Singapore's premier indie festival is pulling local bands to the stage.
This year two Indonesian bands will take the stage at Singapore's St. Jerome's Laneway Festival—a first for the annual indie music fest. Bandung's Bottlesmoker and Yogyakarta's Stars and Rabbit will join international acts like Canada's White Lung and Australia's Jagwar Ma.
Bottlesmoker's toy and home-made instrument electronic-pop has made them one of the unlikeliest musical acts to break through the mainstream. Meanwhile Stars and Rabbit's eclectic folk-pop continues to attract new fans here and abroad.
VICE Indonesia's Marcel Thee spoke with both bands about how it feels to represent Indonesia at a festival that has always drawn plenty of Indonesians to the crowd, but not the stage.
Bottlesmoker (Anggung "Angkuy" Suherman and Ryan "Nobie" Adzani)
VICE: How did you guys find out you were playing Laneway?
Angkuy: Actually, we have no idea how the Laneway organizers decided on us. We guess it was related to us opening for [the US math-rock band] Battles in Bangkok and M83 in Jakarta. We talked to those bands backstage about Laneway—so many it had something to do with that? What we know for certain is we were recording our new album in the studio and Nobie saw that we got an email from Laneway. We were like, 'wow, there's an email from Laneway.' But we didn't think much of it because we thought it was just a promotional email. Then we got the same email again, from a different sender. We opened it and realized 'Damn! This an invitation to play!' We replied straight away.
Have you ever gone to the festival?
Angkuy: Unfortunately no. We always failed to make it because the schedule always clashed with a show we had to play. But every year, there is always a band we would love to have seen live. There was Jon Hopkins and then last January there was Purity Ring. It's just unfortunate that we never had the chance to go.
Are you planning anything special?
Nobie: Yeah, Laneway will be our first concert introducing our new material. So there will be a premier of these songs. And, of course, we'll wear special costumes for the show.
Singapore is so close to Indonesia. What kind of relationship do you think the festival has had with Indonesian music fans?
Angkuy: Laneway has always had music that felt close to us. The festival has really been helpful in providing a chance for [Indonesian musicians] to actually see the artists they referenced in their own music. Also, the whole festival ambience, with it being outdoors and in a park, will really present a different atmosphere for us. A lot of different people, from a lot of different backgrounds and cultures, come together from different countries with one common goal: to have fun through music.
Do you feel like our local organizers can learn anything from festivals like Laneway?
Nobie: We can definitely feel how professional the festival is—how disciplined and tidy it's being run. There were a lot of things we never really noticed that are a focus at Laneway, a lot of technical things. It feels like they appreciate the artists. You feel appreciated and respected.
So who are you excited to see live?
Nobie: We can't wait to see Tycho and to meet the other bands to widen our network.
Any chance you can tell us a bit about these new songs?
Angkuy: Well it's supposed to be a secret. But OK. There are two songs we will play that are inspired by Palmer Keen, who is this American ethnomusicologist who has been doing a lot of field recordings around Indonesia. We listened and responded through our music to those recordings. There are two songs that tell the story of Indonesian traditional rituals and tribes. Hopefully, these songs will get the Laneway crowd dancing and conducting their own ritual of sorts.
Stars and Rabbit (Elda Suryani and Adi Widodo)
VICE: So how did you both react when you found out you were going to play Laneway?
Elda: I smiled all day!
Adi: We were so happy because Laneway was one of the biggest of Stars and Rabbit's 'gigs we want to play' in Southeast Asia.
Are there any bands in particular you're pretty excited to share the stage with?
Adi: Tycho and Aurora, and, of course, our friends Bottlesmoker.
Elda: Bob Moses, Floating Points, Aurora, Chet Faker and yeah, Bottlesmoker.
What do you hope the crowd is going to take away from your performance?
Elda: Our music in their heads and their hearts.
Adi: We hope that they will be happy and that our music and performance will stay in their hearts so that they'll be left longing for us to return.
How do Indonesians see Laneway? We have our own indie festivals, but this is one of the bigger ones in the region.
Adi: For me, as an Indonesian musician, Laneway is the music festival a lot of bands dream of playing. Also, as Indonesian music festival goers, we're always excited to come and enjoy Laneway.
Elda: It's undeniable. The festival has set a high bar that the Indonesian music scene really looks up to. It's pretty easy to find Indonesian fans in the crowd every year.
You think you'll have time to go record shopping while you're there?
Elda: Ahh, I hope so.
St. Jerome's Laneway Festival is 21 January, 2017, at The Meadow, at Gardens by the Bay, in Singapore. Tickets are available here.