Sunday, July 21, 2019

Immersing myself in Fliptop and Uprising Records (Philippine hiphop)

Going to my first Fliptop battle rap show  this August 10!

Have almost all the releases of the terrific Uprising records. Immersing myself in Philippine hiphop and rap.

Idle Eyes shares their Bitter Work

Idle Eyes shares their Bitter Work
by rick olivares

Australian melodic hardcore band Idle Eyes played their first ever international gig in Manila last week at Mow’s courtesy of indie promoter Sleeping Boy Collective.

“(Singapore hardcore band) False Plaintiff (who they were with touring Southeast Asia) are sort of our best friends having played with them around Australia for a while now. We hung out and shared some beers and bonded over music as well.  They asked us if we wanted to do shows in their backyard and we agreed,” said Idle Eyes vocalist Shah Latip. 

The band was also celebrating the first year anniversary of their powerful debut album, Bitter Work, that in this writer’s opinion, can stand nicely to any Touche Amore and Pianos Become the Teeth album.

“Most of the lyrics were written during a difficult time in my life when my family was falling apart and I was stuck not knowing what to do,” added Latip. “Writing about what was going on gave me an opportunity to get everything off my chest. ‘Bitter Work’ – that bassist Alex Barley came up with for a song title -- was something I had to do and it was almost bittersweet.”

Bitter Work, that the band self-released, pummels the listener with 11 powerful songs that ease on the gas pedal once in a while to allow the raw emotions some repose after which the band launches into a new barrage of ferocity. 

“The moments when we ease off on the pedal are where we want those words and emotions you felt to sink in; a momentary pause for reflection,” noted guitarist Alex Kaw.

It is the band that also takes stock of where they are in the calm before the storm at Mow’s.

Idle Eyes are caught off guard that they do have fans outside their native Perth (they will be playing in Malaysia and Singapore in this short tour). “These songs were written not only for us, but a close circle of friends,” pointed out drummer Max Taylor. “When we hear from people from other countries, it comes as a surprise because we really don’t expect much. It is a pleasant surprise to have fans across the globe.”

“And that is why we are excited for this tour,” added guitarist James Langlands. “It isn’t only for the experience, but also meeting the fans and seeing what it is like out there. No doubt, this experience will find its way into our next work.”

Although it was a lean Thursday crowd at Mow’s, Idle Eyes made sure they didn’t slacken one iota on the intensity. 

“The songs were written over a two-year period and a year after the album was released, they mean a bit differently to us now,” summed up Latip. “We sing them a bit differently now also because we are different form when we first recorded this music. the songs were written during a dark period in my life and this has helped me cope and move on.”

“The best part of making this music, coming to the Philippines and talking to the fans – and I am sure we will also have the same experience in Malaysia and Singapore – is hearing from the fans how much the music means to them.”

“It makes the Bitter Work all worth it.”

Thursday, July 18, 2019

My first K-Pop album: The Descendants of the Sun OST Vol.2

I oft get a lot of invites to K-Pop events in Manila and I have been to a couple. To be honest, I felt lost because I didn't know anything; who's who etc. So I decided to immerse myself in it. Starting with this. I enjoyed Descendants of the Sun and am happy to know there is a Filipino re-make in the works. 

Back to the Korean version, I got the DVD and the soundtrack (Vol.2 as Vol.1 is rather difficult to get). Going to immerse myself in this.

Sunday, July 14, 2019

This Charming Band, The Vowels They Orbit

This Charming Band, The Vowels They Orbit
by rick olivares

With all due respect to the Smiths, let me crib the title of a famous song of theirs and appropriate it for this young band.

Meet this charming band – the Vowels They Orbit.

That has to be one of the coolest names for local bands in recent memory. Say it… The Vowels They Orbit. They even have an acronym for it – The VTO – that sounds even cooler.

You know like Black Rebel Motorcycle Club is BRMC.


Black Rebel Motorcycle Club is cooler than its mere acronym, right?

Then The VTO is unique in their own way. 

By sheer happenstance, I caught the band last Wednesday, July 10 at 70s Bistro for their music video launch. I was there to watch Moonstar 88 and talk to band manager/underrated talented songwriter Darwin Hernandez (more about him later if not another feature article), and I came away thoroughly charmed and feeling the same vibe that I got when I saw a young Up Dharma Down – an outstanding rhythm section with a female vocalist with an intoxicating voice (although a bit more Acel Bisa than Armi Millare). 

