Jakarta-based band Polka Wars take pride in that they all graduated from the same high school that bred major pop stars such as singer Andien and feel-good R&B trio Ran. However, this does not mean their music bears any resemblance to their fellow alumni.
Instead, the band’s music sees a mix of indie rock antics — quasi-theatrical vocals with some heavy American inflections and plenty of instrumental interplay, usually ending in an emotional crescendo. The reliance on brass sections gives the band’s songs a celebratory sense of melancholy.
“We all went to that same high school but were in different grades and playing in different bands,” said Karaeng P. Adjie or “Aeng,” lead vocalist and guitarist.
When Polka Wars eventually found each other they discovered a shared interest, not only in certain bands but also in film and books, all of which play a pivotal role in the creation of their songs. Some of the reading materials that the band admits to influencing them includes “The Catcher in the Rye.” For bassist Xandega Tahajuansya, his latest creative crush is on Polish director Krzysztof Kieslowski’s “The Double Lives of Veronique” and “Three Colors: Red.”
At the start, the band evolved through its members bringing in very different and raw ideas. From there they quickly focused on building a unified sound that made sense within the framework of the newly christened Polka Wars.
The result of that collaboration yielded songs that were steeped in American indie music, referencing plenty of current bands without losing a sense of identity.
Aeng described the songs as evoking a “gloominess” that he said was the aural equivalent of dusk. He may be right; the released Polka Wars songs have found the band being rather dismissively compared to darkly themed American bands such as Interpol, and neo-folk acts like Fleet Foxes.
Aeng tries to inject the songs with a variety of topics but admits he finds it difficult. “There are definitely a lot lyrics with a rather arrogant idealism in our earliest songs, which makes sense as I wrote them when I was entering college.”
Drummer Giovanni Rahmadeva said the band’s earliest lyrics are “cliche,” but added that the point of the band has always been primarily to entertain themselves rather than a perceived audience.
The released band tracks can be listened to online, although most of the newer songs are kept under wraps prior to the release of the band’s official debut. The single “Coraline” has garnered positive reception within independent circles and has found its way to becoming a minor hit for the band, who often end sets with the romantic and ominous track.
Their debut will come in the form of a 7” vinyl record (an extended play with a few songs) and will be released by Bandung’s Orange Cliff Records in April.
But for now the band is riding the hype slowly building around them and trying to prove they are more than just a few promising songs. They play alongside touring American rockers the Yeah Yeah Yeahs and local indie darlings The Brandals at Plaza Indonesia on Friday.
Live at Love Garage
Friday 1 at EX, Plaza Indonesiahttp://soundcloud.com/polkawars