It was supposed to change everything. The four guys in rock band Sigmun were ecstatic when they first heard of the news; they were confirmed to play a show in the esteemed SXSW (South By Southwest) music festival in Austin, Texas this March.
It was a gig that striving bands all over the world would bawl in joy over; a multiple-day event choked full of industry people, scene legends, and ample networking opportunities; the place to play at if you wanted to “make it.”
The SXSW website listed the band’s profile on their performers page, describing in a praising manner, writing “the basslines are almost progressive but raw and primitive at the same time, the drumming moves fierce and violent on high tempo and in a moment could turn calm into drowning beats, while the vocals sounded like chants and moans, obviously affected by Plant and Ozzy.”
Things could not have been better. But instead, their dream was squashed for the most lame of reasons; they were denied their travel visa. And so this story, which was supposed to celebrate another successful underdog tale, took a sour turn.
Band manager Robby Wahyudi says the sense of disappointment is undeniable, especially among the band members, though they state that they do not feel defeated, knowing that other opportunities are lining up.
“The guys also don’t feel like forcing the whole issue, such as in re-applying [for the visa], which will be too late anyway,” Robby says.
He explains that the band collectively applied for B1/B2 visa, as suggested by their contacts at SXSW, which is mostly given for regular tourists, visitors, and those with business matters. Since the band would not be paid for their performance at SXSW (they had to pay for registration, as most younger bands do at the festival), management felt this was the best way.
The embassy, on the other hand, told the band that they should have registered for a P1 visa, which is given to those who are visiting for performance purposes (the band and management insists that the P1 is meant for paid performers).
Perhaps lack of experience affected the band’s preparation or it is simply bad luck, but it does add an ironic twist to the band’s fund-raising gigs. The most recent one was held a week ago at the American cultural center @america (which is connected with the American Embassy in Indonesia) and was well-covered by the media.
“We are definitely disappointed,” admits Haikal Azizi, the band’s lead vocalist and guitarist. “The last five months have been about racking our brains and devoting all the time we had to prepare for leaving. It was only by early February that we were able to receive funds for the trip and later, through the fund-raising show at @america, we were able to gather enough money for accommodation and other needs.”
The band met as school friends in their native Bandung and formed Sigmun in 2008. Their success in garnering attention from the independent music scene resulted in the group — consisting of Haikal, Nurachman Andhika on guitar, bass player Mirfak Prabowo and drummer Pratama Kusuma Putra — eventually moving to Jakarta, where opportunities for their kind of music were galore.
Taking their name from a deliberate misspelling of the iconic psychologist Sigmund Freud’s name, the band soon found the association a little troublesome. Many thought of them as purposefully affecting a self-conscious intellectual take on Heavy Metal, an assumption that the band dealt with humor and disdain.
“People started to ask, ‘What is it with Freud and your music? [Carl] Jung rules!’ But we’re not here as die-hard disciples of Freud. He’s not the basis of our ideas as a band,” Haikal said.
Since then, the band has released a few EPs, mostly in limited formats such as cassette tape and vinyl, all of which were critically acclaimed. So were the band’s live shows, which are particularly ferocious and confident, considering their relatively young stage years.
But the band members are eager to put a positive spin on their no-tour setback.
“Maybe it’s a sign that we should really slow down and finally record a full length album,” Haikal said.