The VTO is a five-piece indie pop rock band out of the University of Santo Tomas (Nikka Melchor on vocals and guitars, Hannah dela Cruz on keyboards and guitars, Jeremy Sayas on drums and vocals, Gene Santiago on lead guitar, and Patch Javier on bass guitar -- is a happy melting pot of pop, alternative rock, folk, soul, and jazz. 

That they also have two other singers in the band (Hannah provides that wisp of silvery voice that flutters while Jeremy adds a schmaltzy baritone making the songs warmer) gives the band more flexibility and counterpoints. 

Aside from the beautiful songs they sing, Nikka’s voice is richly entrancing. She sings with the right timbre and expression that belies someone of her years. According to Darwin, the manner in which she dresses reminds reveals an old soul. I like her already.

It is no coincidence then that the VTO’s first single, “Selos” released on Spotify (that as of Sunday is close to 350,000 streams), is written by Hernandez who also penned “Torete” for Moonstar 88 some time ago but has once more found traction for today’s Filipino music fan.

“Selos” is a beautiful song for the lovelorn about one-sided jealousy that for Gen Xers like me sticks like a song on the radio. I guess for today’s folks, you hit that on repeat on Spotify or other digital formats. 

The VTO, though a young band, have other original songs in their repertoire. During that music video launch for “Selos”, they also performed “Pasa”, “Bumubulong”, and “Kiliti” – that will be their second single -- that are also no less gorgeous. 

I walked into 70s Bistro that night looking forward to see Moonstar 88 and friend, Buddy Zabala as well as to have a chat with Hernandez about something. I came away also thoroughly charmed if not smitten by The Vowels They Orbit. Along with Lola Amour and Over October to name a few, I, we’ve got some really indie pop rock to balance out this exciting and vibrant music scene of ours.

That The VTO is the first to be signed by Sony Music Philippines in their return to the music scene is testament to their potential. That extended play album release expected soon.

Monday, July 8, 2019

The new old boy band of Gary V, Ogie, Randy & Dingdong rocks the Filoil Centre

The new old boy band of Gary V, Ogie, Randy & Dingdong rocks the Filoil Centre
by rick olivares

“We’re the next new boy band,” said Dingdong Avanzado inside one of the locker rooms two hours before the Green & Go concert at the Filoil Flying V Centre.

Avanzado shared the locker room that was converted into a dressing room alongside fellow La Sallians and former Kundirana members Randy Santiago and batchmate, Ogie Alcasid. 

Santiago chuckled. “A boy band of 50-somethings making a comeback performance.”

The last time Gary Valenciano, Randy Santiago, Ogie Alcasid, and Dingdong Avanzado all shared a stage together “was ironically back in 1989,” pointed out Santiago. “It was at the old Ultra (now called the Philsports Arena).”

“Gary was the first of us from Kundirana who showed that, “puwede pala,” pointed out Avanzado of their dreams of pursuing a musical career. “And it opened the gates for many of us.”

The “us” -- the quartet -- were brought together this time for a benefit show for the De La Salle-Dasmariñas Cavite medical facilities last Saturday, July 6.

Ironically, Valenciano made the news a few days before the show for recovering from a bout with cancer. That wasn’t something that was lost on Alcasid.

“People know me as the guy cracking jokes, but this is real,” he said referring to Valenciano. “I too recently lost a good friend (Cathy Nazareno of artist management group A-Team of which Alcasid is a co-owner) to similar reasons so this hits home.”

Valenciano’s good health and this unlikely reunion is a good blessing enough.

“You know, I’ll be hitting 60 in about a year,” admitted Santiago. “So you think about health, your life, your friends, what you value the most, relationships… a lot of things. I have a lot to be grateful for.”

Despite his middle age, Santiago looks in marvelous youthful shape. “That’s clean living and being very active,” he says.

“I think performing has kept us in good shape,” chimed in Alcasid. “We are all pushing into past our third decade in the entertainment industry and I cannot tell you how good a feeling it is.”

During the concert, the four time and again wondered if the millennials in the audience knew their hit songs – and they did; much to their surprise and pleasure. “I think we put in a lot of ourselves into our careers,” shared Alcasid. “The cliché is – heart and soul. But that is the truth and if we are rewarded by having a good career in which we can raise our families and to continue performing today? I am thankful as I am sure the other three are.”

