We Speak To Indonesian Indie Legend, Rumahsakit...

Bali will play host to not one but two Britpop fave. Local indie outfit, Rumahsakit, will warm up the stage for ASH at Hard Rock Café Bali hotly-anticipated 90s nostalgia night that will see them mixing up their classic shoegaze-y hits with new ones.

We get up close and personal with Mickey (on keyboard) about the band’s non-mainstream musical trajectory as well as their behind-the-scenes state of mind after their original vocalist, Andri LMS, left the band.

Have you ever performed in Bali before?

Yes, we performed in Bali just once before, around 2 years ago. We were invited by Air Asia to perform on board their Jakarta-Bali flight, and when we arrived in Bali were invited to play in a small gig organized by a local magazine.

Are there favorite venues/regions you like to perform in Indonesia?

Bali is definitely one of our favorites, but to be honest we love meeting people and playing music anywhere and especially at new places.

For the unfamiliar, tell us about the formation of the band and what’s the story behind the name “Rumahsakit”?

The band was formed back in 1994 at Institut Kesenian Jakarta, an art school that is famous for being the birthplace to some of the pioneers in Jakarta indie movements. The name rumahsakit, which is Indonesian for “hospital”, was chosen originally because the night before the band's first gig, almost all of us got sick. We decided to keep the name because it also has a philosophical meaning: rumahsakit or a hospital is, for most people, the place where life started and where it ends. It's a place of mixed emotions.

Even though you’re quite a fixture in the indie rock scene and have quite the following, but you’re not particularly mainstream. Was that always the band’s decision to never go in that direction?

Playing music for us has always been some sort of escape or balancing of life. Each member of the band has always had other things going on in each of our lives and Rumahsakit is the place where we can get away from all that for a little while and express ourselves freely. We don't really position ourselves in any boxes or in a certain market, we just make music for the fun of it.

Your lead vocalist, Andri LMS, left the band in 2015, what can you tell us about the separation? Was there ever any thought or question that it might signal the end of the band?

Although we were surprised when he told us he was leaving the band, deep inside I think we all agreed that it's been coming for a little while. It kinda sucks because we were on the process of creating a 20th-anniversary special gig but that's the way it is. We all moved on and we do believe that what happened has led us to better things.

That said, you found a new vocalist in Arief—tell us about that search for the new vocalist?

As soon as Andri left, we got together and decided that we all want to keep going and we need to find a new vocalist soon and someone who is not from our scene because we don't want him to be in the shadow of the past. Mickey found Arief when searching through Soundcloud and we asked our manager to contact him. Initially, we told Arief that we're looking for someone to collaborate for our album and invite him to the studio for a jam session and prepared any Rumahsakit songs he likes. He surprised us with his choice of songs although he never heard of us before!

Tell us your musical influences both at home and from abroad?

The Beatles and Lightning Seeds.

So far Rumahsakit has only released 4 albums, starting with the self-titled Rumahsakit (1997), then there was a 12 years gap between your second and third album, Nol Derajat (2000) and 1+2 (2012), and your latest album—+imeless—was back in 2015. Why so long?

We basically broke up in 2004 because we're bored of performing almost every week playing the same songs and we're too busy to create new materials. All of the band members—aside from Andri (the former vocalist)—created a new band called Universe and recorded six demo songs but it never really got started because we're all too busy with other stuff in life back then.

Tell us about the creative process behind your albums?

The first and second album was recorded long before the digital era, so there's a lot of learning process and trial and error going on back then. The first album was mostly easy listening with clean guitars while we experimented with more distortion and shoegaze-y ambiance on the second one. The third album was a comeback album and we decided to remake four songs from each of our previous album and added four new songs. It's our first album in the form of a CD. The 4th album, +imeless, is special because it's our first album with Arief as the vocalist and I guess it shows when you listen to it how the range of Arief vocals allowed us to try new stuff. We felt we can finally write things that we previously can’t.

Any plans for a new album on the horizon?

Hopefully next year, crossing fingers.

Lastly, what can your fans expect from your performance in Bali?

For sure, we’re planning on mixing old and new stuff—can’t wait to meet you there!