It takes perfect musical skill to keep both the life on stage and in recording studios in balance.
Two weeks ago, there was a band with four musicians on stage. A sophisticated-looking lady led them on guitar, which was visually awesome. Their name is Drew and by playing their music live it sent out a clear message: Indonesia still has great pop music.
Drew developed perfectly as stage performers. They started by playing loads of cover version gigs acoustically. They once formed part of a wave of change in Jakarta nightlife where old fashioned music was considered glamorous and the city saw many new intimate places to hang out with to hear decent top 40 songs played by two or three piece bands with acoustic instruments.
From small venues they soon picked up legions of new fans.
The band consists of Sashi Gandarum on guitars and vocals, Aji Yudo on guitars, Rishanda on bass and Putra Praditya on drums.
“We normally play a minimum of 30 songs a night,” says Sashi, the band’s front woman. “It’s a learning process,” adds Rishanda.
Hundreds of gigs later, Drew developed as a good example to the independent scene of how hard work can help one find a better future in the music industry.
“It took us so long but it’s all been worth the wait,” says Sashi.
Their debut album, Sing with Drew, was long hard work. It’s been tiring but finally the band have come out with a very beautiful work.
If you’re into 90’s female singers such as Tori Amos, Joan Osbourne, Beth Orton, or even Sinead O’ Connor, expect something along that line from Drew. Don’t forget that they’re 100 percent made in Indonesia.
The power of Sashi’s writing skill is awesome. She’s able to take the driver’s seat for a memorable trip back to 90’s pop where her look with acoustic guitar is really a turn on for people who love female heroines like Sheryl Crow, Lisa Loeb or even Patti Smith.
“The album is really personal. But fortunately, some people can relate to it,” says Sashi. “It’s basically an album about love but I think it’s only me who can understand what it is all about, the thin line between those songs in the album, I mean.”
Sing with Drew is a long lost treasure everybody has been missing for a while; it is an album that will suit everyone’s taste. There are crowd pleaser songs that are OK to be played on your morning lip-sync TV shows or songs that will blow people’s minds for quite some time after they’ve seen the band play live.
“Having an album in our own name was a mission for me,” says Aji Yudo, guitarist. “And for me, it’s a portfolio. Just like a model that needs to shoot as many as possible pictures in order to get her name known,” adds Sashi.
Because of their live on-stage antics, the band in the beginning had a massive problem in transferring their wild energy into a recording studio where everything is static and far from dynamic.
“Our producer, Tommy Utomo came up with the idea of transforming live energy into an album. It’s not easy. We’ve been doing workshops in order to keep the arrangements fixed and attention to small details,” says Aji.
Sing with Drew also got a sweet touch from Andi Rianto, Indonesia’s leading name in production who works together with Tommy Utomo.
The choice of having a live album is actually perfect. You will be served with a powerful piece of work that will explain, or at least present a good preview, of how lively the band is on stage. It’s like an intro, or a good reason to go to their gigs.
Speaking of which, the other challenge they’re facing now is how to change the perception of the industry about them. Way before the album was released, the band was well known as an above-average cover version unit where people expected something light from them; famous songs recorded by famous artist which sometimes — if lucky — get rearranged and whacked into another version created by the band.
But now, since they’re coming out with original compositions they need to plant those songs into the industry’s ears; well, they’re now recording artists, not just stage performers.
“We are reducing the cover versions slowly as we need to start introducing our own compositions. Sometimes, our entertainer souls take over and we want to please everyone who has come to our show. But yeah, slowly we are changing that,” Sashi says.
On a few occasions, for example when they did the Radioshow at a TV One gig, they invite good friends who often come from different backgrounds to do a jam session or even a collaboration. Kaka from Slank — Indonesia’s prominent rock band—joined them on stage that night.
It’s not odd since this kind of thing happens on a daily basis in the small gigs they’re playing. Spontaneous action will always be an important part of their lives.
“However we started as a cover band. That is something that cannot be forgotten and left behind. If we play songs we like in daily life with our own interpretations, I think it’s no harm. We love to mash songs we like and then put them in a medley, if the people love it and sing along with us, let’s go for it,” explains Aji.
By putting their own touch to the arrangements, those cover songs will always be an integral part of the band. They complete the package people want from Drew. And as Aji says, it’s no harm for anyone.
“Those songs are already planted in people’s minds. Our task by covering them is only to create another perception in their minds and for me that’s a fun thing to do,” adds Rishanda.
In Drew’s case, cover versions will always be around to play with as well as their own compositions. The band doesn’t want to stop. “We’re starting to think about new ideas and concepts,” says Rishanda. Meanwhile, go have a look at them when they’re playing in your neighborhood, satisfaction is guaranteed.
*) Sing with Drew is now available in record stores nationwide while you can follow the band at twitter.com/SingWithDrew to get their latest news.