The sum of their respective careers are numerous hit songs and albums, films, television shows, sold out concerts, and the cache of goodwill and credit as befitting OPM legends. 

During the Green and Go concert, the four constantly thanked the crowd and the fans for making them realize and live their musical dreams. 

The quartet took the stage collectively at the start and after a couple of songs that paid homage to English rock band Queen, they branched out into individual performances. “I’m going to sing some Original Pilipino Music,” informed Avanzado of the crowd. “Okay lang ba ‘yon?” The crowd roared as he launched into his hit song “Tatlong Beinte Singko”. “What is three 25 centavo coins worth today,” he asked.

A timeless classic that had people in the audience singing, swaying, and dancing along.

Before the final collective act, Valenciano took the stage. The man they call, “Mr. Pure Energy” still moved like the youngster who was our own version of Michael Jackson back in the 1980s. He sang as passionately as always has and the crowd loved it.

And lastly, the reunited for an OPM medley as well as an Earth, Wind & Fire medley that brought a close to the two-hour show.

“This was great. I am truly grateful that I grabbed the opportunity to do this with my musical brothers,” summed up Alcasid. “New old boy band? Who knows if this will happen again? We just have crazy and hectic schedules. But this is good for the soul.”

Sunday, July 7, 2019

At Kagatan 31

At the quarterly vinyl sale, Kagatan 31, at Ali Mall. 

Celebrating 20 years of Fil-American band Versus’ masterful Two Cents Plus Tax

Celebrating 20 years of Fil-American band Versus’ masterful Two Cents Plus Tax
by rick olivares

For Filipino fans of the alternative or independent music scene of the 1990s, aside from the local heroes such as the Eraserheads, Color It Red, and Sugar Hiccup to name but a few, they looked to one band based in New York City that putting out some great indie rock music… and that was Versus.

The band featured a mostly Filipino-American line-up with brothers Richard, Ed, and James Baluyut, Patrick Ramos, and American bassist Fontaine Toups. Ed was the band’s initial drummer before Ramos took over and he was on board for the first full length album, Secret Swingers after which Ramos came on board for Two Cents Plus Tax and then Hurrah. Ed recently returned to record the new extended play album, Ex-Nihilo and the fifth album Ex Voto that will be out this August on indie label Ernest Jennings Records. 

Versus were like Sonic Youth and Pavement albeit with intoxicating boy-girl vocals and immensely catchy songs. 

Local fans were ecstatic to have representation in bands such as Moonpools and Caterpillars and the Pixies. But it is with Versus that got fans excited.

Many a local band cribbed the guitar riffs of James Baluyut but no one came close to the sarcasm and pain of Richard’s voice and Fontaine’s twee-like vocals. When the band came over about 10 years ago for a series of performances in Manila, it was a virtual who’s who of bands that came to watch them underscoring the influence Versus had on them.

Twenty years ago, Two Cents Plus Tax was released. 

Indie music site, Magnet called the album, “a lost classic.” Entertainment Weekly gave the album an A- rating and said, “Two Cents Plus Taxdelivers both in a wistful song suite about post-cold war blues, romantic betrayal, and love so raw it makes you dizzy. Plus, on ”Atomic Kid,” you get what may be the catchiest reprise to feature the word “Armageddon” ever recorded. The AV Club glowed: “Two Cents Plus Tax doesn't sound like the work of most angry young players. Instead, it sounds like Versus' smart, strong bid for attention, the band kicking and screaming its way to the top of the heap.”

The album averages four or five star ratings over Amazon or Discogs buyers.

For those who frequented that curio shop, The Rastro in Shoppesville, Greenhills, a copy of Two Cents Plus Tax on both vinyl and compact disc meant paying a fortune. “Rare,” the bookish shopkeeper reasoned out. “Rare.”

If Secret Swingers was a raw and unadulterated emotion captured in a jagged pill, Two Cents Plus Tax, bristled with energy wrapped in a more polished veneer and teased about the future of their music.

The secret track, “Oriental American” that precedes the opening track, “Atomic Kid” eventually begat the more experimental, electronic feel of James’ later band, Plus Minus. 

We spoke with the four members of Versus at the time of Two Cents Plus Tax was recorded, Richard, James, Patrick, and Fontaine to look back at the 20thAnniversary of indie rock’s secret gems and one you would do well to hunt down if not bug Teenbeat Records’ Mark Robinson to reissue.

