Left to right: Aldrich Jai Kishen and Savin Nair

On a hot June day in 2021, Singapore was in the grip of the Covid-19 pandemic. Many people were suffering, and the elderly in local nursing homes across the island couldn’t see their friends or families. When residents at Lee Ah Mooi Old Age Home spotted a gang of burly-looking men on Harley Davidson motorbikes, clad in black leathers and covered in tattoos pulling up outside the premises, they didn’t expect them to cheerfully drop off food parcels, shower them in kindness and give them a donation of over $2,000.

But charity is at the soul of motorcycle club Skulls of Nox (S.O.N.S). They may appear intimidating in appearance, perfectly fitting the stereotype of scary gangsters better off avoided, but in fact they come with hearts of gold and one clear mission: to give back to local Singapore communities in need.

Classed as ‘misfits’

Sons of Nox presenting their fundraising donation to a local nursing home

Aldrich Jai Kishen and Savin Nair are used to people staring at them. Born and bred in Singapore, the two friends grew up in Toa Payoh and Jurong feeling like they didn’t really belong to society. As teenagers they were both drawn to bikes and bikers, death metal, punk rock, and body art – a world away from the slick and shiny Singapore developing around them.

Savin started getting tattoos when he was 14, telling parlors he was 18 and hiding them from his family. “I was rebellious and really interested in ‘body modification’,” he says. “By 18, I had tattoos on my back, chest, a few on my thigh – Mum was not pleased when she found out!” Today Savin has more than 30 tattoos all over his body, with only parts of his calves and his right rib cage un-inked. He works as a tattoo artist.

“Growing up, we didn’t conform to what was expected,” shares Jai, a youth worker who spends time on the streets of Singapore, identifying children at risk and assisting them with family struggles, substance abuse and housing. “Back in the era when everyone was listening to the Backstreet Boys, we were already classed as ‘misfits’.”

It was after they got their motorbike licenses that Jai and Savin started to think seriously about forming a motorcycle club. “These types of clubs were first founded in the US after the war as a space for post-war veterans to come together, and I loved that concept,” explains Jai. Wanting their club to have a unique and distinct purpose, he suggested using their bikes to assist with charity work. “As a youth worker, I was exposed to many under-the-radar people and places in Singapore that needed help,” he says. Keen to make a positive difference to other people’s lives, Skulls of Nox was born in 2021.

Passion for charity

After getting the okay to launch from existing Singapore motorcycle clubs (something they wanted to do as a mark of respect to other groups within the biking community), more members joined S.O.N.S, the rules being that everyone has to endure a “probationary” period where club “patches” must be earned, and members must posess a passion for charity endeavours.

Today, Skulls of Nox (Nox is the goddess of night in Greek mythology – the preferred time for their bike rides), consists of a dozen members from all walks of life, from software engineers to gin makers. Outside of their day jobs, the club gets involved in as many charity opportunities as possible, raising funds through art, organising events, making T-shirts and hosting BBQs to build awareness for those in need. As well as assisting local nursing homes with food deliveries, last year they also carried out deliveries with the charity Willing Hearts (willinghearts.org.sg), alongside ad-hoc projects such as collaborating with a local childcare centre to transport pizza to those less fortunate.

“We raised the money, bought the pizzas and delivered them to homes around the island,” says Savin, who adds that thankfully, they were well received and their biker aesthetic didn’t scare anyone! “Seeing the kids happy was the best feeling. Children are the perfect clientele for what our motorcycle club does as they don’t judge us from the outside. Our appearance opens their minds to the idea that people can look different and still be good human beings!”

“People can look different and still be good human beings”

Every January, S.O.N.S host “church”, what’s known in biker terms as a mandatory club meeting. Held in Malaysia, the gang get together to eat, drink, and form a strategy for the club’s focus throughout the forthcoming year. Children’s Day on 6 October is always a key date where they contribute to various charities, and plans are also afoot for them to collaborate with The Parkinson Society Singapore (parkinson.org.sg). “Organisations will approach us for help, and we all keep our ear to the ground to find out who might need a good turn from our side, too,” shares Jai, who admits that there are many untold circumstances in Singapore.

Right: Jai in charge of the grill at a charity BBQ

Band of brothers

Away from their community work, Skulls of Nox ride their bikes as often as possible, stopping off for coffee, beers and chats along the way. “As a gang, we’re into what’s known as ‘Cafes and Cruisers’,” explains Savin. “Cafes are old British bikes like Triumphs and Nortons, cruisers are Harley Davidsons and Honda Shadows. We all have lives outside of the club, but it serves as a safe space for all of us to come back to.”

As much as S.O.N.S provide services within the community, they also care a lot for one another. “If someone in our motorcycle club is feeling down or has a problem, we all feel we can reach out,” says Jai. “It’s not seen as ‘cool’ to discuss mental health, especially amongst men, but we refer to one another as a ‘band of brothers’ and we take that very seriously. When men have an issue, whether it be about jobs, relationships or home life, most will shut down as a coping mechanism, but we offer support and we’re not afraid to open up.”

As for if the ‘misfit’ moniker still fits, Jai says that it does, but adds, “Over time I’ve realised there is nothing wrong with being different and there’s a lot of power in standing out. There’s so much pride in the stuff that Skulls of Nox enjoy and the work that we do. From our first food delivery, we got addicted to the ability to make people happy, and I’m glad to be a part of that.”

He continues, “People tend to judge what they don’t understand. For us to get defensive to stereotypes will only reinforce the traditional image that bikers have. Now when we get stared at we just smile, and hope we’ll get a smile back.”
Indeed, if you see a bunch of black leathers speeding past you after dark, food deliveries swaying in the breeze and leaving a whiff of Char Kway Teow in their midst, give them a grin and perhaps a little clap, too.