Photo Credit: Stephanie Poetri’s PR
The 20-year-old Indonesian pop star tells Voir about her love for gaming, her teenage determination not to be a musician, and the story behind her new EP, AM/PM…
It’s 11pm in Indonesia, where Stephanie Poetri lives and has spent most of the day working and gaming. You wouldn’t necessarily know she was at the latter end of her day, given that Poetri displays all the energy and enthusiasm of a golden retriever puppy. “I may have taken a nap…” she says through a cheeky smile. She doesn’t seem to mind too much about our late-evening call, and tells me she works better at night anyway. “So do my producers – it’s why we linked up in the first place. My only issue is the time zone! Now I’ve moved [back to Indonesia], I have to wake up in the morning to work with them.” A girl after my own heart, Stephanie needs her sleep. Her ‘hack’ for waking up early to work is to go to bed at about 5pm the evening before. “It makes my morning feel more like an evening!” She giggles.
Poetri was born and raised near Jakarta, to a music teacher father and ‘diva’ mother. “Here, diva means singer,” Stephanie explains after I express my fondness for the term by which her mother, Indonesian household name Titi DJ, is known. “In most people’s mind it means being an… annoying person.” She laughs. “It’s funny, because everybody thought I was going to follow in my mother’s footsteps, I actively tried not to be a musician,” she tells me. “I always took art instead of music [at school], maybe that was my rebellious phase growing up.” Once she graduated high school, Stephanie became more content with the idea of doing what she wanted. The first step in this new found freedom was to take a producing class, which is what made her realise that music might be the answer to the question on every high school graduate’s lips: what do I want to do with my life?
But how does Stephanie feel about catching her mother up in terms of fame? “It was weird at first because I was always known as her daughter, and for the first time people knew my name, which was nice.” She explains. “But after a while she started being known as Stephanie Poetri’s Mom, which I felt guilty about because when [it was the other way round] it irked me a little. I was like ‘is that all I am to you?” she says, laughing again. Stephanie’s infectious giggles aren’t necessarily what you’d expect of a young pop star with a million Instagram followers and a shiny new EP – but she’s just so nice. It probably helps that, despite admitting ‘you learn as you go’ when it comes to the music industry, Stephanie’s mother was able to give her some insight that not all musicians are lucky enough to have at the start of their career. It strikes me that this has to do with the fact that Stephanie’s fame has most definitely not gone to her head.
Poetri’s new EP, AM/PM, is one for both the early birds and the night owls. It was released just last week, and as the title suggests, takes listeners from day to night in terms of sound. Those who knew Stephanie from her breakout song, ‘I Love You 3000’ (named after an emotional scene from Avengers: Endgame) were surprised at the dark vibe of her track ‘Paranoia’ and the more upbeat tone of some of the other tracks on the EP, but the response has been great. Her own personal favourite is ‘3pm’, a song that required no poeticism. “I was like: ‘I’m just gonna write exactly what I mean” she says. “I’m no linguist, it’s 3pm and I’m still asleep. That’s pretty much the whole thing.” she says. The point of this particular track, juxtaposed against her more metaphorical songs, was to be as honest as possible about how she has found herself dealing with the past year. A line that, sadly, rung true to me was: ‘Feel like I’m on vacay when I’m at the store’, Stephanie chuckles when I tell her this and says: “We’ve all had our own ways of coping with [the pandemic], and that’s fine.”
I’m interested to know how Stephanie has found the past year in general, and she tells me that she’s made more friends in lockdown than in the two years following her high school graduation. “I saw all my friends doing their thing at college, making new friends. I had such bad FOMO,” she says. “And then for some reason, immediately after I got a gaming PC, I made so many friends! I’m an extrovert, I need people around. Even if I’m just in a call with people, I’ll mute myself and do work.” We discuss our shared love of working in coffee shops, and decide it’s probably the procrastination of people watching that holds the most appeal.
Stephanie posted regularly to her YouTube channel even before her musical success, and this makes for quite a chunk of her huge online following. “I think what’s great about [social media] is that to a lot of people I’m not just a musician,” she considers. “When I feel boxed in, I get really stressed.” It’s, for this reason, she appreciates the people that follow her for her gaming posts and other non-music-related content. “It makes me feel a lot better. I got lucky because I have a really supportive community, but having your life put on social media and being vulnerable there can be a challenge.” It was thanks to this supportive community that her music blew up the way it did – she was visiting colleges for an alternate career path, Psychology, in Singapore when people started recognising her on the street. “It’s incredible what you can do with no marketing. I just put [a song] up randomly through an online thing.” It makes Stephanie hopeful that, thanks to the power of the internet, other people can follow the same path. “If you’ve got a great song and you believe in it, you don’t need marketing. Social media will do that for you.”
Before we say goodbye, I want to know whether Stephanie has any plans to play the EP live later this year, when the law allows. “A lot of my songs are very chill, but I would definitely be down. I’m imagining performing in a little coffee shop where people are just chilling, I think a lot of the AM songs would work well like that,” she says. “Paranoia was the first song where I think if I was on stage, I could just go crazy.” She laughs. Whilst she gives no hints as to when or where this might take place, we can look forward to seeing Stephanie go crazy on stage some time soon.
Interview And Words By Pippa Simmonds