Chillitees return with the sounds of summer
by rick olivares
It isn’t a mirage.
If your last sight or sound of R&B band the Chillitees was their sultry beach video for “You Make Me Juana” from their second album, “Espasoul”, the band returns after a nine-year hiatus with a new album that has the summer sound feel.
“Summer” as in a reggae and dub-influenced album that is tentatively titled, Cute Sinta, and is due in a few weeks’ time.
Lest you think that the Chillitees have gone Jamaican like Snoop Dog did a few years ago with the album, “Snoop Lion”, the trademark sweet soul and smooth grooves are still very much evident. Except they are wrapped with the ephemeral vibe that the late great Bob Marley popularized. And the result is a delectable mélange of genres. Think Thievery Corporation or Hed Kandi circa Nu Cool 1 meets OPM-inflected R&B.
More than a slight deviation to their sound, the Chillitees have entered Swing Out Sister and Workshy territory as they are now a duo featuring vocalist Uela Basco and multi-instrumentalist, Dan Gil. With all the other members opting to either migrate or move on to other projects, the two constants in their two albums, 2006’s Extra Rice and 2008’s Espasoul, are Basco and Gil.
How does that affect live performances? For now, Gil makes use of Ableton beats while Uela sings.
“The new album has this summer sound feel,” volunteers Basco who is bursting with excitement over the new album. The 32-year old singer released her first solo album, That Room, on iTunes (that was produced by Gil) in 2015. Her solo effort which is being eyed for a physical compact disc release, was a progression of the Chillitees’ sound. The new Chillitees’ offering take their music to new soundscapes. “Besides -- who doesn’t love reggae and dub?”
Basco was trained in classical music before switching to jazz and R&B. “I think classical music prepared me for the changes in my singing,” says the soprano. “Reggae and dub have a different intonation. Change, I guess, is constant for the Chillitees.”
Gil on the other hand grew up in the 1970s and 80s and soaked in everything that has come up since. “Our music is the sum of what Dan grew up listening to,” says Basco lovingly of the Chillitees’ music man.
“Espasoul” that had a 70’s music vibe Manila sound, was recorded live. “Cute Sinta” reflects the changes Ableton and all.
Working out of a studio owned by legendary OPM composer Charo Unite (who wrote songs for Nora Aunor, Rico J. Puno, Dulce, Asin, VST & Company, and Sharon Cuneta among many others) in the Gallery, Makati, Gil marvels at all the hardware and recording tools at his disposal. Gil holds up a Neumann microphone. The gadget is one of the best and perfect for vocal use.
I remark that it is what Joe Jackson used for the recording of his classic album, “Body and Soul”. Gil’s eyes light up. “To use these and all these equipment was used for classic OPM… it’s rich,” he gushes.
The changes aren’t only confined to the new album. There are plans to re-release “Extra Rice” either in CD or vinyl form. “Something to reward our old and new fans,” says Gil. “Something too in our bucket list.”
More to that, the duo is thinking of doing a re-make of the video of “Ikaw” (from Extra Rice) reflecting the physical changes.
“When we recorded that album and shot the video, well – totoy pa ako,” laughs Basco. Since then, the vocalist gained massive dosages of confidence by taking up pole dancing as well as penchant for exploring the great outdoors (surfing, skateboarding, and riding big bikes among others). “I’m far from that teeny-bopper look,” she says. “When I started out my career singing at 17 years of age for the Sun Valley Crew, I didn’t really know what to do. People just said, ‘go up and sing.’ I was shy and well, unsure of myself. I’ve come a long way since. And I’d love for our new material to reflect me. Well, it’s not the new me. It’s certainly me.”
“Me” is the sexier look that matches the mood of her music’s grooves. Basco teased that with “Espasoul” and carried that look with her solo album. “Looks aside, it’s never about that. It’s always about the music. Music (and her day job is a music producer) is my life.”
“I am glad that people appreciate the music more than anything else because that’s the way it should be,” sums up Basco. “And it’s the sound of summer – carefree, fun, summer lovin’, and breezy.”
It’s good to see the Chillitees back and it’s a brand new day.