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Gascoigne: Building character, moving forward

Marcel Thee
Marcel Thee

The Jakarta Post

Jakarta | Fri, February 17, 2017 | 02:06 pm
Gascoigne: Building character, moving forward

Let the party begin: Jakarta indie rock-trio Gascoigne does alternative rock the 90s way. (Gascoigne/File)

Immensely influenced by the era’s independent rock icon Pavement, the trio of vocalist-guitarist Alvi Ifthikhar, bass player Dimaz Hafidzhan and drummer Zaka Sandra Novian cranks up the faux-ennui. It does so with a good amount of overdriven guitar-twang and punky bass (just slightly out of tune, presumably intentionally so — or maybe those are just alternate tunings) and a straightto-the-point rhythm section.

It’s deliberately lackadaisical and ever-soslightly hammy, but delivered with the kind of earnest sincerity only the 1990s could have mustered.

Formed merely six months ago, Gascoigne’s quick rise in the indie rock ranks is in major part due to its members’ active roles in the indie scene. Zaka, with his independent label Leeds Records, has in particular been actively promoting new bands and shows around Java.

Having only played a handful of shows, the band’s upcoming EP has garnered intrigue from the Leeds crowd with the release of the single “Stolen War Emblem”, a mid-tempo indie popper that features Alvi doing his best impression of Pavement leader Stephen Malkmus’ speaksing drawl and eclectic guitar lines.

The band formed after Alvi decided he wanted to turn his drafts into songs by a real band. After calling up his two friends, the band — named after soccer player Paul Gascoigne — jammed several times at dingy rehearsal spaces until they came to realize “Hey, this ain’t half bad!” recalled Zaka.

Vocalist-guitarist Alvi Ifthikhar(Gascoigne/File)

Alvi was eager to make sure that listeners knew the band’s name was just in jest.

“It doesn’t have any direct significance for the music itself, nor do we have any sort of deep attachment to Paul Gascoigne. I just wanted a name that sounded nice and concise. I did a Google search for the name, and I didn’t find any band called Gascoigne yet, so we went with it.

“Maybe it is worth noting, I played this [video] game called Bloodborne shortly before, and there’s this character called Father Gascoigne. So yeah, maybe it’s about that as well.”

The band members knew the sound they were going for, describing themselves as having “choppy tempos, half-baked solos, but a whole lot of heart nonetheless.”

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Zaka humorously said the trio worked to create what they “thought to be decent rock music [...] equipped with a limited knowledge of how a band was supposed to sound.”

Whatever the case, the band managed to “flesh out five songs about anything and nothing at all.”

The band has no problem with listeners pointing out its Pavement influences. Alvi stated matter of factly that: “Personally and musically speaking, Gascoigne is the only musical output I could […] feel good about.”

“And yes, Stephen Malkmus is a huge, huge influence of mine. Pavement is the most important band in my life, period. I could spent hours talking about the band. I discovered them back in my college years around 2009. It just hit me right there, the riffs, the lyrics.”

No one before the band had a comparable persona, Alvi said.

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“Slacking off is not about being depressed, it is about taking your time and goofing off as much as you like and you’ll eventually get there. Look at Malkmus now, he has two beautiful kids, but his guitar riffs still kick ass. Rock ‘n’ roll is darn overrated. I want a range in life. I want to settle down.”

Alvi admitted to asking himself whether the music was “too Malkmus-y.” In his defense, he said that Pavement, in its earliest days, was also often compared to British post-punk band The Fall.

“I just take it as progress. Character needs a process and I hope we grow into something different.”

The band is eager to branch out from its starting point, with Alvi pointing out that Gascoigne has “some jazz influences here and there.”

“Adding Dimaz to the mix gives a surprising tone to the band. His baselines sounded like something taken off from J-Rocks giants of the 90s; it actually sounds amazing when you plaster it all over indie-rock riffs,” he added.

The band is also into making statements through its lyrics. Alvi said he wanted his songs to “mean something”, though without abandoning a fun aspect and “being silly” — using pop culture and comedy as a way to get his thoughts across.

“From time to time I’d like to incorporate some references to my favorite TV shows, or movies, sometimes direct, sometimes very indirect. Like our single ‘Stolen War Emblem’, it started off as something about camaraderie, but in the end it turned out to be this comedic, very unrelated nod to Jean Renoir’s A Grand Illusion and the whole absurdity of war.”

“It is not directly about that film, but writing that reminds me of it,” he said.

To learn more about the band, visit soundcloud.com/gascoigneband.

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