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Musician Harlan Boer 'paints when hungry'

Marcel Thee

The Jakarta Post

Jakarta  /  Fri, December 14, 2018  /  09:46 am
Musician Harlan Boer 'paints when hungry'

Intimate show: Folk musician Harlan Boer has released a new album, Bila Lapar Melukis, which roughly means “paint when hungry”, referring to something that the late great Indonesian painter Affandi allegedly used to do. (Courtesy of Yulio Abdul Syafik/-)

Leading up to the release of Bila Lapar Melukis, which roughly means “paint when hungry”, folk musician Harlan Boer has been presenting songs one by one in a series of intimate solo shows throughout Jakarta.

These shows started in Oct. 9 and concluded with a bigger show on Dec. 11 in which he performed the whole album alongside some musician friends.

The musician, who is known as Bin to most of his friends and fans, has kept his particular sense of songwriting and delivery intact. The songs on Bila Lapar Melukis present playful and observational lyrics that rest comfortably against Bin’s whimsical sense of melody and off-kilter delivery.

The album title refers to something that the late great Indonesian painter Affandi reportedly used to do. Having read about it in a biography of the painter, Bin was inspired. Each of the 10 songs on the record features a painting as its visual representation — each acting as a digital-cover sleeve for the singles’ digital release.

“I actually don’t know much about the world of painting. As far as art forms go, I follow music more than any other medium. But in every artistic discipline, I have had a great emotional experience. Those experiences definitely influence my songs, either musically or lyrically,” Bin explains.

He is most intrigued by pieces that feel like they stand apart from the rest, feeling a kinship with the kinds of music he makes and the way he utilizes his limitations to create a form of uniqueness.

“My skills are limited — my vocals, vocabulary, instrumental skills, general knowledge about music and even my recording skills are minimal. But I still aim for them to feel unique and personal.”

Bila Lapar Melukis arrives just a year after Bin’s debut album, Operasi Kecil(Small Operation), continuing the musician’s prolific streak.

He has been a member of numerous “big” indie bands including The Upstairs and C’Mon Lennon, as well as managing the popular group Efek Rumah Kaca. As a solo artist, he has consistently released singles both on and offline. He also runs an indie label called Parlente Records.

Although he still works a “regular” job, it’s clear that Bin has made music a major part of his life. He never wants to miss out on an idea, no matter how miniscule.

“The expressive language of song and text are close to my daily routine. I often feel like I shouldn’t let my inspirations go to waste, which is why I record everything onto my phone,” he says.

“Whenever I feel like there’s a really good idea that I have come up with, something that I enjoy, I feel compelled to write it and then go to a studio to record it so that others can hear it.”

Those inspirations include some biographical books, including the one about Affandi (‘Creative works are interesting, but what’s more interesting is the person behind it.’), as well as old Indonesian comedies from the 1970s and 1980s. For Bin, the way those comedies were delivered made it easy for him to grasp the messages they were putting out, similar to what he wants to achieve through his songs.

Bin also has the honor of being the first Indonesian “exclusive artist” featured by the Thai digital platform Fungjai. Every week he introduces a new song; that particular track will be uploaded onto the Fungjai digital app. (The songs would still be released on other digital platforms eventually.) In fact, it was the Fungjai offer that gave Bin the idea to release his record one track a time.

“My hope is that by releasing things one by one, I’ll be able to get the songs across in a more thorough and listenable way.”

A limited edition CD version of the album is also to have 500 copies pressed through the independent label (and music store) Langensrawa Records.

“They were one of the first music stores that supported Aubrey Fanani’s album, which was the first release on Parlente Records,” Bin says, explaining the relationship and his comfort with them. “The guys from the label are really good, helpful guys.”

Langensrawa also had distribution spots in places that would reach Bin’s fan base — another plus.

For Bin, the album gave him a lot of new insights. First, that it is important to release an album in which each song is equally strong. “Every song should be single-worthy,” he says.

Second, he could relate his own art with his music instead of relying on others to provide the sleeve art and, last, that working with producers would broaden his musical knowledge.

“I worked with a variety of friends, including Henry Foundation from [electronic trio] Goodnight Electric and Adink Permana, as well as Adi ‘Mamokiak’ who also helped with my debut. Each of these producers gave me a new insight that would certainly influence my songs in the future.”

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