Rick: I love Secret Swingers and the raw and heavy sound of it. Was it a reflection of the times given grunge was still popular? What was Versus collectively into at that time because Two Cents Plus Tax is just so different. It sounds more -- for lack of a better term ''refined or even polished.”

Richard: Secret Swingers was recorded by Nicolas Vernhes, who was just starting out as an engineer. The aesthetic at that time was to be somewhat unadorned, where the instruments sound "like they sound" and there weren't many effects used. By the time we recorded Two Cents, OK Computer had come out and changed the landscape for sound. (Our mixing engineer Vaughn Merrick had actually worked on that record!) We were going for a more polished sound, and finally had an advance to spend on a recording.

James: Secret Swingers was really just the product of us going to Nicolas Vernhes' Rare Book Room studio and putting down the songs.  He was just getting started.  I think he had done one record there before us?  It's the sound of us getting together in a big room and playing the songs.  We used to practice there as well so a few of the songs were actually written there.  At the time, 'natural room sound' was sort of a thing we were after.  We didn't labor over the guitar sounds so much - just going for the sounds we'd get live.  

Two Cents Plus Tax had a longer process.  We wrote everything and then demoed it at a studio.  Then we selected a producer and recorded again at a 2nd studio.  I feel like we spent a couple days in the studio just getting the drum sound right.  That seems insane to me now.  And we took quite a bit more time honing all of the sounds.  We ended up not getting along too well with the producer so we ended up back at Rare Book Room for the end of the session.  Finally, we went to a 4th studio to mix the record.  So you can see, that's quite a bit more involved.

Rick: The secret track "Oriental American" it is a departure from anything done before (with the LP which I also have it is a separate single) and I think it is terrific. Did that track says something about the origins of Plus/Minus? And this was such a prolific time for the band -- two albums (from 1994-2000) every two years with a smattering of EPs and singles in between. Yet, each album so different. What can you share about the band's approach to making albums during this period? 

Richard: Our approach was simply to keep doing records as the songs got written. At this time, we were touring a lot, practicing and writing 3x a week, so it was just natural. There was no grand strategy for world domination. Just to keep doing what we loved. And that's what we still do, although now it's stretched to a decade between albums! We finally have an EP and LP coming out in 2019.

James: Regarding Oriental American, this was a song that we wrote as an instrumental which is rare for us.  I'd bought a sampler and sequencer during this period and I was experimenting with syncing it to the band.  I wrote a lot of bits with the sampler during this period, most of which ended up on the first +/- {Plus/Minus} album.  

The period when we wrote and recorded Two Cents Plus Tax was probably the most active period of music making in my life.  We'd rehearse and write three times a week for hours on end.  We'd tour.  We were full-time musicians.  I think what you hear on this record is this particular band coming together.  Patrick and I brought a much different sensibility to the band.  Patrick's a more straight forward, hard hitting drummer compared to Ed.  My presence on guitar allowed Richard to concentrate more on singing.  The songs changed as a result.  

Patrick:  Yes, we added a fresh youthful exuberance.  Like a squeeze of lemon or a pat of sizzling butter to a dish.  Actually more like a dash of finishing salt like that Turkish chef, Salt Bae.  But with much  Also, and much more importantly, it was during this time that I introduced them to the world of NHL Hockey and the Detroit Red Wings in particular who ended their 42 year Stanley Cup drought that year.

Rick: Why was the album titled, Two Cents Plus Tax? What is the story behind it? How about the mosaic-like cover -- what is the story there?

James: Two Cents Plus Tax - that's Richard's idea.  You should probably ask him about that.  I think he thought it was something that Elvis said once, but we can't find any evidence of that.  

Richard: The album title was something I heard a stoned Elvis blurt out in between songs during a 70's live performance. I thought it would be hilarious to use as a title. 

James: The cover shoot was a classic Richard moment.  Before a show at a college outside Philadelphia, Richard started taking Polaroids of each of us.  I had no idea this was for the cover.  He didn't give any warning.  I'd like to have shaved that day!  Afterward, he went to Washington DC to work on the artwork with Mark Robinson.  They stitched together portraits of each of us using those photos.  Richard, of course, made himself look normal (and good) but he mangled the rest of us.  Ha.  By the time he got to Patrick, it was cubist.

Patrick: Someone once said to me while looking at my photo on the cover, "This is not how you get girls."

