The Jakarta Post
'Tuscany Temple' by Costaroy (Costaroy/File)
After spending most of his music career in the background playing second fiddle, Binsar Tobing has stepped into the limelight with Costaroy.
The musical duo’s debut album Tuscany Temple took almost 10 years to gestate, resulting in a record that feels passionate and fully realized.
Alongside singer Imelda Margaret, Binsar used the project to channel his unrelenting creative energy, which hasn’t always found its place in the other bands he has played in.
As an additional bassist in the popular group Sore and a full-time member of breezy-pop group Float, Binsar knows just how to serve the song. With Costaroy, that trait is evident — the songs move with a hushed confidence, never betraying their folky-Indonesiana pop roots in the process.
Certainly, there are tangible hints of his involvement with Sore, in particular in the way Tuscany Temple moves, utilizing strings as a dramatic anchor alongside patiently playful vocal theatrics.
“The bands I’ve played in were very influential in my approach to these songs. From working with those bands I learned that musical instrumentation has to serve the songs and the vocals,” Binsar said.
He picked the moniker Costaroy for the project because it pointed toward “people who looked beyond the shores for something better” — a feeling captured in the adventurous romanticism of the songs.
Formed in 2008, Costaroy was begun after Binsar returned from his studies in the United States. Having originally hoped to form an entire band to perform the songs he had written in the US, Binsar quickly decided against the idea, opting instead to form a duo to bypass the unnecessary drama that often comes with a multiple-member band. It also ensured that he would not have to make any artistic compromises, as he would collaborate with Imelda alone.
“I met Imelda in church in 2008 when we were both in the same Praise and Worship group. She was also trying to start a music career outside of her church activities, working as a soloist and a session singer,” Binsar explained.
The two began playing and performing together at church, and in 2015, Binsar officially asked her to sing on the songs he had been working on.
“It made sense, because we had played together in church, the chemistry was already established musically.”
The following year the duo began recording their songs at ALS studio, where Sore had also recently recorded.
Engineered by Wendi Arintyo and Ledu Chandra, and mixed and mastered by Dimas Martoekoesoemo, the album was mostly performed and arranged by Binsar. He wanted to make sure his first official solo outing was unique and identifiable.
He added that the album was inspired by “books and movies” but mostly by his friends who stood by him at a time when he felt defeated. Without going into specifics, Binsar hinted that the slow process of creating the record had taken the wind out of his sails.
“I went through a phase where I didn’t feel like I wanted to finish the record,” the musician explained. “But a lot of friends encouraged me to get through the slump — So I really do credit them with influencing the record.”
To promote Tuscany Temple, Costaroy plans to perform several shows.
On stage the duo will be joined by an array of musicians including drummers Yanuar Atmaja and Ready Febrian, guitarists Billy Saleh, from indie rockers Polka Wars, and Uga Swastadi, keyboardist Muhammad Asranur, as well as trumpeter Panji Mardika and flutist Ade Paloh.
Binsar and Imelda are hopeful their debut outing will be well received. “The album tells a story with sounds and melodies, made to spread joy at all times,” Binsar said.