Stephanie Poetri has released her long-awaited debut EP, ‘AM:PM’.
The EP, which dropped today (March 12), follows the release of three singles: ‘Selfish’, ‘How We Used To’, and most recently, ‘IRL’. ‘AM:PM’ also marks the Indonesian artist’s first studio release with label 88rising.
Alongside the release of the EP came a music video for closing track ‘Paranoia’. The music video finds the singer-songwriter in a deep funk, pouring her heart out in her diary while stewing in her bedroom.
‘AM:PM’ – as its title suggests – features two opposing themes and their accompanying emotions: the brightness of day and the darkness of night. NME caught up with Poetri to chat about the EP’s duality, performing in a pandemic, and why Ed Sheeran inspires her.
You write songs on Twitch and respond to fans who give you feedback. Tell us more about that practice. Has any song you wrote during those sessions turned into a full fledged song?
“So usually, I fully write a song on there, each session lasts about two hours. But the thing is, they’re usually really random. Like we’d write songs about Among Us, or Minecraft, or stuff like that. So it’s mostly pretty chill, usually the songs don’t end up reaching three minutes.
Also, keeping it light-hearted helps to make sure that the chat is chill in terms of expectations. Sometimes when you make a serious song, there’s the expectation that ‘You’re going to make a hit song’ and stuff like that, so it’s a reminder that like ‘no, we’re just chilling’.
Out of a million songs you write, maybe one will be a hit, so we’re just chilling during those sessions. It’s really fun though, seeing everyone’s suggestions, because I like to make it a collaborative effort with everyone on chat.”
You performed for the Double Happiness Winter Festival last December. Besides the absence of a live audience, how different is performing a virtual set from a live show?
“To be honest, I feel a lot less anxious. When I do live performances, most of the time, they’re pre-recorded, so I get to do a couple of takes in case I burp or whatever, and I get really nervous on stage. But I do miss seeing the live crowd and see how they react to certain things.
What I really liked about performing in front of a crowd was not really seeing people jam along to a song, but seeing their first reactions. Not a lot of people know my songs, so it was always interesting to see them listen to it for the first time, because they’ll start moving a certain way or turning around, so that was always fun because I used to see that as a little experiment to see what works with the crowd and what doesn’t.”
‘Selfish’ is one of the most-streamed singles you’ve released for ‘AM:PM’ so far. Tell us more about the narrative behind the track.
“‘Selfish’ is a song about when you have a little crush on someone, and you see them with someone else and you get a little jealous but technically they’re not with you, so you have no right to feel that way.
I think we can all relate to that because I think we’ve all had crushes that didn’t end up materialising, so that’s pretty much the whole inspiration behind the song. There was originally a non-acoustic version, but we ended up using the more acoustic one because it just fit better.”
How did you come up with the two contrasting themes of the EP?
“It sort of happened quite naturally, because we were dealing with the time differences between America and Asia. I had a couple of really early morning and really late night sessions to line up my schedule with America, and that somehow affected the music I had written.
It became very apparent that there were very distinct and different vibes. At first, I was a little confused as to how I would fit all of the songs into one EP and have it flow properly, and then we realised that three songs sounded very morning-like and the other three sounded more suited to the night.”
Last year, you shared a video of your favourite K-pop acts like Baekhyun and Jackson Wang singing along to ‘I Love You 3000’. What was it like seeing that for the first time?
“It was crazy! I feel like K-pop is such a massive part of why I ended up becoming a musician. Growing up, a lot of people told me I should be a musician, but being a rebellious teenager, I always said no. When I graduated, I got into music through music production.
Whenever I listen to K-pop, it feels really detailed, so my dream was to produce for K-pop. And so I took a production class, and that’s when I wrote ‘I Love You 3000’. I would never be here if it wasn’t for K-pop and to have these K-pop idols know my work and appreciate it, to me is incredible. It’s such a weird thing, it feels so meta, but I’m so blessed and so appreciative. It almost feels like there’s a glitch in the matrix.”
You’ve said that you see yourself more as a songwriter than a singer. Have you written for anyone other than yourself?
“Not yet, but that is a dream of mine. Before quarantine, I actually had begun to do that, but all of that was halted because of the global situation, but it’s still my goal. Because right now we’re still working on projects for me, my focus is on that, but I’d love to go into the studio and write for other people one day. We’ll get there in time.”
You’ve called Ed Sheeran one of your biggest inspirations. What about him inspires you?
“I think it was the fact that before Ed Sheeran, acoustic pop wasn’t really a big thing. At the time, if you had written a hit song, you’d make an acoustic version. But with Ed Sheeran, all of the hit songs were already acoustic and it made me realise that writing hit acoustic songs was a very real possibility.
Whenever I listen to a song, I always look for the acoustic version, so to me, hearing his music was like ‘Wait, this is a genre in itself’. So I feel like he really influenced me and opened the doors for a lot of musicians like me.”
Stephanie Poetri’s ‘AM:PM’ EP is out now