The Indonesian labels Anoa Records and Leeds Records are launching ‘Derby Days: Indonesian Indie Rock Compilation’. The release will be available for digital order on Bandcamp and The Store Front tomorrow (July 17).
‘Derby Days: Indonesian Indie Rock Compilation’ glistens with bittersweet melodies and crunchy guitars glistens, unabashedly evoking all the glory of early-mid ’90s US indie rock. There is the lackadaisical flush of Gascoigne’s ‘Friday Fight Night’, which brings to mind Pavement as much as it does power-poppers Superdrag; the Belly-via-Throwing-Muses hush of Much’s ‘Go Easy’; and the multiple nods to Dinosaur Jr.’s wall of sound on Barefood’s ‘Truth’ and Sugarsting’s ‘Chasing Pony’.
Despite the ‘indie’ in its title, many of the compilation’s entries owe their composition more towards the more mainstream era when ‘indie’ as a lexicon morphed into ‘alternative’. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing: the 14 participating bands deliver full-rounded songs with arrangements that borrow equally from the compact, radio-ready fare of bands like Gin Blossoms, Better Than Ezra, Tonic, Dishwalla, and Australia’s Tumbleweed – as they do the unpredictable clanking and buzz of Superchunk or Sebadoh.
The twentysomethings in these bands showcase an eagerness to move on from Indonesia’s current ‘indie’ trend – ultimately upper- and middle-class kids writing lounge-ready light jazz and ultra-produced electro-pop – to something more discontented and meaningful, like the early days of underground rock.
‘Derby Days’ features bands from all over Indonesia: Arc Yellow hail from Depok, Swellow and Rrag from Bogor, Somnyfera from Bandung, Skandal from Yogyakarta, and Much from Malang. Some notable recent releases from these bands outside of the compilation include Swellow’s EP ‘Karet’ (‘Rubber’) and Skandal’s ‘Lemon/Bosan’ (‘Bored’) double-single.
The comp’s title was inspired by a song from Mutombo, a short-lived Jakarta indie rock band that kept their members secret until they played two underground shows. The members of Mutombo all participated in ‘Derby Days’: namely, Anoa Records’ Peter Adrian Walandauw, ZUFF’s Pandu “Fuzztoni”, and Gascoigne singer-guitarist Alvi Ifthikar.
NME spoke to Ifthikhar, Walandauw and Leeds Records’ Zaka Sandra Novianto to understand the album’s background and what inspired the compilation.
Peter and Zaka, why did you decide to join forces to release this particular compilation?
Peter Adrian Walandauw: I thought about collaborating simply because we’ve always had a similar perspective about which indie rock bands deserve to be known by a wider audience. We are so close that Anoa has even released Gascoigne’s two records.
Zaka Sandra Novian: Anoa was pretty inspirational for me in starting my own label. It was pretty obvious from the [types of] bands we released that this collaboration would make sense.
There’s that ‘indie rock’ common thread between the bands. But was there anything else that you wanted to offer conceptually?
Peter: We just wanted to put this out there: that there were these cool Indonesian indie rock bands that people should listen to. Maybe there was an unconscious thing about it being mostly guitar-based bands.
Why do you think the late-’80s, early ’90s era of Western underground music resonates with so many Indonesian bands, at this point in time?
Peter: It’s like that Jurassic Park quote – ‘Nature will find a way’. So I suppose good music will always find a way to preserve and be everlasting, even to those who weren’t even born in that era.
Zaka: That’s a pretty good answer.
Alvi Ifthikhar: Indie rock has just always been a comfort zone for a lot of us. They’ve been inspirational also maybe because of how wide the genre’s scope can be. So you never get bored of it, since it’s a good middle ground between rock ’n’ roll and pop music.
Which bands from that era do you think have been most influential to Indonesian bands?
Zaka: I would say definitely Pavement, Teenage Fanclub, and Guided By Voices – and Dinosaur Jr. too. Other than their songwriting, their sound is an important element too.
Peter: Pavement is definitely the main influence for most of these bands.
Zaka: For me, indie rock is really close to my heart. After listening to mostly local alternative acts in the early 2000s, I started listening to bands like Deerhunter, Flaming Lips and the Japandroids. Then from those bands, I got into the roots, which was these older indie rockers like Pavement and Superchunk. It was with me all the way through my college years.
Peter: For me the biggest goal is that this record becomes something that represents the indie rock landscape here, at this moment. So if somebody only knows one or two of these bands, maybe they will then get into the other bands included here.
Indie rock is a long way from what’s popular within the Indonesian indie scene today – which are mostly folk bands and electropop groups. Did that affect your approach to compiling this?
Zaka: I pay no mind. What they play is what they choose to play, and what we like is what we like. We just don’t care about the current wave of music. I see it as providing an alternative for people to listen to, other than those types of popular music.
Do you have your favourite moments on this record?
Alvi: I’d say our song. Our song on it [Gascoigne’s ‘Friday Fight Night’] is about someone’s love-hate relationship with this city [Jakarta]. It takes the perspective from a boxer who is sick of his own fanbase.
Peter: I’m going to say that every song here is great.