Mooner on heading to Australia for their first international tour and trying to crack the U.S.
In 2011, boutique label Now-Again Records released Those Shocking Shaking Days, a compilation of Indonesian hard, psychedelic, progressive and funk rock bands from the 1970s.
For Indonesian rock’n’roll fans such as Rektivianto Yoewono, guitarist with Indonesian heavy rock band Mooner, the realisation that bands such as Panbers, The Brims, AKA, The Gang of Harry Roesli and Benny Soebardja and Lizard graced Indonesian stages in the 1970s was a revelation.
“When we were growing up and listening to music, information about ‘70s bands in Indonesia was not that available, unless you were a vinyl collector,” Yoewono says.
Yoewono and his fellow rock’n’roll fans fed initially on a diet of English heavy blues rock, psychedelia and prog rock, including Black Sabbath and Led Zeppelin, before biting into the more abrasive punk rock fare of The Clash, The Damned and The Sex Pistols.
But when Yoewono first came across Indonesia’s often neglected heavy rock history, he was immediately impressed. “We liked that music because it was unique and very heavy,” Yoewono says. “We were excited to discover that Indonesia had this calibre of heavy rock back in the ‘70s. We didn’t know and no one talked about it for a long time.”
Yoewono went on to form SIGIT – The Super Insurgent Group of Intemperance Talent – in 2002. SIGIT has released two albums, three EPs and toured Australia twice over the past ten years. It was while SIGIT was having down time that Mooner gradually came together. “I don’t remember exactly when we formed,” Yoewono says. “All the bands that we have been in have mutual friends through various bands, so we hang out a lot together.
“For the past two years when we haven’t had anything to do, we’ve hung out in the studio at night. At one point we decided that the songs we had were good enough to be recorded. Last year we started recording, so that’s really the start of the band.”
Next month Yoewono will return to Australia as Mooner undertakes its first overseas tour. Like SIGIT, and fellow Indonesian heavy band Kelompok Penerbang Roket, who will also be appearing at this year’s Cherry Rock festival, Mooner’s heavy psychedelic blues has a subtle but distinctive Indonesian cultural flavour. “I think [Indonesian psychedelia] is similar to Japanese psychedelic music,” Yoewono says. “Basically there is always the influence of English and American bands. A lot of the local ‘70s bands started as cover bands, and then started to write their own songs.
“I feel the way that Japanese psychedelic bands write is different to the way English musicians or American musicians write. Sometimes they’re intentionally different, so you can hear a different kind of sound. It’s the same with Indonesian bands.”
Mooner has recently released its first album, Tabiat on Indonesian label Bhang Records. While there is a vibrant rock’n’roll culture in Indonesia, Yoewono says Mooner isn’t interested in finding a commercial niche to exploit. “I think it’s important that we, the same as any other band, are genuine with what we do with our music,” Yoewono says. “I’m genuinely into rock music. I’m not doing it because it’s the kind of music that’s getting attention right now with other bands. It’s very important to be deep into what we love and express it.”
While in Australia they will be releasing a split 7” on Sacred Blues Records. “We and Sacred Blue Records have this huge plan to connect us and Indonesian music with Australian music,” Yoewono says. Tabiat is also being released in the United States. If the reception is positive, Yoewono hopes Mooner can arrange a tour to capitalise.
Back in Indonesia, and Yoewono concedes there’s the omnipresent logistical problem of finding venues to play. Mooner has played predominantly around the Indonesian capital, though finding suitable venues to play outside of Jakarta hasn’t been easy.
“It’s more difficult if you compare it to Australia. From what I saw when I was in Australia, there are so many bars where you can play,” Yoewono says. “But in Indonesia, bar culture is not that huge. Sometimes to arrange a tour we have to work together with other bands from other cities and arrange a small show. It can be very difficult. But gaining the crowd is easy, because people are hungry for music.”
By Patrick Emery
Mooner will perform at CherryRock, taking over Cherry Bar on Sunday May 7 with Shihad, The Dwarves, Nashville Pussy and more.