Indonesia’s Alternative “Dream”
Vocals, Bass // Fadillah
Guitar // Joshua
Synths // Raka
Drums // Alit
Through the maze of street markets and sweaty football fields, Gizpel offers a fresh breath of tropical air into the genre of dream pop. They embody a lingering sunset of nostalgia that embraces any listener. Their emotional lyrics fit together like puzzle pieces to their own stories.
Gizpel’s story combines two images of growing up; a high school dream of the future and friends reuniting after time apart. Remembering the first brings a melancholic nostalgia of an innocent time when being together meant everything was possible, while living the second acknowledges the wistful tug from the past but still understanding the need to reinvent old ties into new ones.
Gizpel’s first EP, Short Distance, came out in 2015. It wasn’t until three years later that the two singles on No Surrender came out. While the band never technically called it quits, this hiatus marks a clear fissure between the two images of Gizpel. Short Distance and No Surrender are musically produced differently and are orchestrated by different phases in life.
Raka and Fadillah of Gizpel sat down and joined us, weaving together their band’s narrative. The interview flipped between their high school years and the past few months and they answered our questions with long pauses which blurred up the interview’s flow like the flashback cuts in a 50s melodrama. Their wistful smiles brought glimpses of their memories to the surface. Gizpel is at a crossroads, because they balance their old sound with where they stand today.
The Game Boy Era
Raka and Fadillah are the only two original members of Gizpel left from the Short Distance era. They told us that they were inspired by the band Radio Dept who did not use drums, and decided to give that a try. “For the Short Distance EP, we were using a software for the drums. The sounds is coming from a game boy. In our live concerts, we used the drum machine and are using the game boy. We brought the game boy to them [the concerts].” A game boy; that’s where it all began. This handheld object contains the power to manipulate childhood into an infinite adventure and thrusts it’s players into a fantasy world; the drums of the game boy tenderly supported the dreams of this adolescent band.
The seeds of Gizpel sprouted in high school. Raka and Fadillah became close to each other because of their love for live music..“Yeah we are highschool friends,” Raka and Fadillah confirmed. “We knew each other for like six years. We listened to different music. Fadillah only listens to grunge like Nirvana or R.E.M. but we still went to many gigs together and have mutual friends,” You can hear their friendship in Gizpel’s music. Their years of of growing up and being together tiptoes into their songs. The idea to create Gizpel happened in one of these moments of friendship; Gizpel’s genesis can be traced to a late night discussion in the midst of blaring guitars from the Indonesian indie scene. “In 2012, we decided to make our band after listening to Goodnight Electric [an Indonesian band]. They did not use drums too,” Raka added the last part with emphasis.
The way Raka and Fadillah talked about their indie adventures painted a vibrant Jakarta school life, interspersed with gigs every night but they clarified that was not the case. They did not live a life that embraced their dreams, but were able to find crevices in their social lives that could incubate them. We asked them if a lot of people in their high school enjoyed music the way they did. “Not really,” Raka and Fadillah agreed, “that’s why we get along well.”
Despite their niche social circle, people who were a part of it would go on to be involved in the Indonesian indie scene. It’s not just Raka and Fadillah’s friendship that is core to Gizpel. Their friends supported their love for music during high school and that love continued into something that they do as adults. One of their friends, Daffa, eventually became the head of Kolibri Rekords, the record label Gizpel is signed to.
The significance of the choices an adolescent makes usually blossoms in hindsight. Gizpel was a group of students, teenagers and high schoolers. They were just having fun with their friends; doing something they all loved. The spamming buttons of the game boy transformed into humming drumming tracks; yet this serene sound only started because they were searching for something “cool”. The band was born out of passion and not a calculated dream of fame and glory. Raka and Fadillah saw other people put together a band and believed they could too. “We listened to a lot of bands with guitars and we thought why don’t we add guitars to electronic based projects,” Gizpel shared the thoughts they had when creating Short Distance. “Also, our feature singer in that EP was someone from high school. I heard about her from a friend. We thought female vocals were important to the dream pop genre.”
But even game boys grow old and break. Fadillah left Jakarta for his last two years of college. “We played during those two years, but maybe it was for like 5 times or 7 times,” explained Gizpel. They weren’t talking about live performances; these rare moments when they played was just practice. The band paused in time.
Last January, Fadillah finished his studies and came back to Jakarta. This became the moment where everything fell back into place. “We just said let’s do it again. So we jammed together for awhile for like three months.” said Gizpel. “ We didn’t know what songs we want to make and it's like everyone maybe forget about Gizpel because there are two years without songs.” The result of these jams were the two singles on No Surrender.
It’s dishonest to claim that nothing has changed for the band and they are the same high school kids that created Gizpel all those years ago. First off, the band has a drummer now. However, it does seem the current Gizpel maintains a spirit of the past. This spirit carries into a busy year for Gizpel hoping to revive their identity and name within the scene. “After Fadillah came back, we did one tour where we went to five cities in one week. In this one week we slept in a hotel for only one night,” Gizpel remarked. “The other nights we are in friend’s houses. It was not really comfortable but it was fun. One time, there was three bands in one friend’s house and it had a lot each band’s merchandise.” Gizpel admitted that this was the first time meeting most of their hosts. They embraced a spirit and energy to travel and do something culture reserves for teenagers.
Fans of Gizpel know all the current members are huge fans of football. Raka and Fadillah’s faces both seemed to shine when football was introduced as a conversation piece. “We all support a particular English UFC team,” they smirk with a glint of competition. They started asking us questions like, “Which team are you? Chelsea? Arsenal?” The air got tense between us for a few minutes. Luckily, with careful tactics no one revealed anything that would gravely injure someone’s feelings and everyone got home safe and sound. Their love of football greets listeners in their music, as the song No Surrender is dedicated to football. “No Surrender is actually a song for the Indonesian Football Federation. They are not that good, not like England. We love football so much but the federation is bad, man. The Indonesian football mixes with politics so we want more sportsmanship there.”
It’s been less than a year. Gizpel is on a new journey and depending on your viewpoint could be a entirely different band . Yet, Raka and Fadillah still embody Gizpel’s original spirit. They still laugh at each other like best friends, play music because they love it and continue to explore their dreamy sound with each release and tour. “Our drummer is leaving so we might need to do something new. Yeah, maybe it’s time to bring the game boy back,” they joked. Even so, I felt this statement was a promise that whatever destiny Gizpel decides to chase, they will always nurture the first feelings they had when Gizpel was created. A game boy captures a nostalgia into a handheld screen; Gizpel captures a time frame of growing up into their music. Similar to how we all remember a night of joy shared with a game boy that fits perfectly into our hands, Gizpel’s memories of growing up may blur but will always stay intact in their sound.
Last Updated November 26, 2018