Rick:  How long did it take to write and record the album? Any nice stories to share during the process? Was everyone working (day jobs I mean) at this time as well?

Richard: More like horror stories! Our original engineer for this record turned out to be an evil loser who held our tapes hostage when we tried to get rid of him. Nicolas (who had recorded Secret Swingers) saved us by finishing the tracking of the record.

Patrick: I think we spent most of 1997 writing, rehearsing, demoing and then recording Two Cents while playing a few shows here and there.  Aside from the aforementioned original engineer, I remember the recording being mostly fun and especially creative.  We had pretty early start times and went late and tried not to settle for anything less than a good performance or a good sound for anything we were recording.  We hadn't really used a sampler much so we had fun finding unusual things to sample.  I did work for part of that year at various temporary agencies, the art department on a Busta Rhymes video and on Bobby Flay's first cable cooking series (lots of retakes for a 22 1/2-minute show). But once we started tracking the album, I quit all of it and it felt so good.

Rick: Secret Swingers and Two Cents Plus Tax were out on CD via Caroline, but the LP from Teenbeat. Why was this so? Can Teenbeat put out anniversary editions for the albums?
James: The band signed with Caroline after an LP, a compilation and an EP on Teenbeat.  I think it was mostly about doing something new.  Reaching different people.  I think Teenbeat has the rights to release the vinyl so I suppose they could reissue that?  But the CD and digital rights are with Caroline and, as far as I can tell, they haven't bothered to make either available since the initial pressing.  It's sad that these albums are neither in print nor available to stream.

Richard: Good idea (on the reissues)!

Rick: Let's tackle the songs. Kindly share your thoughts about the songs. 

Atomic Kid -- The one song not about relationships on the album? Was this in response to India conducting nuclear bomb testing, the war in the Balkans and the US air strikes in Sudan and Afghanistan after the bombing of US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania? 

Richard: Atomic Kid is about growing up with Cold War dread. When I was in elementary school we had drills where we had to hide from nuclear missile attacks. This was normal. Now my kids have "active shooter" exercises.

Dumb Fun - One of my fave tracks. About a troubled real-life relationship?  

Richard. Very few of my lyrics are about actual people... they're more like composites of people. I do like the "failed apartments" concept though.

Patrick: For drum and Beatles nerds, I was trying to channel Ringo on the chorus.

Never Be Ok - A pensive song. Fontaine sings about a missed or failed relationship. Was this about someone in particular -- if it can be shared. 

Richard. Unlike me, Fontaine sings about particular people... but that's all I can say!
Fontaine: It is about a 'failed relationship' but, also about the fact that lots of relationships end in breakups, or divorce, and questioning that.   

Morning Glory 

Richard: This one is based on my favorite movie In a Lonely Place. About two people who should be together being torn apart by misunderstanding.

Radar Follows You - a second straight slow one -- mood swings? 

Richard: This is one of my favorites. Another doomed love song.

Underground -- Love the guitars on this that kicks starts side two. 

Richard. This is one that we played for years before it had lyrics...

Spastic Reaction - Love the jingle jangle on this countrified slow rocker of a happy song. At least it sounds like one. Sounds like someone the band knows. 

Richard: I'm not a huge fan of country music, but this one had a sing-song appeal for me.


Richard. The long middle part of this was lifted from an early song about the doomed Amelia Earhart.

Jack and Jill 

Richard: We wrote the songs for this album near a bar that had an excellent live salsa scene, which for me inspired the beat and the groove. 

Mouth of Heaven 

Richard: This was Versus' first foray into space. Our new album Ex Voto is a sci-fi concept album.

Oriental American 

Richard: The voice on this song was our mixing engineer Vaughn's girlfriend... we needed someone who actually "sounded" Asian!

And lastly, any stories to share about Two Cents Plus tax? How do you look at the album today?

Richard: It is a bittersweet look back. It was recorded at the peak of our appeal, but the record company had already moved on to electronic music (Astralwerks) and didn't release it with any enthusiasm. It's now out of print, and somewhat lost. Maybe someday we'll get the rights back and re-release it.

James: I'm really proud of this record.  We were probably at the height of our well-oiled machine phase here - we're playing well, writing well and everything is done with purpose.  There are a few things recording-wise that I might have done differently but overall, I think the result was good.

Patrick: I appreciate it much much more now, especially after performing it from start to finish for the 20-year anniversary in December.  It's really fun to play and it reminded me of what it's like to be part of the Versus machine.  Made me miss it.

