“Hear it is” is a series of interviews with musicians, transcribed here as oral histories. We talk about what they do and what they’ve done, and what has changed since they started making music.
Not “El Bimbo”, but “214”
Taking a hiatus
How there are no future prospects
I first saw Owel perform when he was still playing bass for The Purplechickens, but even before that, an ex-boyfriend (who ended up replacing Owel as the bassist for The Purplechickens) had made me listen to demos of what would become Ang Bandang Shirley’s “Ang Pag-ibig Alinsunod sa Karanasan ng Isang Karaniwang Jeepney Driver” aka, “Tsuper Duper” but better known as “Basta Driver, Sweet Lover,” with Owel playing all the parts. -AS
I’m Manuel Nicolas Alvero, and I’m currently a writer for Juice.ph. I also try my best to compose for films and TV and other things that make music. I sing for Ang Bandang Shirley, and I dabble in a lot of other projects.
I’m half of IdKids, and I hope that doesn’t need explaining in the future. It’s a design collaboraton with my wife.
The first thing I learned to play on the guitar was not “El Bimbo” by The Eraserheads, as is usually the case. First thing I learned to play was the bassline of “214”, by Rivermaya, it’s the *sings* dundundundundundundudundundundundundunduuuun. And I think it’s kind of a gateway to getting…not good with the guitar. I started to learn the guitar the wrong way, so I wasn’t able to follow the actual progression of how people learn the guitar. At our high school, it was a group of people all learning to play at the same time. So we would all learn to play the whole of “Don’t Look Back in Anger,” then it would be some other song.
But since I started with “214”, I think I sort of got the basics wrong. So somewhere along the way, I was never able to learn to play barre chords properly. And I think that’s where I started wanting to look for more than what everybody else was listening to? So it’s not so much about taste, it was more like how it’s different everybody else’s.
The first album I purchased with my own money was not for me: I bought my dad a gift, I didn’t know what to give him, so I bought…I forgot the title! It was an album of Joey Ayala‘s, the one with “Karaniwang Tao”, just because I remember hearing it in the radio with him in the car. That was a long time ago.
The first album I purchased with my own money for myself was…I’m not sure if it’s Oasis or the double cassette Smashing Pumpkins. So it’s either Morning Glory or Mellon Collie.
I always thought that there were just two ways of enjoying music: one would be to totally immerse yourself in it and study all the layers. So it’s just you, alone, with headphones, or a really nice listening system, just listening. Or enjoying it live with a lot of other people who love the music, and you feed off of each other, off each other’s energy and it just gets bigger.
I learned how to play the guitar, like everybody else in high school, because it was something to pass the time, but I started out in a band because one of my friends wanted to impress a girl and he didn’t have a complete band. He had a guitar player, he had somebody who could play keyboards, and I think I played the guitar first and then I was moved to bass.
The one thing with the [live] scene that’s kind of interesting is that I remember going to gigs all the time, and then somewhere along the way, I just stopped going to gigs. Like I had batchmates that I’d always see at gigs, nowhere else, and then I didn’t see them anymore. And then there was a point where I took a hiatus because of health issues and my wife just gave birth, so there was this period that I wasn’t connected to the live scene, and then when I got back, there were all these new people I didn’t know. So I think I missed a generation–a batch of people.
So it’s really just different batches of people, and then the real hardcore people who eventually get sucked into playing in a band.
Recording is so much easier now because gear is so much cheaper now. It’s easier to do, and there are all kinds of how-tos on the internet, and you can always find a friend who can teach you how to, and if you don’t have friends…who know how to, it’s really easy to teach yourself how to. And everybody who really wants to do it can work at a call center or sell some beer or something…
Marketing and distribution: I have no idea how this works. Really don’t. Never did. Always thought that as long as you have the best product, then someone would come along and think, “Oh, that’s really cool.” But then that’s never really the exact case…
I’ve been in bands since 2001, 2002, Shirley started out in late 2003, so that was almost ten years ago. So some of our fans when we started out are now part of the press, so it’s really easy, if we’re coming out with an album, we just have to tell them to talk about it. Wild, no?
Given the time that I’ve been involved with all these things, you get a sense of who the icons really are, and you get a sense of who the icons will be. The more you hang out with all these people, the more you know who the people who are really talented are. And the people who are really talented, vs the people who are really really talented and just really into their own thing, and it’s really historic in a way.
Potential and future prospects: There’s no potential–you do it because you want to do it. You can’t not do it. And then you stop because you want to stop doing it. I really think that’s how it works and that’s how it’s supposed to work. If you’re doing it for the money, then you’re making a crappy job out of what you’re doing. There are really no future prospects, especially now with the whole thing of music being a product vs music being something that just floats in the internet, on the cloud – it means that you have no more future prospect. I guess the really great thing about it is you can hope that someone far, far away can hear what you made, and be so touched by it, and give you lots of money. But really, there’s not much of that.
It’s highly suggested that you check out Ang Bandang Shirley’s music, right here, click it. Do it. Duration: 9 mins. Recorded on September 13, 2012 in Makati, Metro Manila
Illustrated by by the lovely Joanne Tong