It was a day when gray skies hung above Jakarta, and people knew rain spells doom on a Friday night in the city where main streets are jammed easily with cars and motorcycles. But in a serene coffee shop in a more quiet part of Jakarta, the members of Peonies sat, bouncy and beaming. They’re supposed to have a rehearsal in about an hour in a studio across the street, but they still had enough time to share their history and their excitement for the upcoming Zandari Festa with RekON over coffee and tea.
Peonies’ roots were not in the capital city, though. Guitarist Jodi Setiawan and keyboardist Paramitha Citta first got to knowing each other because they went to the same art school in the mountain town of Bandung, back in 2006. It was glorious times, they reminisced; they’d play music together until early morning in their rented rooms, just having fun. With some other friends, they formed a band called Jodi and the Morning Glory Parade, which ended as the members graduated and found their own paths of life – Jodi moved to Jakarta while Citta stayed in Bandung. But Jodi’s and Citta’s paths were to merge again.
Emerging from what Jodi jokingly called “dark period” (which Peonies members left unelaborated), Citta suddenly appeared in the capital city, suggesting to Jodi to play music together again. Jodi said yes, and the two of them just started having fun again with music, with Citta on keys and Jodi on drums. “The hell if we knew what sort of music we were playing,” Jodi laughed.
They found the third member in Cinta Marezi, whom Citta first met back in Bandung when they used to go to the same cultural events. The amazing thing was when they asked Cinta to join, she couldn’t play any music instrument except for recorder and pianica, which Indonesian children commonly learnt to play in elementary. She did learn to play the bass quickly because she turned out to have a natural talent for it, but what made Citta and Jodi so sure that they should ask her instead of somebody else who’s already a bassist with experience?
“Because we’re friends, and we share similar taste.” She has the talent, yes, but they believe it’s easier to find people with talents than finding people sharing the same taste in music. Funnily, although they said they shared the same music taste, when asked to name their influences, they found it hard to agree on names. “There are just too many,” they insisted, “And each of us has our own most favourite artists.” And at the beginning, Peonies’ music was quite different from what it is now, as they experimented to find their own sound.
They picked the name Peonies because they simply had wanted a simple name that sounded nice. And rather accidentally, Peonies bloom in June, the month they released their debut album. “It’s as if we’ve planned it all from the beginning,” again Jodi cracked a laugh.
Their first gig, in 2015, was shit, though.
They didn’t try to sugarcoat the fact, and recalled the memories of it fondly. It all started when their friends who were holding an event invited them to perform. At that time, they had only developed fragments of songs, but now with a set deadline of the gig date, they sped up working on the songs. The organizers had asked them to play at least five original songs, and they managed to get on stage with the required number. They didn’t perform well, though; Jodi and Citta had had gigging experience already under their belt, but it was the first time for the trio to be onstage.
But people kept their trust in Peonies, presumably because they too saw what the band could become. Peonies got invitation after invitation, getting help by friends onstage including members of Lightcraft (although they mentioned that now they want to perform more as a trio). The band got better and better, and more confident in performing, as they clocked in more hours of experience.
Again, the band pushed themselves to compose more songs and get into the recording studio, while the mood they were feeling about the songs they had written was still strong. So in early January this year, while other people were still in a stupor after New Year celebrations and holiday, they holed up daily for a week in a studio, recording the eleven tracks that would become their debut album, Landscape. They took turns singing – the rule of the thumb was who wrote the lyrics sang the lead vocals although they made the music together. The result is a collection of breezy songs with hushed voices and a cover made by an artist friend, @deraumade, who for the first time drew a male face – that of Jodi’s.
It is these songs that they will bring to Seoul’s Zandari Festa, which will be held on September 30 to October 3 this year.
And what are their hopes from their participation in Zandari Festa?
“I want to make friends!” claimed Citta cheerfully.
“And it would be nice if people would come see us and appreciate our music,” Jodi added.
Peonies will perform at Club Ta, on October 1, 8pm, so make sure you go down to the club to check this tweepop/surfpop threepiece!
Here’s their video message for you who’s going to Zandari Festa!