Sound Check, vol. 3 with rebelsuns

By: Syahzanan H.F. (Nan) |

If we’re talking about Asian synthpop, particularly Indonesian synthpop, Rebelsuns might be one of the first names to pop up in the conversation. An Indonesian duo specialising in blending pop-rock with synthpop since their debut in 2016, the band came to fame with the release of their first single ‘The Things We Did (In The Things We Had)’ and their collaborative single ‘Thinking About…’, which featured Fathia Izzati (also known as Kittendust) of Reality Club. After a period of hiatus, they are back with their fast-paced single ‘Go!!!’.
Released in July 2019, ‘Go!!!’ contains a nostalgic, yet futuristic influences of 80s space pop and visuals. Without being cautious, the duo admits that they are big admirers of synth music in K-POP and J-POP, making them part of the duo’s references in music-making. Our team recently had a chance to interview the duo, Gilang (Lan) and Dai, about the single’s creative process and what they both think about the Asian synthpop scene.

Hello guys, your newest single ‘Go!!!’ appears to have a lot of game-inspired synths in it. Can you tell us how you guys came up with the theme of the song?
Lan: Actually, we have been working on ‘Go!!!’ since 2017 alongside our single ‘Thinking About…’. While working on the song, our co-producer Gibran had an idea and he made a new song arrangement. He asked us if we liked Fickle Friends, a UK synth pop band. I answered, “I kind of like them.” After that, we met up at a coffee shop and made our sketch of the song. Then, we met again in Kemang Village with Dai to ask for his thoughts on the song. Dai answered, “It’s good. Just continue working on the song until it becomes a full song.” The production of the song was finished around early 2018. As for sound exploration, we want to show our audience pop culture stuff that we are into, like games and 80s pop culture. Also for the synth, it’s more nostalgic of early 2000s synthpop bands back in the days when we were in high school.

Talking about the lyrics, does ‘Go!!!’ tell a story about one’s transition into a new life phase?
Dai: Lyrically, ‘Go!!!’ is the perfect song for our comeback. So, we have been on a long period of hiatus during which we were busy making new songs. The sound draft for ‘Go!!!’ has been there since 2017, but when we listened to it again, we decided to add some stuff to make this song a perfect fit to become the first single off our new album. The lyrics tell the story of how we turned around and started fresh

Lan: And for a while ‘Go!!!’ had the potential not to be our first single for this comeback. So, we both had to defend ‘Go!!!’ to become our first single for this comeback.

Compared to rebelsuns’ old songs, how long did it take to produce ‘Go!!!’?
Dai: The process was actually very fast. But for the sound draft itself, we have had it since a long time ago. It’s true that we have references from game and movie elements inspiring the sound design. As for me, I remember including ‘Back to The Future’ elements, such as “Wah! The feeling of ‘Go!!!’, which was inspired by a scene from Back to The Future’ when the actor started the time machine car.” The sample of ‘Go!!!’ was actually ‘loaded-in’ before we redesigned it and made the intro to be more iconic.

Lan: For me, when Dai talked about ‘Back to The Future’, what I had to do was to arrange the synths. It took me a long time to make sure the sound of the synths fit the concept. Glad it worked though. Because, when our other producer—who also produces for Glaskaca and .Feast—Tama, listened to it, he said, “This (song) is not ‘rebelsuns’ enough”, when actually, the song was already finished. All we had to do for that night was to go home and to look for a sample to destroy and remake until Tama said “OK.” Hahaha. But we guess besides the beats and the harmonies that we explored, I think there’s a little bit of KPOP in it, which is cool.

You guys are familiar with Asian synthpop especially in KPOP and JPOP, is there any Asian pop musician who inspires you guys?
Dai: We have a lot of Asian artist references, including from Singapore, like Disco Hue that produces pure 80s music. Gilang had also met YAØ.

Lan: As for Japanese artists, there are Sakanaction, Home Made Kazoku and old anime soundtracks. Anime OSTs actually has a great deal of good synth music. As in KPOP, I can say Day6 would be the inspiration, especially their ‘Remember Us’ album. And of course TWICE.

Dai: We also have references from K-HipHop and K-R&B, like Jay Park, Dean, PH-1 and other Korean R&B artists.

Lan: So, we made a blueprint from the KPOP and JPOP songs that we listened to, then we blended the elements of their music to make our own music. Even so, their influences cannot really be heard in our songs. If you guys listen to our Spotify playlists, you can find these artists’ songs in them.

Some people like to associate one musician with other musicians through their works. As for rebelsuns, have you guys ever experienced it?
Lan: One of our friends, Melina Anggraini, when she was in a car with our other friend, Baskara Putra of .Feast said she heard comments from him depicting our music as “pop punk meets K-POP”. I get where those comments came from as we’re kind of inspired by Day6’s ‘Daydream’ era.

