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Gascoigne expands its sound

Marcel Thee

The Jakarta Post

Jakarta  /  Thu, July 11, 2019  /  12:18 pm
Gascoigne expands its sound

Alvi Ifthikhar, Gascoigne's vocalist and guitar player, formed the band alongside drummer Zaka Sandra N. and bass player Dimaz Hafizhan. (Instagram/@gascoigne.band)

Jakarta indie rockers Gascoigne fulfill the promise found on their previous singles and mini-albums with the band’s first full length album Bond Electric.

Immediate in its hooks and playfulness, the album continues to celebrate the band's biggest influence, specifically early 90s United States indie rock. Traces of Sonic Youth's more melodic side, Lou Barlow's directness, the crunchy catchiness of Throwing Muses and Belly, and most of all, Pavement's contrast of laidback delivery and punkish delivery, shine through all of the band’s songs.

It may not be revolutionary for longtime fans of the era's music, but the band members – only in their mid-20s – perform their songs with unabashed and un-ironic energy. There's earnestness in their worship of those bands instead of mere copying, and Bond Electric sees them clearly trying hard to assemble their own sound without abandoning their influences.

“It's a constant and deliberate effort of finding the sound that is uniquely ours,” says Alvi Ifthikhar, Gascoigne's vocalist and guitar player, who formed the band alongside drummer Zaka Sandra N. and bass player Dimaz Hafizhan. (And yes, they are huge soccer fans as their band name shows, referencing British soccer legend Paul “Gazza” Gascoigne.)

Alvi knows that the band's previous release, 2016's Fagen Ain't Fakin’, was thought of by some circles as sounding too much like Pavement and particularly that band's main songwriter, Stephen Malkmus' lackadaisical delivery (which actually masks his skillful musicality).

“I took those criticisms to heart and ever since then, I started writing stuff with that in mind,” he says, saying that he purposely tried to sing in a slightly different way that was less Malkmus influenced.

“Surprisingly, it worked in my favor. Maybe it’s just me, but when I listen to each track of the album, as I’ve done a couple hundred times already, I don’t immediately think: ‘Oh this song sounds like band X or Y’. And that’s a very good thing.”

He's right. Aside from aesthetic similarities, Gascoigne clearly is forming its own voice. Songs like “Figurative Painting”, “Hook Line Sinker”, “Liberal Prospects” and “Friday Fight Night” pull together elements of late 80s American grunge, jangle and power pop with an economical song-craft that is undeniable in its catchiness. Again, it's not unheard of but the quality is there.

Gascoigne has finally found the right balance in its new album 'Bond Electric'.Gascoigne has finally found the right balance in its new album 'Bond Electric'. (Instagram/@gascoigne.band)

It didn't come easy. The band worked hard, taking almost a year to record the album at Kandang Studio alongside producer Yehezkiel Tambun and engineer Haryo “Oyob” Widi. Alvi especially credits Yehezkiel in crafting the songs to their upmost potential. He calls him a producer “in every sense of the word.”

“He has a good musical sense, detail-oriented and very dedicated. Bond Electric is pretty much a collaborative effort between us and him. We provided the songs, he explored the sonic possibilities for every single one of them.”

Yehezkiel wanted the album to sound dense and packed, which meant multiple layers of guitar and “pitch-perfect vocal takes”, Alvi says.

The band went into recording with four songs ready and six written during the production process.

“I think there used to be more than 15 songs, but after refocusing and much needed filtering from Dimaz, we came up with that six. It took about three to four months until those songs were all tuned up and ready for recording,” Alvi recalls.

Although he wrote all of the lyrics according to the same style of storytelling he's always used, Alvi felt that his songwriting in Bond Electric “definitely evolved, both stylistically and the range of themes I tackled.”

The singer is not eager to dive too deeply into what his lyrics mean but says that he can't get away from making them personal, or at least fictionalized versions of himself.

“I'm still a bit reluctant to directly [sing] about myself and my experiences, yet ironically, all my songs are in the perspective of first person 'I'. All my songs are about putting myself in other people's shoes. A father, a time traveler, a boxer, a war general, and so on.”

“Weirdly though, I like to think that each of these songs are film or TV shows with different genres. There's rom-com, western drama, travel show, documentary, sports drama, and so on,” he added.

The album's first single goes even further – “King” refers to Martin Luther King Jr and focuses on “the impact of his death”. Alvin says.

Whatever Gascoigne chooses to sing about in the future, it's clear that the band is riding a wave of creativity. Bond Electric feels like a beginning of something instead of an end point. It's filled with the kind of earnest excitement only a young band can offer, and most of all, it's an endless row of quality songs.

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Bond Electric is out now and can be bought through anoarecords.com