Vocalist Rebecca Theodora, bass player Alex Kaunang, guitarist Andi Hans, and drummer Febri. (Photo courtesy of BITE!)

BITE! Serves Up Memorable Melodies With 'Mayday' Album


JANUARY 23, 2015

A lot has changed since the last time we caught up with Jakarta-based melodic rockers, BITE! The foursome lost two members and gained two new ones, and now returns with "Mayday," an album that amps up the radio-ready ferocity of their 2009 debut release with stronger production and far catchier songwriting.

Though still light at heart and with the same obvious eagerness of catering to fans of pop-punk as well as the mainstream crowd, "Mayday" is leaps and bounds over their debut in every aspect. A propulsive collection of songs, which would easily be dubbed a "summer record" -- if moist heat was not Indonesia's default setting -- "Mayday" serves up memorable melodies one after another.

BITE!, comprising of vocalist Rebecca Theodora, bass player Alex Kaunang, new guitarist Andi Hans, and new drummer Febri, isn't intent on reinventing the wheel. Their brand of instantaneous pop punk has been done by many before, to varying levels of commercial and artistic success both by local and international bands.

But originality be damned, that doesn't mean the well is dry for BITE! to scour through. Thoroughly produced with a balance between chiming edge and solid rhythms, "Mayday's" 11 songs are solid front to back, with only a few mild mood clunkers to get through.

Opener " Divide et Impera " ("Divide and Rule") showcases this sonic change right off the bat. Its bright guitar strumming with just the right amount of crunchiness alongside a steady bass line, all layered with vocal melodies that grab listeners immediately. Rebecca's high-pitched voice adds a floating feel to the track -- as it does with most of the songs here -- and carries the song nicely between its Foo Fighters-like intro before switching into a playful verse and energetic chorus.

Meanwhile "Modus Operandi" finds Rebecca rocking through an upbeat song that bears more than a passing resemblance to Tom Petty's "American Girl" (or The Strokes' "Last Night," for that matter -- at least in its verses). Again, it is a track adorned with melodic immediacy and crispy guitars.

Later-era Lemonheads-styled " Ksatria " ("Knight") si ts between stuttering and 1960s pop rhythms (complete with doo- woop backing vocals) and acts as a pleasant mood breaker on an album filled with more straightforward tunes.

One of the album's strongest tracks is also its most radio -ready. "Karyawan Kontrak " ("Contract Employee," a self-explanatory title if there ever was one) offers up the kind of populist lyricism that makes it easily identifiable, and its jumpy quality propels that sense of playful-yet-real-frustration across very well. When Rebecca sings of working "from early morning to nighttime [...] / How can you do it again the next early morning," the instruments lurch ahead to its satisfying sing-along refrains of doo-doo-doo's.

The whimsical grunge of "Don't Light My Fire" serves up playful dynamics, going from dirty and loud to indie pop strumminess comfortably. Similarly, " Drama Komedi " ("Comedy Drama") works its grunge well, with a grittiness on both Rebecca's vocals and the distorted instruments. Using the film/TV genre as an allegory to life, Rebecca manages to further punch up the track's desperate, semi-frustrated quality.

With these types of songs, "Mayday" would have been even stronger as a 10-track album. But with two additional songs, the record still retains its compact feel. Only the hushed quasi-traditional balladry of "Samaritan" withers down the record's mood a little.

What really makes the record is its production, which gets the best out of these songs. Recorded without these dynamic shifts, "Mayday" could have easily felt underwhelming -- a problem their debut EP had.