Thursday, April 13, 2017

Nirvana comes around for Kate Torralba

Picture borrowed from Kate Torralba's Facebook. Performing on Nirvana Night at Route 196.

Nirvana comes around for Kate Torralba
by rick olivares

It’s Nirvana Night at Route 196, on a humid Friday (April 7) night. The night is an annual celebration of the late and great rock demi-god Kurt Cobain who passed away on April 5th in 1994 and his band that literally shook the world.

The rock club is packed and the kids are all right on this night – dressed in the usual simple tees, jeans, leather and rubber shoes. A few, especially Singapore-based Filipino dream pop band, Narcloudia, are dressed in black or goth attire.

Parting the sea in a psychedelic red dress with a single bangle on her wrist and in high heels, Kate Torralba might seem to be from a different subculture (read: fashionistas). But she’s right at home.

And more so when she begins singing Nirvana songs wither three-piece outfit (Juan Miguel Lerma on guitar and Coeli San Juan on cello).

“It’s Nirvana,” Torralba says with an aww shucks shrug after her set. Torralba was set to fly back to London -- that she now calls home -- a few hours after her gig. She might have been cutting it close what with Manila’s notorious and monstrous traffic jams that test one’s patience up to the late hours of the night. “You do this because you love music. Some things you just have to do.”

The classical-trained pianist ditched her love for Chopin when she discovered rock and roll much to the consternation of her parents. She played in rock bands in her native Cebu and in Manila. Then she became a top-notch fashion designer and moved to London. “I still enjoy classical music but rock and roll opened my world,” she says with a gleam in her eyes. “Especially Tori Amos.”

“As much as I love alternative rock, I am a lousy guitar player,” Kate unabashedly admits. “Hearing Tori, I felt that I could express myself more with piano or a keyboard.”

The result was her debut album on MCA Universal appropriately titled, “Long Overdue” as it was a culmination of long long years of stop-starts that saw one musical metamorphosis to another. It’s a mélange of Amos, Regina Spektor, and Saint Etienne that give pause to reflect (“Kung Mali Ako”), that urge you to sway with the hypnotic beat (“Northfleet”), with neo-classical soul trappings (“Anywhere With You”). It’s effervescent, quirky, introspective, and well, danceable.

“It is an eye opener performing in Europe,” shares Torralba. “In London, they don’t only want to be entertained but they pay close attention to your songwriting. In Paris, people are more emotional. They look for the emotional connection to your songs. Not everyone might speak English fluently but they want to hear something that resonates with them on a deep level.”

Kate admits to enjoying her shows in London a lot. “Here in Manila, I notice I do shorter convos in between songs. The Brits are into a lot of banter. It teaches me how to interact better and to get a better feel out of my songs and songwriting.”

So the fashion designer-musician is soaking up literally worlds of experience. “I think all this is going to reflect on my second album,” she proclaims.

The second album. Torralba is treading on American prog rock band Tool territory who average four years between albums (however, it has been 11 years since their fourth outing, “10,000 Days”). Torralba laughs. “I am deeply aware of my slowness. But I would really like to come up with an album that is better than my first one so I am taking my time.”

“I am writing and doing pre-production for my second album,” Kate divulges. “I plan to record it by end of this year or early 2018 at the latest.”

Torralba would love to have her second effort released via vinyl but if she had her way, she’d release it in cassette form. “I love cassettes,” she gushes. I grew up buying them and still have every single one that I bought. It’s good to know that they are making a comeback like vinyl as well.”

“Old school,” sneaks in the diminutive singer.

However, Torralba is trying to break new ground. She’s bringing in the Bipolar Nights concept she did in Manila where she alternated music with comedy as done by Mike Unson. “I’ll be performing at the Troubadour in London with Japanese comedienne Yuriko Kotani (who like Torralba is based in the UK).”

That’s hallowed ground as while the primarily folk coffee bar, one of England’s oldest music bars has seen the likes of the late thespian Richard Harris, Bob Dylan, Paul Simon, Elton John, Jimi Hendrix, Led Zeppelin, and Morrissey to name a select few perform there.

“It’s cool, isn’t it,” she giggles in her red psychedelic dress.

“And I have Nirvana to thank for this.”

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