By SHANJEEV REDDY & HAFRIZ IQBAL
THOSE of you who’ve been following the local indie music scene would know that artistes come and go all the time.
That’s why it was so refreshing to watch Bittersweet and Hujan – veritable legends in the indie rock scene – play a massive double bill at KL Live a couple weeks ago.
So, what does it take for indie acts like them to stay the course?
R.AGE caught up with Bittersweet frontman Hafizan Razali, aka Fizan, who said their success is due to three things – loyalty to their fans, good camaraderie within the band and, most important, keeping their passion for music alive.
“It can get really challenging at times. We’ve had quarrels among band members, but we know these things happen, and we just had to get used to it,” he said.
Despite being together for 12 years, the band has only released three studio albums.
According to Fizan, this is because as an indie band, they’re left to do everything by themselves – recording, post-production, marketing and even distribution of the finished product.
“It’s really tough for performing indie bands when our equipment alone costs tens of thousands, and we get paid peanuts, which we have to share among ourselves.
“On the other hand, mainstream artists show up with a minus one playback track and charge thousands of ringgit per song, he added.
“But we still do it for our fans because they’ve stuck with us all these years, even when our previous frontman quit.”
Fizan started out as one of the band’s crew members – one who could seriously sing. It was only when their previous frontman left that the band decided to absorb him into the line-up.
This year, Bittersweet and Hujan were the only local headliners for the Urbanscapes 2016 arts festival. The other headliners included popular international acts like Tame Impala, Rudimental and M83.
“We felt so honoured to be selected out of so many local bands, and we were also excited to play alongside Hujan, because we’ve never had the chance to share the stage with them,” said Fizan.
The response to the show also came as a pleasant surprise to Fizan. At RM69 a pop, the tickets were relatively expensive for a local show.
According to Fizan, most Malaysian fans are used to getting free entry for local acts.
But it wasn’t just ticket sales that went well. R.AGE was there to shoot a 360° virtual reality video right in the front row, and you could see how amazing the response from the audience was throughout the show.
Candid as ever, Hujan frontman Noh Salleh thanked the fans for showing up despite how pricey the tickets were. “I know you guys aren’t used to paying so much to attend a gig,” he said.
Bandmate AG Coco believes it is up to local acts to constantly improve the quality of their showsto draw more paying audiences.
“International acts enjoy that exclusivity factor because there are more opportunities for a fan to catch local acts performing,” he said.
“That’s why the local music industry needs to keep putting out quality performances that fans would be willing to pay to watch.”
Clearly, that’s something Hujan and Bittersweet have no problem delivering. During the Urbanscapes show, their fans were out in full force, singing along to every song.
The energy was so amazing, the guys from Hujan decided to join the crowd with a bit of crowdsurfing.
The epic three-hour show ended at midnight. And even then, the fans were screaming for an encore.
“In the end, our fans are everything,” said Fizan.