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Rock ‘n’ roll stars: young DB duo Case Sensitive

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Young DB duo Case Sensitive sits down with Claire Severn to discuss influences, ambitions and their passion for performing.

It’s late Friday evening, and Tung Chung’s Seaview Cafe is packed to the rafters with people chilling out to the sound of one of Lantau’s hottest bands. To listen to them, you’d think the musicians on stage were seasoned professionals – and they are – but take a closer look at the duo playing and you realise these guys are actually something really special.

Fast forward a few weeks, and Saxon and Jarvis Whittaker – otherwise known as Case Sensitive – are sitting in the DB sunshine, talking enthusiastically about their favourite subject – music, or, to be more precise, rock music.

“We first got into music when we heard Back in Black by AC/DC,” says 11-year-old Jarvis, a Year 7 student at Discovery College (DC). “We started researching the band and became obsessed with them.”

“Completely obsessed,” agrees Saxon, Jarvis’ 13-year-old brother, who also attends DC, currently in Year 9. “We used to play a game where I was Malcolm, the rhythm guitarist, and Jarvis was Angus, the lead guitarist, and we’d just rock out to their songs like we were part of the band.”

All about the music

Originally from Sydney, Australia, Saxon and Jarvis moved to DB in 2009 with their parents, Gillian and Blaine. Gillian teaches at DC, while Blaine is one of the most sought-after saxophonists in Asia both with his band and as a studio and touring musician. “Our house is always full of music,” says Jarvis. “We get a lot of inspiration from Dad. He helps us with our music – with songwriting tips and stuff like that.”

The pair cite a number of other musicians and bands as inspirations too: Kurt Cobain, Keith Urban, Guns N’ Roses,
Green Day, David Bowie, Queen, The Beatles. “Anything under that umbrella,” says Jarvis.

“We just love that whole sound,” says Saxon. “We don’t really listen to the modern music that other kids would. We listen to older stuff from the ‘60s, ‘70s, ‘80s and ‘90s.”

The rock vibe certainly suits the pair, who already boast an impressive Instagram following – @casesensitive_hk. They’ve made a name for themselves on Hong Kong’s live music scene too, having played venues across Lantau and Hong Kong Island.

“We played our first gig at The Venue [the former restaurant in DB North Plaza],” says Saxon, explaining that the opportunity came about through Y Rock, the community organisation which provides young performers in Hong Kong with a platform to express themselves.

“Since then, we’ve gone on to play at places including 1563 in Central, the Hong Kong Rugby Sevens, The BIG Picnic and Clockenflap, and in October we’ll be playing at the Rotten Head Music & Craft Beer Festival in Tung Chung,” adds Saxon. (The Rotten Head organisers offered the boys a slot after seeing them play at a recent Dream Chasers concert in DB North Plaza.)

School of rock

“Being part of Y Rock has given us some fantastic performance opportunities. We’ve also had lessons off [Y Rock’s music director] Chris Collins, as well as Jay Apungan, who plays at Hemingway’s, which has been great,” adds Saxon.

The boys have clearly been taking note in their lessons, because as anyone who’s seen them play will tell you, their performances are spot on – they nail every riff, every note sung is pitch perfect.

But the thing that strikes you most when talking to them is their complete passion for performing. “We love it when we’re up there,” shares Jarvis. “We see people’s faces when we’re on stage, and after the shows they come up to us and tell us, ‘That was fantastic!’” “When they start singing along it makes us feel great,” adds Saxon. “We just love playing to people.”

The other thing that’s clearly evident as the boys chat is how much they enjoy working together. “We get along really well when we play music,” says Saxon. “When Jarvis does something really cool, I think, ‘Oh, nice one!’ We love playing together, and we love the music that we play. It’s the bond we have.”

“Saxon is more rhythm and I’m lead guitar,” continues Jarvis. “He’s the singer and I do backup vocals, and he backs me up in the solos. We complement each other well – we use each other’s strengths to make it work together.”

Of course, the pair’s success hasn’t come overnight – it’s the result of years of practice, day in, day out. “We practise whenever we get free time,” says Jarvis. “We try to get school stuff out of the way first.” “Then we go, ‘OK, let’s play guitar now!’” adds Saxon. “I have to practise singing as well as guitar, so I do vocal warm-ups and online singing classes.”

“While he’s doing singing practice, I’ll be doing my scales and practising soloing,” says Jarvis. “Then we’ll come together and start practising songs.” “Or thinking of a set for the next gig and learning new songs to make it a bit more interesting,”adds Saxon.

The boys don’t miss out while they’re on holiday either. “We have guitars at our grandpa’s place in Australia,” explains Saxon. “So when we go there we play. It’s good to keep our playing up to date – if we stop our fingers stop being used to it and they become soft again.”

On the case

And what of the band name? Where did that come from? “Case Sensitive came to me while I was trying to buy a song on my computer,” explains Saxon. “‘Case Sensitive’ kept blinking on the screen, and I figured it would be a really cool band or duo name. I also like how it can have more than one meaning, so we decided to go with it!”

And what does the future hold for the pair? Where do the boys see themselves in a few years’ time? “We want to put together a band with a bassist and a drummer,” says Saxon.

“And we want to perform and record our own songs, write our own albums.” “And do tours around the world,” says Jarvis.

“Yeah, we want to travel the world and play to people,” agrees Saxon. “That’s what we love to do, and that’s what we want to keep doing.”


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