Indie Duo Stars and Rabbit Makes Whispers Overseas
Indonesian folk-pop duo Stars and Rabbit first emerged on the local music scene in 2011. Singer-songwriter Elda Suryani and arranger Adi Widodo, both hailing from Yogyakarta, complement each other perfectly: in their enthralling songs, Elda’s distinctive vocals—sometimes bordering on the eccentric—are accompanied by the soothing sound of Adi’s guitar.
After establishing themselves as the darlings of Indonesia’s indie scene Stars and Rabbit also made waves overseas, playing festivals and touring abroad, including Singapore and the UK. In an interview with NOW! Jakarta, Elda and Adi spoke about their passion for music, how to survive in a highly competitive industry and how it feels like to gain international recognition.
When did you first fall in love with music?
Elda: For me, it was in junior high school. I attended a Christian school, and my favourite part of the day was that we used to pray and sing church songs and hymns before the lessons began. These songs were broadcast to all classes from the central room, and I was one of the singers.
Stars and Rabbit was first formed in Yogyakarta in 2011. How did the two of you meet and why did you decide to make music together?
Adi: Elda was already a friend of mine. Even before Stars and Rabbit, we already played music together occasionally or met up for jamming sessions. We thought it might be great to actually form a band, and here we are!
Elda: I called Adi when I felt like I needed someone to play an instrument to scramble the notes in my head.
How did you know it was right?
Elda: When I realised that we couldn’t complete a song anymore without stimulating each other.
The rapidly changing industry is a challenge for lots of musicians, and many of them struggle to stay relevant, especially in a time where everything, including music, is digitised. How do you tackle these challenges?
Adi: We always try to create some activities for Stars and Rabbit to stay on the right track. The digital age can actually be very helpful – if you know how to use it and respond accordingly.
Elda: Adapt. Be sensitive to changes. Take the time to find out what actually works best for you.
You are regularly playing at festivals both in Indonesia and abroad. I can imagine that every performance is an amazing experience in itself, but do you see any difference between the audience at home and abroad?
Adi: Of course, different people have different ways of enjoying live music. In Indonesia, the audience is very enthusiastic; they like to sing along until the end of the show, which I think is crazy and amazing. In other countries, the crowd can also be enthusiastic, but I think they have a clearer focus and enjoy the show more as a whole.
Elda: When it comes to appreciation, the level of depth is quite different.
You are known for your atmospheric, sometimes moody live performances. How do you prepare for your concerts?
Elda: I like to notice what’s happening around me, absorbing the vibes of the place where we are going to perform, like the weather, the people – anything that will remind to be in the moment before I go on stage. I am breathing it all in, and then I instinctively know what to do for the rest of the show.
Adi: I like to practice, discover new sounds, walk in the park or watch a movie before a concert just to make myself more comfortable.
Your song “The House” was selected for the soundtrack of the short film “Wander”, which is set in a post-apocalyptic world. How did it feel like to have your song in a film?
Adi: We were really happy about it! After watching, I thought the song fit really well into the film and its theme.
Your own music videos are quite evocative as well. When you create a new video, how much say do you have in terms of creative direction?
Elda: It is very important to me to make it as clear as possible to the director what kind of message I want to deliver with my song – I usually give them as many details as I can. Once we are clear, we can take the next step and expand the original idea in the brainstorming phase. We are very open to new perspectives and wild ideas as long we think it’s relevant to our music – even if it’s subtle.
This month, you will perform at the Singapore F1 for the first time, alongside renowned bands such as The Killers, Liam Gallagher and Simply Red. Has this become your “new normal”, or are you still excited when you see the line-ups for festivals?
Elda: I’m super excited and actually still need to get used to this.
Adi: Same here. I’m quite excited to share the stage with these bands and musicians, and I can’t wait for the day to come.
How do you rate the Indonesian music scene at the moment?
Elda: It looks to me like more independent attitudes are taking over the mainstream.
Adi: It’s slowly but surely ascending towards the next phase – which is a very good development if we compare it to only a few years ago.
Do you have any favourite local talents whose music you would recommend to our readers?
Adi: I would definitely recommend checking out Dialog Dini Hari, Fourtwnty, Float, Danilla and Barasuara.
Elda: Efek Rumah Kaca, Sandrayati Fay, Nona Ria, Mantra Vutura, Rock And Roll Mafia, Gemalara, Elephant Kind – oh, and so many more, I can’t remember them all!
If you could record one song with any musician, living or dead, who would it be?
Elda: Imogen Heap.
Adi: Chris Martin.
What are your plans for the future, in terms of music, and perhaps also on a personal level?
Adi: We are currently trying to finish our next album, but I think it won’t be released that soon, because we are still looking for new experiences to help us formulate the songs. I also actually have a plan to be a professional football coach at some point in the future, but I’m not sure if this is really going to happen or if it’s just a weird idea roaming around inside my head.
Elda: My plan is to let everything unfold and try to be more relaxed.
This article was first published in the September issue of NOW! Jakarta magazine.