Saturday, July 6, 2019

Talking to English band Slowdive’s Nick Chaplin: The triumphant return & Performing in Asia

Talking to English band Slowdive’s Nick Chaplin: The triumphant return & Performing in Asia
by rick olivares

It has been two years since English shoegaze band Slowdive released their magnificent fourth and self-titled album to critical acclaim and top sales; five years since their triumphant return that began with the opening of a Twitter account and a website.

What was supposed to be a 20-date reunion tour has become a full-blown comeback with the band performing to sold out arenas and an international lovefest. 

We spoke with Slowdive bassist Nick Chaplin who graciously took time off his break to talk to ABS-CBN about what’s next for this band and how things have been for them.

Rick: It has been a little over two years since the fourth album came out. You've toured heavily and promoted the album. What's next? Are you guys working on new material? 

Nick: We are taking a little break at the moment - when we decided to reform the band at the end of 2013, the original intention was for maybe 10 - 12 shows over the summer of 2014. Although we always planned to try and make another record, we didn't know how we would be received or even if anyone would care. So, after nearly five years, and more success than we could have hoped for, we felt it was time to take a bit of a break - it's important for our families as well as we all have young children and it's been quite disruptive for them.

Rick: How did you work with Dead Oceans (the indie label that released their fourth album)? They have put out some of the best albums of the past couple of years -- Slowdive, Japanese Breakfast, Mitski etc... Will you work with them again?

Nick: The Secretly Group were always on our radar - when we made the record we were in the nice position of not actually needing a label at all. We could have put it out ourselves, and for a while it looked like that's what we'd do. 

However, it's obviously easier with a label's help, so we had a list of people we'd like to work with, based on their rosters and reputations. It had to be a label that would improve the record's reach and do a better job than we could have done by ourselves. 

Almost immediately we were impressed with Phil Waldorf and Dead Oceans. They were fans of the band and we seemed to fit right in musically. 

Phil has been to a ton of shows and he's one of the good guys. So, we made the right choice I think. We went on the road with Japanese Breakfast in 2017, and I "think" (Michelle Zauner of Japanese Breakfast will correct me if I'm wrong!) it was the first time they'd played in those kind of theatres. They were just starting on their upward curve and they were great to tour with. And since then we've played with Strand of Oaks and Kevin Morby, and I personally LOVE Shame. We did play a festival with them in Belgium and I was too much of a fan boy to say hello.

Rick: In this comeback by the band, what has been the best story thus far at least for you -- whether it be the reception, fan interaction, or performance? And why? 

There have been so many. Firstly, on a personal level - having Rachel (Goswell), Neil (Halstead), Christian (Savill), and Simon (Scott) back in my life (well Christian never really left!) has been amazing. I feel that I've gained a few best friends since 2014. For shows, a few moments - Primavera Sound 2014 (the show we reformed for really), The Warfield (San Francisco) in 2014, two nights at The Forum in London in 2014, The Roundhouse in 2017, being flown around Singapore, New Zealand and Australia for the Laneways festivals, The Cure's 40th Anniversary in Hyde Park in 2018 and the Chicago Art Institute this February. Those were the standouts for me. Then I guess the reception for the new record in 2017, seeing the posters on the Tube in London, getting Star Roving on the new EA Sports FIFA game! Ha ha! I mean none of these things I could ever have imagined when we rehearsed for the first time in 2014. And last but not least, speaking to people who had waited so long to see the band play live, and who never thought they'd get the chance. 

Rick: You co-wrote two of the best tracks on the album - "Slomo" and "Sugar for the Pill". Can you describe the songwriting process with Neil and how it all came about? Lovely songs! Terrific job.

Nick: “Slomo” was really a band composition in that the song was all over the place and we had about 50 different versions. Everyone contributed different bits and we ended up with the version on the record - so we just thought we'd split that one equally! “Sugar” was a bit different. It was originally a Neil Halstead "solo" song - a tune that he was writing for his acoustic / folk side. It originally had a totally different feel - but I went for what I thought at the time was a bit of an Interpol bassline for it which totally changed the song, and made it much more of an anthemic Slowdive track. I'm probably most pleased with that one plus “Star Roving” on the record in terms of the bass. Some of the bass on “Star Roving” is actually a Moog synth, but I play it all on the bass on stage.

