’t satisfied with all the songs we had. So, we did a second round of submissions and added songs until we were satisfied.”
The next step was to write the lyrics, and this took a particularly long time because Timur insisted that each of her songs would have Malay and Mandarin versions in addition to English. “We wanted to do it in three languages to show off the multilingual nature of Malaysia. We wanted to showcase Malaysia on a bigger stage and try and reach a more global audience with this release as well.” She was very particular that each version has to make sense in its respective language and flowed with the music, so the editing process took time.
Her EP will have six tracks, but only four will have a music video each.
Because of pandemic-related restrictions, it was not until the end of 2021 that the filming of her music videos could commence. As each video was connected to the next, they were able to wrap the production up quite efficiently. “Yusry Abdul Halim, the director, was telling me the idea for the first music video and I said, hold on, let’s make that a full story for all four songs. Let’s keep the storyline going and make it a quadrilogy.” Shot in Malaysia, all four music videos were brought to life by local talent.
Timur finds it difficult to limit herself to one genre, so her music naturally spans a range of styles. “I love listening to different genres of music. It’s amazing when a song can just intject a bit of another genre, to give it something more. To me, it gives it more personality, and it makes it more interesting to listen to. For this EP, I will keep my base of pop in everything but each song will have some other influences as well,” she explains.
While Not A Criminal is an electro-pop hit about holding on to a relationship gone sour, Sabotage, which is the next song to be released, is a more angsty tune about a toxic relationship. It was originally written in Malay. “The third song is slower and a bit more romantic. And it’s super sweet, pretty and much softer. It will also showcase a very different side of my voice. The last one is Carnival, where things end with a bit of a bang.” The fourth track is a pop song similar in style to Not A Criminal, with elements inspired by the circus — one of Timur’s obsessions.
The final two songs will be released with the fourth music video. Dance Through My Heart is the only number in the EP that was written by Timur. Her favourite artiste is Shakira, because of her voice and the way she performs; so this song is a cheeky Euro-Latin inspired hit. Timur describes the last song, Boom Boom Boom, as “the jazzy one, but still very pop, light and sweet”.
The Not A Criminal music video, out on YouTube, features a thrilling bank robbery, complete with a car chase, dancing and a twist at the end. Timur leaves us with a mysterious hint of what is to come. “The same cop figure will play a larger role. We will obviously go through a bit of drama, some turbulence and then, hopefully, in the final part, there is going to be a bit more cooperation. There’ll also be an operation at the end, but I won’t tell you what kind.”
This article first appeared on July 11, 2022 in The Edge Malaysia.