Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Kerispatih: Keepin' it real

They have released three platinum albums and have sung for the President, but members of the pop band Kerispatih are still realists. 

"Being mature in music does not always have to mean being idealistic," keyboardist Badai said at the Gran Melia Jakarta hotel on New Year's Eve. 

"It also means being able to adjust to what is needed and what is accepted by the public." 

This realization is what made them change gears. After starting out in 2003 playing ethnic music, the band switched to pop two years later, a move that brought them commercial success. 

After participating in the recording of a compilation album, Gulalikustik, in 2004, the band -- Hendra Samuel "Sammy" Simorangkir on vocals, Doadibadai "Badai" Hollo on keyboard, Arief Nurdiansyah Morada on guitar, M. Anton Suryo Sularjo Wahyu Nugroho Kusumo on drums and Andika Putrasahadewa on bass -- sealed a deal with record label Nagaswara. 

They have released three albums since: Kejujuran Hati (Heart's Honesty, 2005), Kenyataan Perasaan (Reality of Feelings, 2007) and Tak Lekang Oleh Waktu (2008), which all went platinum. 

The band played on the last day of 2008 at Gran Melia Jakarta's New Year's Eve's party. The performance was their first New Year's Eve gig since 2005. 

"The last few years we took it easy on New Year's Eve," Badai said. 

The band chatted with The Jakarta Post before their performance. They talked candidly about the uniformity of pop bands in Indonesia, their success so far, their 2009 resolutions and their experience of singing for President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono's album. 

"We couldn't believe it at first," guitarist Arief said about being asked to record a song written by Yudhoyono. The President's 2007 album Hening (Silence), was a compilation of songs he had written, performed by Indonesian musicians. The album sold more than 40,000 copies within three months of its release. 

That the President chose Kerispatih above other pop bands is testament to their popularity. 

Switching to pop meant having to deal with the tough competition in band-based pop music in Indonesia. They have to compete for fans with other bands such as Ada Band and Ungu and emerging bands such as Seventeen and D'massive, which are all strong in turning out sentimental romantic lyrics and easy-listening pop ballads. 

"The competition is tight. Every single one of them is pop. It sells," Badai said. 

"The type of pop they play is similar as well. Now, songs about infidelity are popular. Everyone is making songs about infidelity. One makes religious songs, then everyone makes religious songs. So it's hard." 

Sammy said that to beat the competition, the band always tries to come up with something new and fresh "while keeping it pop". 

Their next album, scheduled for release in 2009, will have significant breakthroughs in the lyrics, Badai said, although he refused to reveal their themes. "It's still a secret," he said. 

So far, their theme for lyrics has been romance, with the lyrics for every song inspired by real life situations. 

"We always make songs based on true stories. We have a philosophy that a song based on real life experiences will have more meaning," Badai said. 

The band's hope for 2009 is to have a big solo concert. 

"We also want the band to keep progressing," Arief said. 

Sammy said that 2008 treated the band well. "I think it has been a good year. Everything was enough for us," he said. 

Badai said that they want the band to be stable. "We aren't looking for an instant shot at stardom. If we climb too high, it will hurt when we fall," he said.

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