New Music

A dive into Pontianak, Indonesia Hardcore Punk Scene, with COMMENCE

9 mins read

Hailing from Pontianak in West Borneo, Indonesia, COMMENCE —comprising Alif, Babol, Aldiman, and Yami—has recently captivated local listeners with their audacious debut EP, Woyyy Puake. Released on September 1, 2023, the 11-track work is a sonic cannonball that ricochets between ’90s powerviolence and the band’s distinct amalgamation of musical backgrounds.

It was March 2023 when these four musicians, all previously involved in various bands within Pontianak’s DIY hardcore punk scene, decided to form COMMENCE. By May, they had already released a split EP with neighboring city Sintang’s grindcore band, FEAR. The creative incubation for Woyyy Puake thus seems like an inevitable milestone in a remarkably short timeline.

Far from being a random amalgamation of influences, COMMENCE crafts their sonic tapestry with care. Drawing inspiration from ’90s powerviolence bands, the members have incorporated diverse elements from their own musical pasts to shape the EP’s 11 songs. Whether lamenting the vicissitudes of their local music scene or shedding light on the underpaid and underappreciated friends in their social orbit, the lyrics encapsulate a youthful brand of socio-economic dissatisfaction.

Although the songs serve as narrative vessels, the music also speaks its own language. Each song functions as a mini-epic, fueled by the rage, angst, and frustrations experienced in their daily lives and their surrounding environment. It’s as much an aural assault as it is a call-to-arms for societal change.

Check out our in-depth interview with the band where we delve into questions ranging from the cultural impact of Pontianak on their music to the existential role they believe local bands play in today’s society.

Pontianak has a rich cultural backdrop. How does your city’s history and environment contribute to your musical journey?

Yes, Pontianak has a rich and various cultural background. Although three main cultural background are from Chinese, Malay, and Dayak ethnicity.

For us, local malay language is a very big contribution. Most of our lyrics are in Pontianak Malay language(malay language may be different or even very different in other cities or countries that have malay culture and/or malay ethnicity).

We use Pontianak Malay language cause it can deliver our emotion naturally and friends or listener who also speak in our language can feel relate to the message. Beside that, the fact that our city has so many ethnicities also give another impact to us. Beside Chinese, Malay, and Dayak, we also live along together everyday with peoples from Batak, Java, Bugis, etc background.

This teach us to respect diversity inside our band and in our local scene also. People come from their own background, but music can bring power to unite us.

Your band came together quite quickly—forming in March and releasing an EP by May. What was the catalyst that propelled you all to create music so urgently?

We didn’t have any long term plan for our band. We are agree to play together for maybe one or two years and release EP/album/music as much as we can. We also want to try any new experience musically and as a band, different from our past/other musical projects.

So we don’t have any reason to not releasing music as long as we have a new materials. An album (whether it’s an EP, split, or compilation) is an archive of our musical journet as a band. So, it’s not an urgent thing, it’s just our natural process as a band.

Beside that, every member of COMMENCE have other music project/band too. So when we was doing workshop and recording, it was the right time to do it until finish and became an album.

With each of you being active in other Pontianak DIY Hardcore Punk bands, what gaps or opportunities did you see in the scene that led to the formation of COMMENCE?

Our main obstacle is to manage time between every member. We have to understand every member has to manage their personal schedule also for other projects, we don’t want to make this band as a pressure then we will lost the fun aspect of playing music.

We also don’t want this band ruin our personal life (like doing daily jobs or maybe maintain the social connection with friends and families). So when we want to do like rehearsal, workshop, recording or maybe doing a show, we always give every member time to consider their personal issues (time, mood, mental and physical condition, financial condition, etc).

It’s quite hard to do, but when we can make it together, it’s a new life lesson for us, and it’s fun. And with each of us being active in other band, we also have opportunities/benefit.

We have a big and good connection with friends and other bands. We have bigger opportunities to introduce our band and make it a contribution to our local music scene.


You’ve mentioned a strong inspiration from ’90s powerviolence bands. Could you talk about some specific bands or tracks that act as your North Star?

We can’t mention one band. Since we all know the 90s powerviolence also consist of bands with a very wide diversity. But we have spent so much time (even before we start this band) listen to bands like INFEST, SPAZZ, DESPISE YOU, or also newer and bands from outside USA like DOMESTIK DOKTRIN, EXTORTION.

Actually we consider them as an inspiration. Yes, we want to make a fast, progressive, and straight forward hardcore punk music. But we don’t want to copy our predecessor, yeah at least we’ve tried. Some friends said that our music is more like fastcore than powerviolence. And we’re okay with that.

When people ask us about how we define our music, we will say it’s something around fastcore and powerviolence, and all bands that we’ve said above is the inspiration.

How do you manage to seamlessly blend such diverse musical backgrounds in the band? Are there any creative tensions, and how do you resolve them?

Yes, it’s something exciting for us. For two members in COMMENCE, it’s their first time listen and playing fast hardcore punk music. Our vocalist has some fast hardcore punk project before, you can check : MONTERADO, APOTEX SEHAT. Our guitarist plays in several bands, each of which has different musical characteristics (Check : ELEVATE, WAFFLE, UNHOLY PLEASURE). Our drummer is very active with shoegaze band (LULLAVILE), and also some other music projects from black metal to thrash punk. And our bass player is die hard punkrockers on TROTOAR 45.

