Caessaria: Indonesian newcomers crafting their own brand of fantasy pop

Indonesian fantasy pop band Caessaria take cues from the art of tarot reading to create emotive ethereal music on their debut EP ‘Halfstoria’. Words by: Felix Martua

Three days before NME catches up with Arin – the lead vocalist and the frontwoman of Indonesian fantasy pop band Caessaria – she decided to tell her own fortune by reading tarot. It was a reading she immediately regretted, she tells NME with a self-deprecating laugh.

“The cards told me that I shouldn’t struggle so much anymore. I was like, ‘Seriously?’ I’m totally not OK with that!” the 21-year-old artist says, with more laughter. “I still have a long way to go. I still need to fight on!”

That said, Caessaria made the first step on their journey in the best possible way. In late 2021, the band announced their signing to Musica Studio’s, followed by the release of their five-track EP ‘Halfstoria’ in August of this year. In crafting the EP, Arin and her bandmates decided to take inspiration from the former’s childhood, particularly her love of all things fantasy and supernatural. Their vision resulted in a record that is both emotive and ethereal – just the way Arin likes it.

Advertisement

Her whole life, people around Arin would label her as an “oddball”, mainly because “communication is not my forte,” she concedes with a sigh. “I never know how to think out loud. But, the truth is, I always have this burning ambition inside me.”

“The [tarot] cards told me that I shouldn’t struggle so much anymore. I was, like, ‘Seriously?’”

Her people skills might leave much to be desired, but there is one thing Arin never questions herself on: her love for music and her aptitude for it. Growing up in a family of musicians, the younger Arin used to enjoy listening to acts such as Linkin Park, Michael Jackson, and Radiohead – the latter of whom she considers the most influential on her future song-crafting.

“It’s hard to explain it, but whenever I listen to Radiohead, I get transported to a different world,” she gushes.

As Arin grew older, she learned to let go of what others might think of her quirkiness and instead, throw herself into other things she enjoys – like the art of tarot reading. Looking back, Arin admits that she “has absolutely no idea” why she got hooked on it in the first place.

“I don’t get it either!” she exclaims, laughing. “I saw a pack of tarot cards sold in a bookstore. The drawing on those cards was very bizarre and I found myself intrigued by it. I was still in the third grade of primary school. Thankfully, my parents would let me explore whatever it is that I want. Also, I had no friends back then. When kids my age would play with their mates, I would just get busy with my fantasy.”

Advertisement

As an adult, Arin deemed it time for her to get serious with music, though at the time, “I had no idea where my life was going. I had tried so many things, but everything ended up being a bust.” Feeling lost and confused, she decided to return to her hometown Bandung and brainstormed with her uncle. The two decided to cut a rough demo together; her uncle’s “old pal” later sent the demo to Musica Studio’s – home to high-profile Indonesian acts such as Noah, D’MASIV, and Iwan Fals.

When the label reached out to her, Arin felt her “burning ambition” could finally be realised: “This is the best place for future stars, am I right? The artists under this label are all legends!”

Caessaria
Credit: Musica Studio’s

The prominent label was interested in signing Arin but there was a catch. Firstly, she wished to be signed not as a solo artist, but as part of a band – her uncle and his pal rounding up the personnel. Secondly, the real identities of the two supporting personnel had to be kept private considering they have their own music projects to take care of. The two use stage monikers instead: “Supernova” and “Hope”. Thirdly, the two personnel insisted that Arin be the decision-maker of the band, including the sound and lyrical content of their future records.

What Arin can reveal about her two mysterious personnel is this: “They will never be replaced, but they will never reveal who they are.”

“They will never be replaced, but they will never reveal who they are”

It was then time for the trio to work on Caessaria’s debut EP ‘Halfstoria’ – the title implies that the EP is, merely, “the half part of my story,” Arin teases. Each of the five tracks that make up the EP, depending on the track’s “tale”, has its tarot counterpart: the guitar-tinged, pop-rock ‘Seperti Babi’ is “Five of Pentacles”, the folky ditty ‘Pemilik Hati’ is “The Lovers”, the minimalist soft-rock ‘Gelap Mata’ is “Four of Wands”, the English-language stadium-ready ‘Little Old Man’ is “The Hermit”, and radio-ready pop closer ‘Infeksi’ is “The Tower”. Lyrically, the EP documents Arin’s personal growth which entails hope, pain, grief, heartbreak, and farewells.

The completion of the EP became a full-circle moment for Arin. Not only did she finally get to make her mark in the music industry, she also got to celebrate everything that makes her an “oddball” to the fullest. As she puts it: “I am an artist. And art knows no bounds!”

Currently, Arin and her bandmates are working on the “remaining half of the story”, with the intention of developing the EP into a full-length album. Before we close our interview, she reveals she tried to divine the fortunes of Caessaria’s debut EP.

What did the tarot cards say this time?

“The cards told me that there will be lots of hurdles coming our way,” Arin says. “But there will be lots of support that we will receive as well.”

Caessaria’s ‘Halfstoria’ EP is out now via Musica Studio’s

Advertisement
Advertisement