When Svmmerdose released their debut album ‘She / Her / Hers’ in August 2019, the band made a splash. With an R&B-inflected indie pop-rock sound and a record full of lyrical narratives about young womanhood, the band set themselves apart from other teen hopefuls in the Indonesian music industry – and marked themselves as ones to watch.
Now, Svmmerdose – the duo of vocalist/guitarist Tarapti Rinrin and bassist Iqbaal Ramadhan – have returned with the EP ‘Yeah Yeah Youth’. It comes after an eventful two years for the band, from the departure of their lead guitarist to a two-month headlining tour, and showcases two musicians hungry for something different: from an attraction to psychedelic pop and R&B stylings to a purposefully playful vibe.
“Our first album felt so specific because its narrative was mainly drawn from my life experience,” Rinrin, who is 20, says. “So I spent almost two years trying to explore new shit. Throughout that time, I got to meet lots of people who shared with me some of their life stories.” She did still write about her own personal woes, though: “During the pandemic, I experienced loss and went through a few relationships as well. You know, young adult stuff!”
Svmmerdose started cooking up demos after they wrapped up the Don’t Fall in Love With Me Tour of Java in February 2020. Social distancing wasn’t a thing yet, but there was still an obstacle that prevented the duo from making music together: Ramadhan was pursuing a communication science major at Monash University in Melbourne, Australia, whereas Rinrin was pursuing her degree at the University of Indonesia.
Their solution? “We set up a Google Drive. Rinrin came up with hooks and lyrics while I came up with the beats and sound. We went back and forth afterwards. I would curate her stuff, like, ‘Too much!’, ‘Nah!’, ‘Let’s do this one!’” explains Ramadhan.
Svmmerdose had previously worked with Janitra Satriani, who co-wrote and produced ‘She / Her / Hers’, but ‘Yeah Yeah Youth’ was written and produced by Rinrin and Ramadhan in its entirety. “At the end of the day, we’re the only ones who understand what Svmmerdose’s music is,” Ramadhan says. He was also keen to prove himself as a producer, he adds. “So I spent my time learning and I braved myself to step up.” Some of the EP’s production touches – the sampled sounds of mundane objects like spoons on ‘Mind Drift’ and a dial tone on ‘Tripping On Me’ – were inspired by artists like Billie Eilish and The 1975.
Ramadhan describes ‘Yeah Yeah Youth’ as “a little bit brighter” than their previous record, and a project that leans more towards “psychedelic pop”. The spirit of the EP, he adds, was born from Svmmerdose’s irritation at what he describes as “heavy music”.
“I’m 21. Sometimes I get fed up with some music [by older artists] that is just too heavy for listeners my age,” he says frankly. “I’m talking about motivational stuff and self-love stuff and ‘it’s gonna be OK’ stuff. I mean, we just want to have fun, man!”
Ramadhan continues: indie music nowadays “tends to be very poetic and the songs are usually about how hard this life is and it’s just downright depressing. I mean, fuck, I’m already busy at work and I’m also juggling my college stuff and now I have to listen to this ‘save yourself’ kind of music? No way! So Rinrin and I agreed that we would just have fun and trust the process.”
“At the end of the day, we’re the only ones who understand what Svmmerdose’s music is”
Ironically, for a determinedly light-hearted EP, the first song Svmmerdose worked on was the emotional ‘Now You’re Gone’ – which was inspired by the death of Rinrin’s dog, which she calls “the saddest thing ever” with a self-deprecating laugh. “Throughout the recording, I was bawling with tears. However, even though it was inspired by a dead pet, I had to make sure that everyone could relate to the song.”
For Ramadhan, the most challenging track to record was ‘Mind Drift’. “I came up with the intro at the last minute,” he says. Moreover, he was adamant it would be track number two on the tracklist – something he “just knew in my gut”. Songs are always up to listeners’ interpretation, but for Rinrin, ‘Mind Drift’ is about “a teenage thing. About how you’re crushing on multiple guys at the same time. I know, I’m crazy!” she laughs.
Following that is the R&B-influenced lead single ‘To Be With You’. “The song has a lot of hooks with no pattern, so I feel like everyone can sing along without knowing the story.” Rinrin says. Another streaming favourite is the EP’s opener, the poppy ‘More Than Friends’, which the band see as a “transition song” from their first album to ‘Yeah Yeah Youth’. “The song is like a checkpoint. It’s like us saying, ‘welcome to the EP and welcome to the journey’,” explains Ramadhan. As the EP draws to a close with ‘Tripping On Me’, Svmmerdose toy with their formula, injecting spoken-word verses and touches of drama in the delivery .
“We thought it would be funny if the song were literally a phone conversation over a song,” Ramadhan explains. “A conversation between two girls, mocking fuckboys – because it’s a real deal. If you go to certain clubs in Jakarta, you can tell those fuckboys coming in and being, like, ‘Oh, I’m someone’s nephew’ and then they will pick a fight with someone and they will have girls in their arms.”
“When acting brings me to the fantasy land, music always ushers me back to the ground”
‘Yeah Yeah Youth’ is what happens when two close creative collaborators trust their gut. Ramadhan has other artistic instincts to hone, too, in his flourishing acting career. He’s starred in Lucky Kuswandi’s Ali & Ratu Ratu Queens, which premiered on Netflix last week, and will appear in the Anggwa Dwimas Sasongko heist film Mencuri Raden Saleh.
It might seem a lot to take on, but Ramadhan, has no qualms juggling both Svmmerdose and his acting career, which he sees as counterbalances. “I grew up starring in musicals [such as 2010-2011 production Laskar Pelangi] and, as you can guess, there was acting and singing and dancing and stuff,” he explains. “At some point, I did think I might have to choose between acting and music. But, around a year and a half ago, I came to realise that both worlds mutually complement one another. When acting brings me to the fantasy land, music always ushers me back to the ground.”
Svmmerdose are currently plotting how they’ll flesh out the world of ‘Yeah Yeah Youth’ after its digital release. “Apart from releasing visualisers for the song, we also want to release cassettes for the EP,” reveals Ramadhan. “We’re also making a zine which will be about the behind-the-scenes of the EP. Our merchandise could be shipped worldwide as well.”
Having pulled off the writing and production of the EP themselves, do Svmmerdose think young artists should take a similar DIY approach to their own albums? “You could if you wanted to, but maybe you will fail first,” answers Ramadhan. “Even I was insecure throughout the production of this EP. I mean, I didn’t know shit! But if you believe in the music you make, then just do it and trust your instinct.”
Rinrin chimes in: “Criticism is very good. In fact, I love receiving criticism,” she quips. “But still, don’t let that get in the way of your music. As long as you’re consistent in your work, your time will come.”
Svmmerdose’s ‘Yeah Yeah Youth’ is out now