We’ve talked about the synth music scene in Asia before, as for the Indonesian synth music scene, what is the difference that you guys notice between our country’s synth music scene and the international synth music scene?
Lan: As for the synth music scene in Indonesia, I can say that the friendship formed between musicians in the rebelsuns generation is more solid, which results in a lot of collaboration in the form of working together on co-writing and co-producing music.

Dai: Actually, our country synth music scene is not losing against the synth music scene outside Indonesia, especially in Asia. We are in the digital era and it’s exciting to know that there is a lot of our friends who are also exploring music digitally.

Lan: Every band here in Indonesia can go down their own path and still have their audience. And it’s a good thing. Our band took this path and there are still people who listen to us, other bands might take a different path and they also have people who listen to their music. There’s a very strong support system in the local synth music scene.

Dai: And actually, for me, I’m very proud of our listeners who are the same age as us, like they know their own taste and where to find the kind of music they like. So, when they give us some feedback, it feels nice. Like “Oh you guys like our music!” We all can be friends and it’s really cool.

Do you guys have any suggestion for people who want to start their career in synth music but haven’t done any work in the synth music scene?
Lan: Just come along, that’s very easy. Hang out with the scene, because actually, they are not intimidating in terms of public figure size. As for us, we are very open with others in terms of making art. Just come and talk to us.

Dai: We are very ‘sans’ (sans: Indonesian slang of ‘calm’, red), that’s why our name is ‘rebelsuns’, ‘rebel’ but ‘sans’ (rebel but calm, red). Hahahaha.

Nowadays, it’s very easy for people to make and distribute music, especially with the help of the internet. There is also a phenomenon in which a few musicians feel disturbed with the-no limit culture of the internet with netizens being able to publicly bash you as a person, yet on the other side, said musicians also came into fame through the internet. What do you guys think about this phenomenon?
Lan: To be honest, according to me and Dai, if there was no internet, maybe there would be no rebelsuns at all. This band was formed from the internet, we remember at that time we produced music with a file-sharing website similar to google drive and we distributed our music with SoundCloud. The process was very digital.

So, from your perspective, making music through the internet is pretty common, right? Because you know, some musicians became popular through the internet yet they have a bad relationship with netizens right?
Lan: Don’t try to limit yourself with the internet. Embrace it instead.

Dai: I think Rich Brian would be a good example of this. We all thought he was only a meme but when he got a chance to prove his skills, we found out he could actually write and rap. And we respect him.

Lan: We are not that type of people who easily get butthurt over things like what netizens say about us. It all depends on the mentality. Also, our suggestion is to just keep doing it, no matter how hard it is.

There are lots of people saying that synth music is not ‘pure music’, what do you guys think about that?
Dai: We can agree to disagree with that statement. Because in rebelsuns, Lan is the main producer of our music, meanwhile I help out with my background in design. So, actually, rebelsuns is a product of the collaboration that happened between music and design.

Lan: Yes, collaboration between all kinds of art. From movies and not only music. The point is I don’t want to say that rebelsuns is only producing music because you will see in time and you will understand with our upcoming release that we are not only bringing a piece of music to our listeners. We are doing something that’s kind of different, and we are thankful we can do that and that I think people would appreciate it.

Since you said that rebelsuns is not only about music, how important is the visual aspect for you guys?
Dai: It is very important. Because behind the sound itself, as a whole, music is a story or expression from the artist. So, why not add some proper visual to support the whole story? There is a new medium that can uphold the story that wants to be told.

As for the visual style, is there any reason why you guys chose the classic American cartoon style for your visuals?
Lan: Because we love pop culture. It has been the idea from the very first time we heard ‘Go!!!’. We thought, what if we made a universe with stories that relate to each other like different chapters in different songs. So our upcoming singles would be related one to another as chapters instead of a normal dialog narrative. Also for our artworks are from Dai, Shanetortilla and Kris Pradipta.

Dai: So, we think of the background story that we will deliver in the song and our social media. There will be different single with a different background story.

Is this a hint from you guys on the release of a new album or EP?
Lan: I think it’s not a secret, yeah we’re doing a record and we can talk about it later. But the singles right now are on the works and it won’t be long until you hear the next one.

There are also a lot of bands also release comic books alongside their music. Now that the rebelsuns visual style has a lot of cartoon influences, is there any possibility that you guys will also be making a comic book?
Dai: There is still a possibility for rebelsuns to go in that direction later.

When you make both good visuals and music there will be people who like only one side of what you produce, either only the visual or only the music. What do you guys think about that?
Lan: That’s actually fine, like if you made either music or artworks, not everyone would like it and you’d have to deal with that.

This interview has been edited for brevity and clarity and partially translated from Indonesian. Claudia Siregar and Riefan Novalde H contributed to some of the questions.

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