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10th November 2023

Elephant Kind: “Moving to London is a dream come true for any musician, this opportunity is one in a billion”

The Mancunion sits down with London-based Indie band, Elephant Kind, originally hailing from Indonesia, to discuss their creative process, the Indonesian music scene, and the future of the worldwide music industry
Elephant Kind: “Moving to London is a dream come true for any musician, this opportunity is one in a billion”
Credit: Elephant Kind

Elephant Kind are a rather unique act on the current UK music scene. Moving from their native Jakarta in 2022 to London was a defining moment in the Indonesian indie band’s history, and it’s fair to say that it has changed their trajectory greatly.

I was interested as to why they felt the move was necessary. With the general trend of the world pivoting (economically speaking) away from the West to Asia, particularly China, I wondered if a similar trend was taking place in the cultural sphere as well. Lead singer Bam Mastro passionately described his sentiments on this topic, with his feeling being that K-Pop spells the rise of a forthcoming cultural revolution in Asia. “A lot of people despise [K-Pop], I guess because it’s pop in essence. But I think once we’ve established that there is this whole movement going on, it’ll be like this mainstream movement going on, and then there’ll be things going on underground, which we’re seeing with artists like Peggy Gou.”

Mastro had grown up in a musical household; his mother “wanted to be a jazz singer, but I think the 70s were rough for women, especially in different places in South East Asia.” Growing up, he was exposed to a plethora of different musical styles. His dad “listens to The Beegees”, his mum “listens to Shirley Bassey” and his sister “listens to Mariah Carey and Christina Aguilera.” It’s safe to say that a varied mix of musical styles can be heard in the band’s output; as bassist Kevin Septanto put it “With this band, it’s special and unique […] no one’s going to really expect something electronic or something hip-hop from Elephant Kind, but we always like to surprise our listeners.”

elephant kind
Credit: Elephant Kind

The band formed in Jakarta in 2014 after Mastro’s return from university in Australia. They released three singles in 2014, along with a short film and album Scenarios. They developed a strong following in their homeland, “playing many festivals in Indo.” But Mastro explained that there is a fundamental flaw with the way online streaming services showcase talent from areas outside Europe and North America: “On Spotify, when you play our music, we’re not going to be side-by-side with other artists who sound like us, we’re going to be with other Indonesian artists who might not sound anything like us, which is strange.”

You only need to scroll to the bottom of one of their albums on Spotify to see the ‘featured in’ section, where all of the playlists are grouping them with other emerging Indonesian talent, which is great for showing new talent from the world. However, it does seem a foresight on Spotify’s part to label them as an INDONESIAN alternative indie band, rather than an ALTERNATIVE INDIE band, from Indonesia. Maybe a lot of us are guilty of this pigeonholing, and hearing Bam voice the frustrations that they feel because of this is certainly striking.

Before the move to London, “one or two per cent of [their] listeners were from overseas,” so it is easy to see why they took the leap to London. When we began talking about their move, their eyes visibly lit up with excitement and pride: “This is a dream come true for any musician […], this opportunity is like one in a billion, like this would never happen.” Drummer Bayu Adisapoetra expanded that “when the offer came, it was like a new chapter for us.”

Since making the move, the band have released the EP Superblue, which came out in March of 2023, as well as a live album Live in London, which graced the airwaves only two weeks before our chat. In their EP, it seems there is an evident development in their sound and style. They seem tighter, the songwriting is more eye-catching the riffs are more driving.

I was intrigued as to why, however, they thought that a live album would be an important step to take. They feel that “there’s a massive difference” between the band on recording and live. Septanto explained that “a few of them [the songs] are unreleased, so most of the set’s going to be work in progress.” They elaborated that they are working on a new album set to be released next year “as soon as we get the green light from the record label.”

We were speaking at Band On The Wall in Manchester, and this was their second time visiting the city as an act. Over the years, the city has been a cradle for alternative and indie music, a realm to which they feel a strong affinity. “It’s a historical city, I grew up listening to a lot of Manchester post-punk like Joy Division, New Order, and The Fall, and I still feel this city has a lot of upcoming and exciting artists” explains bassist Kevin. It’s clear from hearing them talk that they are all passionate music lovers, and it seems interesting to the extent that British and American music has permeated all corners of the world over the years.

However, they have unmistakably drawn their sound from their close surroundings, as all bands do; Bam outlined the strong Indonesian scene over the last few decades by telling me “Metal is massive, and we have one of the biggest jazz festivals in the world. Everyone in the jazz scene played there.” The band see the future of music as becoming more and more global: “I think it’s great because it gives a bit more room for people you’ve never heard of, different accents, different ways of singing.”

Supporting acts such as Franz Ferdinand and The XX has certainly aided their cause in becoming one of Indonesia’s most exciting artists. Under the guidance and management of London-based record label Mola Records, the band are seeking new creative stimuli in the UK after almost a decade of building a fanbase in Indonesia. This has to be a hugely impressive gamble for a band to take, after years of grafting and creating a solid fanbase. To move halfway around the world spells out clearly that Elephant Kind have the vision and ambition to put their mark on the music of the world.

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