Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Happy to be depressed: Club 8 in Manila

Happy to be depressed

Club 8 yearns for the summer and finds life in Brazil, Manila, and hopefully the beaches of Boracay. Rick Olivares commiserates in their misery.

The question was probing and deep that Johan Angergard and Karolina Komstedt – the duo who make up Swedish indie pop band Club 8 – paused for a few seconds to measure their response during a press conference last Friday, May 14 at the SMX of the Mall of Asia.

“You see in Sweden summer is only two months of the year and so there is a yearning; a yearning for something more.” softly explained Komstedt that she seemed almost apologetic. Angergard didn’t mince his words about his morbid outlook on death and melancholia that oft are in the lyrics to his songs. “Everybody dies.”

Knowing that, it’s a wonder that they are not a death metal band that seems to flourish in the Scandinavian states. “You wouldn’t think that the songs are about sadness because the melody is upbeat, happy.” smiled Komstedt.

Then she admitted that she was broke. If the two indie pop stars were unhappy then they did a great job of not showing it. But it was undeniable that they were charmed with the reception they got from Filipinos. “Smiles. Cheerful people. Is this how it’s going to be later?” asked Karolina, the tall, lean and pretty vocalist with inquisitive eyes that took note of everything that was going on as if she was soaking up the new experience.

It was only three years ago when Club 8 began performing live albeit not in a regular manner. “That way our performances are special,” underscored Komstedt who admitted to being unsure of her singing live.

Going on tour augurs well for Club 8 as they have literally begun to expand their horizons. They previously had this snobbish reputation for not granting interviews or even playing live. Their tours have taken them to the United States, Singapore, Japan, and now to the Philippines.

The band was formed in 1995 yet it took seven albums and 15 years before they reached our shores. “It’s simple,” chuckled Komstedt. “We’ve never been invited to go here. But we know that the first two countries in Asia to release our albums were Japan and the Philippines. So now we’re here and soon… Boracay.”

Her voice, soft and like brush strokes of quicksilver was intriguing if not teasing.

And when the band performed that same night at the SMX at the Mall of Asia, someone couldn’t help it. “I love you, Karolina!” yelled a voice that rose above the applause. She heard it for sure but all dressed up and shy, she didn’t look. Instead, guitarist, Mathias Naslund – borrowed from fellow Swedish band the Sweet Serenades for the tour -- cast an amused eye to the love bestowed upon the band. “Unbelievable!” he exclaimed.

It’s cheeky. But so is Twee as the genre has been labeled on the band. The jingle jangle of chiming guitars is upbeat despite the coy lyrics that dripped with melancholia. The tag was first pejorative when it was first tagged on Brit pop bands of the early 90’s but it found a home in the United States and in all places Scandinavia. It wasn’t only the textured and sonic landscapes of Sigur Ros or the evil machinations of Borknagar that put the music of Abba out of the region’s misery. Somewhere the Smiths, the Pale Fountains, Paddy McAloon, the Care, the Sundays, Altered Images, and Burt Bacharach lived in twee hearts everywhere.

The band was in town and to make the event even more special, their new album – The People’s Record -- was launched. No surprise there considering they first got their start abroad with Spain’s Siesta Records since there was no indie music scene to speak of back in Sweden during the mid-90s.

Clem Castro, former guitarist for the late lamented band Orange and Lemons and now head honcho of indie label Lily Stars records on top of fronting his band the Camerawalls, worked with the Modern Rock Bureau in making the show in Manila possible. “From a fan’s standpoint, it’s cool,” said Castro who couldn’t contain his excitement as the band went through their sound check. “From the perspective of someone in the music scene, we hope that Club 8 coming to Manila will open the gates for more indie bands to go here.”

The show was something special from the start as three local indie bands – Gentle Isolation, Your Imaginary Friends, and the Camerawalls played fiery and inspiring sets that set the tone for Club 8 to conquer cold hearts. And some 400 paying fans came to watch the Swedish duo’s 16-song set that saw them perform songs from the Brazilian-influenced new album as well as classics from The Friend I Once Had, Spring Came, Rain Fell, and The Boy Who Couldn’t Stop Dreaming. The fans applauded, cheered, and sang along intoxicated by the summer songs. By show’s end, it was strangely beautiful as both Komstedt and Angergard flashed smiles and grins and basked in a most appreciative applause. They only sang one song for an encore – “Love in December” but they made it worth everyone’s while when they signed autographs and posed for pictures even if it was way past midnight.

Not bad for a band that was once aloof.

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