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Summer Sonic report: Indonesia’s Changcuters seek worldwide appeal

The Changcuters on the Island Stage at Summer Sonic
The Changcuters on the Island Stage at Summer Sonic
CHIBA (TR) – Even if partaking a minimal activity, a long-sleeve shirt, necktie and black suit is not the wisest wardrobe choice on an average August afternoon in Chiba.

Enter Indonesia’s The Changcuters at the Summer Sonic festival on Saturday afternoon. While attired as poster boys for ’60s mod, the five-piece band tore through a 30-minute set of buzz-saw guitar, pounding drums and hip shaking by rail-thin vocalist, Tria Ramadhani, whose moves are not unlike Mick Jagger — all while temperatures approached 35 degrees centigrade.

“We have to use this uniform; it is our identity,” said drummer Erick Nindyoastomo, cooling off behind the Island Stage.

But the two-day event, featuring big-name acts like The Chemical Brothers and Pharrell Williams, is more than a fashion show for the band; it is a chance to boost its presence overseas.

“Many bands from Indonesia play outside the country, like at the Big Day Out in Australia, at SXSW in Austin, Texas and Hard Rock Calling in London, but we don’t have that much support from the government so we cannot go worldwide beyond these events. They do not appreciate our (form of) pop culture.”

The Changcuters formed in September of 2004 in Bandung, about a two-hour from the capital Jakarta. Taking cues from the likes of The Strokes, Franz Ferdinand, The Vines and The Libertines, they have released four albums, with a fifth scheduled for January.

Tria Ramadhani of The Changcuters
Tria Ramadhani of The Changcuters
“Basically, when I was a teenager I listened to ’90s alternative rock and British rock, like Oasis and the Manic Street Preachers,” says Ramadhani.

This is the band’s second trip to Japan. In 2011, they played the Indonesia Festival at Tokyo’s Yoyogi Park. Getting to Summer Sonic required some assistance.

“Our friend, he said to us, ‘You should play at Summer Sonic.” Our friend is from Indonesia, but he got a friend (of his) from Japan to watch us, that is, our performance,” Ramadhani remembers.

By the end of the set on Saturday, Ramadhani had stripped down to his undershirt (he started the set in a leather jacket). While standing on the drum kit, a large Indonesian flag flowed over his back like cape. A plea for support from the government?

“If we can go worldwide, I bet (the music scene in) Indonesia would be similar to that of the U.K. and the U.S.,” says Nindyoastomo.