Interview: Harlan Boer (Bin Harlan)

The name Harlan Boer (Also known as Bin Harlan) is a mainstay in the industry. Personally, I stumbled upon him when I browsed through some CDs in a mall back in high school, I saw his most recent EP at that time, “Sakit Generik” and I bought it, not knowing what’s inside. Then I came home and listened to it. The lyrics “Onta maen sama anjing!!!” jumped at me. The EP made me chuckle a bit and not long after, I bought another CD, this time the OST of the movie “Rocket Rain” and until now, “Cek Cok” has been the most absurd and head scratching lyrics of all time. I even used the lyric for a poem assignment in school, got a 90 for that. Thanks, Bin. 

Who would’ve thought that a few years down the line, we met through a mutual friend (Robby Wahyudi Onggo) and he wanted to come into our podcast, which he subsequently skipped because he overslept. That was a month or so ago at the time of writing. A few days after he skipped his podcast appearance, he called me and asked me to release his next album titled “Bersambung” – Much to my confusion, since we are not a label. But he insisted, he looked at our web, and he didn’t see us as a label, he wanted a platform. 

That one phone call got my mind racing and after a few meetings and a bunch of fights between the guys here at noisewhore, we initiated The Store Front. This website is all because of a phone call from Bin Harlan. 

So in the midst of making the platform, I sat down (Virtually) with Bin Harlan and talked about his upcoming album, now released as an exclusive to The Store Front, titled “Bersambung” 

The Artwork for “Bersambung” by Bujangan Urban

To start off, as a musician, as a soloist now, that has no label and has just this DIY ethos to your music, your previous double album “Fidelitas Cinta” is a bit of a surprise, you were supposed to create a playlist and you submitted a double album instead? I have to say it’s a bit unorthodox to say the least, what pushed you in this direction?

Bin: Maybe it’s good to have some background first. When music started to get distributed digitally via the internet, as a fan, I see it as a medium to try on music, but I don’t treat it as the actual product. When my earlier releases got distributed to the streaming platforms, it was because of my label, but again, I see it as a medium to try on new music, in this case, my music, rather as the product. 

It’s an interesting stance that you have, to “try” on new music, why did you say that? What do you have to say to the streaming culture today? 

Bin: At its core, popular releases will net more than independent releases, that’s a fact. But in the physical era, (As an independent musician) you can survive (Financially) with a small number of buyers for your music (Because they buy your CDs/tape) but the same cannot be said in the digital era. That’s the state of the business today, you can’t say that physical release is the answer because the time has changed, but you can’t say that digital release is also the answer because it’s not, at least for independent artists. 

So fast forward to Theo (Visual Jalanan) asking me to create a playlist for their music column, VJPlay. I didn’t have any song on my computer, honestly. And I’m too lazy to download some tracks because of being asked to create a playlist. So I created “Fidelitas Cinta” a double album, recorded with my phone and some instruments that I have here in my home. And as I said before, I don’t think releasing an album on streaming platforms will fetch me anything significant financially, so to release “Fidelitas Cinta” for free (On Visual Jalanan’s website) didn’t phase me. 

So fast forward a few weeks after the release of “Fidelitas Cinta” you called me to release “Bersambung” . What can you tell me about the album? Is it a continuation of “Fidelitas Cinta”?

Bin: Well after I submitted 20 songs for “Fidelitas Cinta” I got carried away and created more songs. So it is a continuation of “Fidelitas Cinta” but it’s also different to some extent. This album has more vocals and guitar, I barely use my drum machine and keyboard. But it has the same talking points, loneliness, being in these pandemic days and some other personal stuff

Bin Harlan (Photo by Andre “Kubil” Idris)

From releasing your music for free on VJPlay and now being an exclusive at The Store Front. Can you explain your motive for the release of “Bersambung”?

Bin: Circling back on the music business these days, musicians have to (Somehow) multiply their listeners. Back in the day, 1,000-15,000 copies can fetch you a pretty penny. But now, in the era of digital streaming, we have to multiply that significantly, I don’t know by how much honestly. Meanwhile, we all know that not all music can achieve the numbers (Desired nowadays), in this case, my music is included in that category. The Store Front itself matches my preference in the sense of being a digital store, I share the same values as well. I can imagine this going well, although we’ll have to see.