Movie, Millare, and mention

First, a big hand to Marie Jamora, Ramon de Veyra, and the team behind Ang Nawawala for making it to the Slamdance Film Festival in Park City, Utah! As Teddy Guinoo would say, “High five, motherf*****!”

On to business. My GMA News Online article on Up Dharma Down was published today. As I advised Armi Millare, I promised to print her email interview, because I found this fascinating enough to note in full. Armi’s answers are in italics. I did not edit her answers (and there’s a passage below I did find a little vague: points for spotting it!). I will also add a disclaimer: the email was received at around 5 in the morning, according to my mail inbox interface.

1. From what I heard last night, the band has taken a different direction in terms of sound from the last album four years ago–most notably in a more electronica-oriented direction. What prompted this shift? Would you agree that fans have been very receptive towards the new material?

It’s too early to tell whether or not the people have received the music well, but to be very honest, I think it matters much less. We have created what we think to be good, and only those who like it will. Synth pop is the kind of genre that most of us have been exposed to when we were young being born around the 80’s and we just wanted something nostalgic — something that the listeners could grow old with. I like the way we, as a group feel about certain acts or songs — its as if we did not expect ourselves to like them all along but lo and behold they have been underneath this skin and a lot harder to shake off.

2. Is there a particular song from the album that gives an idea of the new sound you are pursuing? Can you discuss some of the creative decisions made in the making of the album?

I could cite a lot of other songs but it’s kind of a mixed reaction depending on the days and how I personally feel about the songs. “Parks” (which we almost had left to be called Capacities) is the sound that I suppose would describe who we have become after all these years. But then there’s “Luna” and there’s “Kulang,” where there’s a lot more going on even in the way it’s a bit sparse. During live shows, the boys tend to change instruments and play the keyboards or the drum pads and to me, that’s a sign that we’re a group that’s very open to change. Im quite sure that in the years to come a lot of changes will take place. That’s our common ground, we all have a penchant for change. Stagnation is not welcome in this group.

3. What was most challenging part about making this album, and what was the least challenging?

To me, the most challenging part was to write the material. I did not realize that I had written a total of 14 songs until I had been interviewed about the exact number. And I don’t see anything easy in producing this record. It’s not easy to put oneself out there about the experiences that you’ve gone through as an individual and to let people know how you are at your most vulnerable moments is something rather more personal to me. And it’s conflicting for the most part. I want to keep them to myself, but I fear I might erupt. Like a volcano. I know I need to express these feelings and instead create something than implode which is the only other option for me to survive.

4. Following the launch, does the band have plans to promote the record “on the road”?

It’s always been a part of the plan. For the last 8 years we have been gigging and traveling together. I for one have not caught a break all this time — my first was when I took a trip to Australia for 3 weeks and that was it. I did write something but it didn’t make the album. And that’s how dedicated we have been to the music. To a fault. It gets in the way of life to write about life. How ironic, isn’t it? But I can’t complain, I’m no better doing anything but getting things wrong and just writing about them. 

5. A common trope in talking about Up Dharma Down is that it would be one of the Philippine bands to break out internationally. Do you believe that this album would help to keep the band on the music radar outside the country?

I think it’s great that people think that. But as much as I’d love for that to happen, I’m also fine with being here. My roots say I’m a quarter Filipino, but I was born and raised here and I am more than willing to be a hundred percent Filipino heritage-wise. Songs written by a Filipino, for the Filipinos in Filipino is most definitely going to attract only Filipinos. While part of the bonus is being bilingual, and how much I love traveling and learning other cultures, there is that tiny pinprick of light that shines and says hey, we might make it somewhere else, but there’s no place like home. 

Thank you to Armi Millare for the interview, and to the people at the Up Dharma Down Community page for their invaluable contributions to the piece.

Before I go, I must clarify something. A certain band founder named your correspondent on stage at the launch of his band‘s new album–just as memorable as the last one we attended–and disclosed the contents of a conversation we had before even the sound-check began. Actually, we did not talk about how people come together to form a scene. It was a slightly broader discussion about the Wes Andersonian-way in which the subtleties of style and manner were useful in producing the clustering of people around certain works of art, including performance pieces. It is incidental really that a scene develops around such works of art.

Have a good week everyone!

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