Rick: Any chance we will see Slowdive in Southeast Asia or the Philippines any time soon? Hope you guys come over. You have a lot of fans here. I can help organize it.

Nick: I hope we will be back! We always love our time in Asia, once we get over the jet lag which always seems worse in that direction! I would think that once we get everyone back together and make a plan, we will start to think about when we can come back, maybe with a new record or at least some new songs.

Rick: Thanks for the chat, Nick! Best wishes to Slowdive and we hope to see the band hit the Philippines soon!

Wednesday, July 3, 2019

Monday, July 1, 2019

Listening to the Tribute to the Smiths

Seattle band Odd Man Out ticks off Manila from its Bucket List

Seattle band Odd Man Out ticks off Manila from its Bucket List
by rick olivares

Not even the rains could drive away the Sunday night crowd at Mow’s. 

After all, Seattle-based hardcore band Odd Man Out was in town. Typhoon or not, the Filipino fans came out.

This is a band whose brand of straight edge hardcore and incendiary live shows have seen then tour around the world because of word of mouth. On the strength of one video on YouTube, one Filipino fan ditched a birthday party of a close relative for the Odd Man Out Show at Mow’s.

“My relative will have many more birthday parties for me to attend,” reasoned out the fan who refused to give his name lest his wife take him to task for it. “Odd Man Out? Who knows if they will ever come back to Manila?”

This is a band that has an even larger fan base outside its native Washington State; a fact that is not lost on the band. What makes the band’s popularity all the more incredible is they have largely eschewed social media. They don’t even have a Facebook or Twitter account. “I haven’t really been into Facebook,” explained vocalist Jeff Caffey. “I used it for a college project but I have not been on it since. But just for this Southeast Asian Tour, we put up an Instagram account so the fans have get some information but that’s about it.”

In town to promote their new album, New Voice (on Pop Wig Records), that is barely three weeks out, the five-piece band -- Caffey on vocals, Griffin Kelly and Steven Serna on guitars, Casey Shaw on bass, and Robin Zeijlon on drums -- came, battered, and conquered Manila in a blistering set that consumed roughly 35 minutes. “Never let it be said that we are a band that lives in excess,” said Caffey after the show that left fans happy, a bit drained, but definitely wanting more.

Odd Man Out’s brand of straight edge hardcore (where adherents refrain from alcohol, drugs, tobacco while others extend their beliefs to refraining from promiscuous sex or following a vegan lifestyle) has 80s New York hardcore stamped all over it. There’s a militant feel to their music despite urging the listener to stick to one’s principles in the face of change today.

“You can see how the world has changed today with forms of prejudice, racism, and war mongering all over,” pointed out Caffey prior to their 11pm set. “There have been calls to resist and fight.  But in musical terms, it is staying the path. When it comes to contemporary music, straight edge isn’t really that popular. But it has had punctuated explosions throughout music history. Some of my friends were straight edge but not anymore. Personally, I feel there is still a responsibility to cling on to beliefs. It isn’t for convenience or pride. It is a way of life.”

This 2019 actually is the first year of the band’s second decade. Although formed in 2008, they didn’t commit to wax until 2014. Nevertheless, the band, as Caffey said, have stayed on that path.

And this particular one has led them to Southeast Asia and the Philippines. “We’ve toured Mexico and Latin America many times. We’ve toured Canada and Europe but this is our first time in Asia. Since I was a little kid, it was on my bucket list to come out here. I have a musician friend who has been out here and he talked about the passion and energy of the fans. Experiencing it first hand, it is all that and more. 

The band touched down in Malaysia after which they performed three shows in Indonesia followed by one in Singapore. The next country on their itinerary was Thailand followed by the Philippines. Except the show in Bangkok didn’t push through leaving the band in a lurch as the local promoter was supposed to take care of their air fare to Manila.

“It’s totally understandable that sometimes you cannot do a gig. But we were in a bind,” said Caffey. Luckily, our friend, Dean, in Malaysia helped us get another gig over there that helped us continue our journey.  That is so much more than anyone would have done for us in the States. We are simply awed and grateful for our fans in Asia.”

The Manila promoter, Sleeping Boy Collective, ensured the transition to local shores would be smooth. 

“We’re named Odd Man Out but over here in Asia, it is nice to be one of the guys and to mix with folks like who we have in Manila. I wish we could be here longer and see the country. Who knows? Maybe we’ll be back soon.”

