Behind the Visuals of Sun Eater

In recent years, Sun Eater has soared as a record label that has birthed musicians with iconic works. Think of Hindia, .Feast, Lomba Sihir, Agatha Pricilla, Rayhan Noor, and many more who have been prolifically creating under the Sun Eater umbrella. When talking about Sun Eater, we can't overlook the visual design of its physical and digital releases, merchandise, and social media content, which are always different and progressive. The figure behind Sun Eater's artistic decisions is Sahid Permana, who serves as Content & Creative Head. To Grafis Masa Kini, Sahid shares the creative process of Sun Eater, which revolves around storytelling from the musician to the listener.

It's not widely known that before becoming a record label, Sun Eater was initially built with the spirit of a visual agency specializing in music. Baskara Putra, Mikael Aldo, and Ray Mahendra were the first three names to lay the foundation of Sun Eater until Kukuh Rizal (now CEO of Sun Eater) presented the question: "What if we start a music label?" According to Sahid, from the beginning, visuals have been an essential element in Sun Eater's framework. Apart from the fact that the people behind it are creative industry workers, Sun Eater understands that everyone's gateway into music or a particular musician is different. "Some may listen to music based on a friend's recommendation, while others may be drawn in by the cover of a physical release or its merchandise," says Sahid. Sun Eater also believes that visuals can be a "tool" to help convey the message from the musician to the fan.

Storytelling is one of Sun Eater's strengths and a key factor that has propelled the label to be one of the driving forces in the Indonesian music industry today. Visuals rooted in strong storytelling leave a lasting impression on the audience, and that's what Sun Eater's visuals have been doing. For Sahid, the function and concept of visuals for this label are as translators. "Some musicians know exactly what visual they want, some know what they want but have difficulty describing it, and some musicians don't know what they want yet. Sun Eater's artistic concept is about how we help musicians convey the message from their work," explains Sahid.

In the process, Sahid and the Sun Eater creative team must get to know each musician under their label to understand what visual design would suit them. Every musician has a different character. As a designer, the Sun Eater creative team must provide dynamic treatments. "I must talk to the musician first because everyone has different needs. Hindia knows exactly what he wants to convey through his visuals, usually full of symbolism or metaphors. I'll support those visual needs. For example, if he needs a painting, I'll recommend suitable artists," Sahid Permana shares. In the era of social media, Sun Eater also understands that there's a demand for musicians to have the ability to promote their music themselves. Therefore, Sun Eater supports the visual needs or graphic designs of each musician to spread the message of their audio works. "At Sun Eater, we always involve the musicians in designing a visual approach that is comfortable for them and their audience, including in promotional content. For example, Rayhan Noor doesn't like content that's highly designed. So, his visual treatment is more organic and revolves around everyday life, like a photo dump," Sahid explains.


Unlike Rayhan Noor, Baskara Putra has more diverse visual needs, considering he's behind three different bands. The visual designs from the Sun Eater creative team will support Baskara Putra's visual image in every music project, from the graphics and illustrations of physical releases to photo concepts for social media content. In .Feast, Baskara will be designed to look full of anger; in Hindia, Baskara will appear more melancholic—fitting the quarter-life crisis image—in Lomba Sihir, Baskara will be more expressive. Besides adapting to the musician or band's character, the visuals designed by Sun Eater also need to support the type of music from each musician. "Mantra Vutura has 'difficult' music, so we have to create visuals that match the band's music and message. We want people to have a glimpse, even if it's just a bit, of what the music is like when they see visuals from the musicians at Sun Eater," Sahid expresses.

As time goes by, the fanbase of Sun Eater musicians continues to grow. Visually, Sun Eater must start meeting what the fans need instead of solely relying on the musicians' needs. When designing the artistic concept of Sun Eater, Sahid also takes into account what experiences fans need, as Sahid says: form follows function. For example, fans want to experience listening sessions after musicians release albums or singles. Thus, the creative team will provide the visual needs for that experience, such as graphics for lyric videos. In addition to understanding fan needs, Sahid and the creative team also have to understand their demographics because this will determine the artistic direction of each musician's visual needs. From Sahid's experience, fans' visual preferences can be seen from merchandise sales. "The design that .Feast fans like is more into monochrome colors, especially black. Whereas Hindia fans prefer colorful designs. On the other hand, Agatha Pricilla fans like it when there's the musician's face because Pricil herself has long been a public figure," Sahid explains.

It turns out, that in designing visual needs for musicians and fans, Sun Eater is inspired by the K-Pop industry with its fan service. According to Sahid, in the K-Pop world, fans are involved in the artistic decisions of their musicians. Thus, Sun Eater now wants to fulfill fans' desires, from photocards in every physical release to collectible stickers. "Maybe in the past, musicians felt unreachable. But now, we're trying to remove the distance between musicians and fans. So, the gap isn't too far, but it's not too close either," Sahid reveals.

In the local music scene, Sun Eater always brings fresh innovations, and the virtual band G/A/T/E (Giants Among the Elders) is one of them. The design of this virtual band has attracted many people because of the uniqueness of each character. According to Sahid's explanation, the design of G/A/T/E itself is inspired by Gorillaz, the legendary virtual band from the UK. Like the treatment of other Sun Eater musicians, each member of the G/A/T/E band has a strong personality translated into visuals. "Each character has a storyline, like the vocalist Juno, the youngest but the most active and likes to tinker. Then there's Hanna, a calm woman depicted as a quiet manic pixie dream girl who likes cats," Sahid says. Each character has a narrative background that makes the design more focused. This virtual band is a "fun project" from Sun Eater, sparked by the difficulty of scheduling Baskara Putra for performances in his three music projects. "We're also inspired by BTS's BT21 project (K-pop boyband). So, it has its mascot. When BTS can't be there, there's a mascot that can replace them, but the enthusiasm from fans remains the same," Sahid reveals. Until now, Sun Eater is still exploring this virtual band. For Sahid, G/A/TE opens up possibilities that Sun Eater can explore in the future.

Speaking of the future, Sun Eater has a clear vision. Like Disney, Sun Eater wants to become an intellectual property or IP company known through audio and visual works. Sun Eater wants to create various experiences that fans can enjoy. According to Sahid, in this digital era, music has become a part of people's daily lives. Sun Eater is here to make music closer to listeners and open more doors for the audience to enjoy music, including through visuals.

About the Author

Alessandra Langit

Alessandra Langit is a writer with seven years of diverse media experience. She loves exploring the quirks of girlhood through her visual art and reposting Kafka’s diary entries at night.