The Pee Wee Gaskins have risen from the Indie scene to the mainstream on the back of a single full-length album. (Photo courtesy of the band)
In the two years since it was formed, Pee Wee Gaskins, a pop-punk group based in Jakarta, has rapidly leapt from the indie scene to the mainstream.
With a single full-length album under its belt, the band has been featured in numerous magazines, including Hai, Rolling Stone Indonesia and Trax, as well as appearing on TV shows like O Channel’s Demo and MTV Indonesia.
The band took its name from Donald “Pee Wee” Gaskins, who gained notoriety in 1991 for being the first white man in more than half a century to be executed in the United States for killing a black man. In an attempt to stay out of the electric chair, Gaskins confessed to more than 100 murders, though he never revealed the locations of the bodies.
Pee Wee Gaskins began as a solo project for the vocalist, guitarist and main songwriter, Dochi Sabega, while he was still playing guitar for metal band The Side Project.
“Two years ago I had an acoustic song called ‘Here Up on the Attic,’ which I had written for a friend, who eventually became my girlfriend,” Dochi said.
“She said, ‘Hey this sounds nice — why don’t you write more stuff?’ So I began looking for band members [after quitting The Side Project],” he said.
Dochi recruited guitarist San-San first. The two had musician friends in common and had, for a brief time, been in the same band: Killing Me Inside, with Dochi on guitar and San-San on vocals.
The first thing they did was pick a name.
“One day we were chatting on the Internet trying to come up with a band name, and San-San mentioned wanting to name it ‘Serial Killer,’ ” Dochi said.
“We wanted a scary name, but the music we were going to play wasn’t exactly scary, so when we Googled ‘serial killer’ and the name Pee Wee Gaskins came up, it felt like the perfect amalgamation of our pop tendencies and something that was inherently terrifying,” Dochi said.
The pair then recruited musicians Aldy “Mustache” on drums, Ai on bass and Omo on keyboard and synthesizers.
By late 2007, the newly formed band was performing at a lot of low or nonpaying events. Before long, it was headlining these shows, as well as performing as guest stars at high-school bazaars, where it built its fan base.
By 2008, Pee Wee Gaskins was thriving, with appearances on TV shows such as RCTI’s “Dashyat” and SCTV’s “Playlist.”
It was also featured on the soundtrack for the movie “Married by Accident,” which starred former MTV host Nirina.
In April 2008, the band released its debut EP, “Stories From Our High School Years,” through the independent record label Kurd Records. The 2,000 copies of the EP quickly sold out.
Dochi said: “We used the Internet to promote it, and sold it hand-to-hand. We did the distribution ourselves. Total DIY!”
Between 2008 and 2009, Pee Wee Gaskins really took off. Fans, calling themselves Party Dorks, helped promote the band through the Internet and by dropping flyers. The Party Dorks were so spread out across Indonesia that there were local divisions such as Party Dorks Bali and Party Dorks Semarang.
But the band’s quick rise to the top was also met with disdain by other groups of music fans, who began calling themselves the Anti Pee Wee Gaskins, or APWG for short. Like the Party Dorks, the APWG community also grew quickly, with young people building Facebook communities where they could chat about how much they hated the band. There were also numerous subgroups, including APWG Makassar, APWG Surabaya and so on.
APWG has never officially stated its intentions, nor the reason for its hatred. Online discussions do little to illuminate the motivations of members. Juan, an APWG supporter, simply wrote on the APWG discussion board on Facebook that he “hates the band” because they are “homos, arrogant, ungrateful of their fans, copycats.”
At a show in Surabaya, a group of APWG members came to a Pee Gaskins show simply to collectively raise their middle finger throughout the band’s set.
So much negativity would bother most bands, but Dochi seems to take it all in stride. Facing the Surabaya audience of thousands, with hundreds of them flipping him the bird, he said from the stage, “You guys are still young, don’t hesitate to voice your opinion about us. We have come to make friends.”
Early this year, the band released its first full-length album, “The Sophomore,” which was released through a larger independent label called Variant Records.
The album has reportedly sold more than 4,000 copies so far. A fact that makes Dochi happy, but not quite content.
“If you are feeling satisfied, you are bound to rest on your laurels. Then again, never feeling satisfied makes us complainers. Simply put, we are always trying to push ourselves as far as we can.”