Sunday, June 30, 2019

Fil-Am band Hafner’s EP Long in the Tooth: A love for Fugazi, Aliens, and punk rock baseball.

Fil-Am band Hafner’s EP Long in the Tooth: A love for Fugazi, Aliens, and punk rock baseball.
by rick olivares

San Francisco, California-based Filipino-American band Hafner released their third album just the other week, Long in the Tooth, under Bay Area label, Aklasan Records.

The album cover gives away the band’s Filipino roots as the image is that of a traditional barong tagalog. The music is anything but Filipino as Hafner’s music is a mix of 1990s alternative music that is slow, noise-driven with a propulsive bass that harkens back to Fugazi, the Melvins, Flipper, the Pixies, and Nirvana. 

Hafner’s albums feature songs that are paeans to esoteric baseball players (the band takes their name from former Cleveland Indians first baseman Travis Hafner) and high-flying skateboarding heroes like Tony Hawk, sci-fi horror films (every album has one song with a film reference and for Long in the Tooth it is the fifth track “LV-426” is named after the planet in the first Aliens film), and the frailties of life.

And Long in the Tooth is all that and more. In fact, it feels like hitting the open road to clear the cobwebs in your mind or blowing off steam after a tough week at work and that pint looks mighty appealing. 

In many ways, the album is like a labor of love as it took three years to release.

Exclaimed Burd, “Three years for six damn songs!” 

The production of Long in the Tooth saw members exit and enter and guitar parts re-worked all the while with the band fussing over artwork, mastering, and where the vinyl should be pressed (“money concerns” is how Quines puts it).

Ultimately, Burd and the band (drummer Brian Davy and bassist Ronny Kerr) pronounced themselves pleased with Long in the Tooth. “This is the first time we’ve collectively put out something,” shared Quines. “Am glad that we took the time because we don’t expect anything less than quality. Quality control, man. Quality control.”

Quines emphasized that and Long in the Tooth is everything you love about 1980s hardcore and 1990s alt music with a sarcastic sense of humor.

Hafner didn’t set out to record songs that would be sports anthems. The love for baseball and the Oakland As (the band hails from the Bay Area after all) is natural rather than contrived. “I think musicians take themselves too seriously,” fessed up Burd. “And they can be stuck up too. What better way to annoy the artistic elite than by singing about sports?”

“Seeing the Oakland As win games during the 2012-13 seasons was inspiring,” elucidated Quines. “What I thought was inspiring was they were maximizing what little money they had to field a good team. I compare that to DIY punk. I thought about how (1980s California punk band) the Minutemen recorded their albums using used tape and recording at the cheapest studio time that was 2am. The whole idea of ‘jamming econo’ as a way to be crafty and maximizing their dollar to present a good piece of art is inspiring.”

Regarding the barong tagalog on the cover, Burd waxed poetic about an influential album from his youth, Fugazi’s sixth and final album, The Argument. 

In that album, Fugazi’s vocalist and guitarist Guy Piccioto (who later was with Rites of Spring) said the album was an anti-war manifesto. In the booklet that accompanied the compact disc of The Argument was a picture of a plaque memorializing Kent State shooting victim Sandra Lee Scheuer. When Piccioto was asked by Scott Thrill in underground culture site about using this image, he answered, “It’s like a chemical. You put it out there and the reaction that it creates is what art is.”

It is the same for Burd. “I am more interested in what other people say about this. My brother, Mark, took that picture. It was an art project that he worked on in college and he spent long hours on it until he was totally exhausted. He turned it in for his final and passed out on the classroom floor. That barong belonged to my Uncle Pepe who was a real funny and clever guy. One time, he drew a picture of me crapping in the toilet and he laughed about it all night. He passed away a few years ago because of smoking. It was really difficult to see him on a walker when all my life I saw him with no problems at all. I told you what it meant for me. The image (of the barong) isn’t a defining one. It just invokes a bunch of connections and memories that I associate with seeing this picture.” 

Seeing the picture myself, it did remind me of some things from a past time and the good memories that come along with it. And maybe that is why Hafner’s music brings back memories when alt music was king and it swept the world. 

Long in the Tooth is more than a time capsule. It is good music that pays homage yet pushes the ideas and music forward into this dangerous new world we live it. 


Hafner’s Long in the Tooth is available in the Philippines through Mutilated Noise Records in Makati (check out their Facebook page) or through Aklasan records (also on FB).