We could say that everything just flows. When we first started this band, we made sure we listened to some of the same bands as references. Those are the 90s powerviolence bands. Then when we started making songs together, we freed each of us to bring out their own characteristics. Even if it doesn’t sound very “powerviolence”, as long as we all like it then we’ll let it be part of our music.
Our drummer had never had any experience playing hardcore punk before. We gave him a little more time to listen to various references and learn some hardcore punk drumming styles.

Can you walk us through the anatomy of one of the 11 songs on your EP? From conception to final mix, how does a COMMENCE track come to life?

Actually, most of the song ideas came from ideas that just appeared while we were riding on motorbikes. Singing few notes as a song idea and record it on cellphone. Then the recordins are shared on our what’sapp group so we can learn and develop it. Then we come to do rehearsal, made several experiments until finally producing some draft songs. Then one or two changes can also be added while we record the songs.

We will give example on the song “Good Music Bad Attitude”. The first idea recorded on cellphone is just the intro. Then we developed it again into a full song in the rehearsal studio. We always bring a recorder and record every rehearsal session. One or two changes can happen. Then when we record the song, we decided to cut some part, increase the tempo of the song, put a bass solo part at the middle of the song. Then we bring the unmixed tracks to our friend, he has a bedroom studio. We direct it to him, how the snare sounds, how we want the guitar to be distorted, how the levels are placed for each instrument, and what the overall feel of the song is when people hear it. One or two changes occur at this stage. We never sit together inside the bedroom studios to discuss, listen, or do the mixing, everything happens through file sharing on what’sapp chat. And then, when every member agree, it’s a wrap.

Your lyrics focus on daily life and the local music scene in Pontianak. What are some hyper-local issues that you believe deserve more attention, musically or otherwise?

Most of the lyrics are talk about attitude. It’s about how we interact with each other, in our own circle of friends, or even with the society. That’s our main focus.

Beside that, by making songs, and produce an album. We want to encourage other friends in our local scene to be more active and productive. Hardcore punk is about giving message, it can be political or personal. And the way to shout out the message is by producing your own art. Beside that, in this small community, we have to support each other with every way that possible. You may be a good musician with a good skill and good equipment. But that won’t make you a superstar with some privilege. Encourage others to do and try harder too, we’re all deserve the same opportunities.

Could you elaborate on the socioeconomic commentary you’re making through your music?

At our stage, maybe we still don’t make many economic profit through music. But that doesn’t mean that we can’t try various ways to make this band economically independent. Economic benefits can be created naturally as long as we all continue to actively move within this community.

Make songs, make a records, do DIY gigs. People sell and buy tickets, others sell and buy merch. And you can also sell foods, craft, local crafted alcohol, audio recording and mixing services, anything.

There will be some trial and errors, but it’s still worth to try.

Do you believe that local bands have a responsibility to comment on societal conditions? Why or why not?

We believe bands have an obligation to be responsible for the work they have created. There is no requirement that the work be sensitive to social conditions. Just speak your heart out, be honest and be true to yourself. Art is a form of expression, and it comes in a variety of different ways.

Are there other bands or artists in the local or international scene with whom you’d like to collaborate?

Local bands/artists, we would like to collaborate with RUE. RUE is our own friend, they’ve just form their band and has their own songs with some girl/woman issues in the lyrics.

We’d also like to collaborate with M SUKUR, a local artist who made songs and sing it while he doing traditional massage service. Internationally, we think it’d be fun to make a new friendship/connection and do some collaboration with any hardcore punk bands from third world countries or places rarely heard of like from Africa, middle east, or any places in south east asia.


Your EP was released in both CD and digital formats. What led to this decision, given that many artists are moving solely to digital platforms? How popular are physical formats in your area nowadays?

Physical release is not too popular in our local scene. We have friend who run a local record store, and the store doesn’t have good sales. But we think this statement is still premature. Local bands (Pontianak) are also never really active in producing physical release. So we can’t say that the local kids/scene supporters won’t buy physical release, cause the local band also don’t make local release a lot too.

But for us, our main intention on producing CD is to have our own personal archive. It’s like a complete form of art/music, you have something that can be keep, touch, see, and listen.

While we also release on bandcamp and Spotify (still processing) just to expand the distribution possibilities of our work. We can do many show or many tours to outside countries in the near future, so put our songs on various digital platforms is a way to increase the possibility of people hearing our work.

What milestones does COMMENCE aim to reach in the next year?

We have a plan to make a showcase at the end of September. We will also doing as much shows as we can early next year. We’re dreaming of making a show where the audience can get a free baked tempeh for free.

Beside that, we still want to do some releases. One of it is a tribute for fast hardcore,powerviolence,grindcore band from Pontianak. So it’s a recording of us covering their songs with our own style.

Is there anything specific you’d like to say to emerging bands in Pontianak and beyond, especially those looking to carve their own path in niche genres?

Make your own musical release (EP, LP, split, anything possible). Have a positive way of thinking, be consistent, make a good music and have a good attitude.

Karol Kamiński

DIY rock music enthusiast and web-zine publisher from Warsaw, Poland. Supporting DIY ethics, local artists and promoting hardcore punk, rock, post rock and alternative music of all kinds via IDIOTEQ online channels.
Contact via [email protected]

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