Kinder Bloomen guitarist Abdul “Defa” Defashah can’t quite explain how his band got here.
“We never really agreed on psychedelic rock being our main ‘genre’ per se,” he muses. The six-piece group traffic in a a punchy, busy blend of contemporary “indie” flourishes – spacey vocals, funked-out kraut rock beats, disco-jazz low ends, a whole lot of freaked out trumpeting – and plenty of what “psychedelic” elements – fantastical lyricism, endless phased out guitars, Middle Eastern melodic nuances.
Defa may be fuzzy on how they collected all those ingredients, but what is clear is that the band from South Jakarta – arguably the “hippest” side of Indonesia’s capital city – have landed on a magical formula. It results are on full, sprawling display on ‘Progression II’, their second EP released last month. It also showcases their love for stretched-out jams that sidestep traditional song structures for a more experimental approach – it’s only three songs long, but the project’s runtime nears 30 minutes, with closing track ‘Taxi To The Massala Guy’ going well over 14.
Kinder Bloomen’s layered, leisurely sound could only come from a big band. Other than Defa (who also handles backing vocals, keyboards,and percussion), there is vocalist Danang Joewono, trumpeter and backing vocalist Raka Soetrisno, guitarist and backing vocalist Ridzky Imam, bassist Ikhsan Fadillah, and drummer Luki Indra Malik. Additional personnel are band manager Zaki Aryoseno, who sometimes plays synthesizers in the studio, and producer Kevin Silalahi, who plays flute and contributes field recordings.
“Along the way, the more we practised, the more we found chemistry in just jamming and trusting each other’s lead”
Defa, Luki and Ikhsan played in a band together in high school but stopped playing together as they enrolled in university. As they tried to focus on their studies, they found themselves unable to let go of their musical passions.
“Luki kept the idea of playing in a band going and so we finally decided to start practising again, the three of us – with a more indie rock approach, heavily influenced by Bombay Bicycle Club’s debut album,” Defa recalls. Soon enough, three became six – a mix of childhood, university and ‘scene’ friends.
The band formed in 2017, taking their name from the Real Estate song ‘Kinder Blumen’ (which, they later found out, is how some Germans refer to hippies). They played their first show that same year and began releasing singles on digital platforms such as Bandcamp, which culminated in their first EP, 2020’s self-released ‘Progression I’.
By then, they were already combining their dizzyingly disparate influences into an intriguing whole. Led Zeppelin and The Beatles got guitarist Ridzky into music, while Luki took to the drumkit because of Blink-182, eventually embracing the bands Turnover and Palace as enduring inspirations.
Meanwhile, Raka cites Sigur Rós, Antonio Carlos Jobim, Kamasi Washington and Mahavishnu Orchestra as influences on his trumpet-playing. As backing vocalist, though, he and the other singers in the band try to emulate the layered harmonies of The Beatles, Fleet Foxes, New York Voices, and French vocal ensemble Voice Messengers.
The band had a memorable time trying to combine all of those influences in ‘Progression I’.
“Producing ‘Progression I’ was one hell of an experience,” remembers Raka. “Years of jams were compiled into three tracks that we felt were representative of where we were at at the time. Every live session was different and led up to us ultimately deciding which versions of the songs we wanted to put into recording, even [up] to the mixing process.”
When Kinder Bloomen started out, they tried to write songs the conventional way: verse, chorus and bridge. But during rehearsals, the band would start what felt like endless jams. It didn’t take long for the latter method to overtake the former. The members found blazing freely on their instruments in sync with each other a far more exciting process than trying to make a pop hook work.
“What I believe I can do is to simply put the images in my head to the songs. Some come from past experiences, some from scenes in a dream, others come from random ramblings that pop up as I ride my motorcycle to commute”
“Along the way, the more we practised, the more we found chemistry in just jamming and trusting each other’s lead,” said Defa. “Because of that, we got used to jamming every time we practised and from there slowly, what became Kinder Bloomen’s so-called sound we have now started to take shape. Not sonically speaking necessarily, but more in spirit.”
That organic process was, Defa theorises, how the ‘psychedelic’ elements came into the picture. The more Kinder Bloomen embraced the jam, the more they realised – and people around them said – they were making psychedelic rock.
Psychedelic music invites “a very wide array of sounds”, Defa says. “It seemed fitting to go into that direction, in hopes of finding the freedom we wish to be able to experience when playing our music and a deeper understanding of each other’s main influences and how to translate that into Kinder Bloomen’s music.”
Another reason Kinder Bloomen invite the ‘psychedelic’ tag is their enigmatic song titles and lyrics filled with wordplay and imagery that aren’t typical for Indonesian bands. Vocalist Danang – and one of the band’s two lyricists – grew up on indie rock (King Krule, Vampire Weekend, Bon Iver, Mac DeMarco) and hip-hop (Kanye West, Kendrick Lamar) and says that he was always “envious of the great writers” that those genres produced. “I am continually inspired by how they exactly paint images and convey their feelings over their songs,” he says.
“It was exactly what I wanted to emulate in the songs of Kinder Bloomen. Being well aware that my vocabulary is limited, what I believe I can do is to simply put the images in my head to the songs. Some come from past experiences, some from scenes in a dream, others come from random ramblings that pop up as I ride my motorcycle to commute.”
‘Do You Barbarians Speak’ from ‘Progression II’, for instance, came about when Danang was coming in late to the studio, finding the band already finishing their instrumental parts. With no lyrics prepared, he decided to sing about a bolt from the blue he had while travelling there: “how every single person has moments in their life where they go through a power trip”.
“The analogy was thinking that you’re a fucking wizard while all others around you are barbarians.” That’s made explicit in the, lyric sung in Indonesian and English, “Akulah the wizard, kamulah barbarians” (“I am the wizard/You are barbarians”).
“Aside from that line, all the other lyrics were purely free-styled,” Danang says. “I wanted to double down on the arrogant sentiment of the song, and tried to be as boastful as I can in the lyrics.” Indeed: “Living like it’s ours / Living like it’s free,” he declares, later repeatedly urging: “Take a sip of the potion.”
The members of Kinder Bloomen are friends outside of the band, spending time together, Luki says, “exchanging stupid inside jokes, drinking, and jamming around – we do that a lot – and hanging out at Defa’s house.”
But now, they’re busy with the music side of things, playing shows, mostly around bigger Indonesian cities like Jakarta and Bandung, to promote ‘Progression II’. They’re well-placed to become even buzzier than they already are: they’re in good company as part of the active roster of Lamunai Records, the indie Indonesian label which has also worked with retro rock trio FLEUR! and rapper BAP. They also made some waves in 2021 when they took part in Vans’ #VansMusiciansWanted Asia-Pacific competition, unexpectedly becoming one of five finalists from the region.
“I registered for the competition just for fun,” Luki remembers. “But yeah, we became finalists even though we weren’t that confident. We didn’t really aim to win and just wanted to be happy experiencing it. It was good that we got to represent Indonesia.”
“Obviously we are gonna produce and make some fresh new material, more new concepts, and be more productive,” Ridzky says of their future plans. He also divulges a lofty personal ambition: “My long term plan for Kinder Bloomen is that I want our songs to be included in the FIFA soundtrack.”
Kinder Bloomen’s ‘Progression II’ is out now via Lamunai Records