Itchyworms are evidence that the Philippines will not run out of music talent soon.
The fab-four has shot to fame since their Little Monsters album (2001) and Noontime Show (2005). Armed with intelligent humour in their song-writing and refinement in their music, the group won the Album of the Year award at 2006 NU Rock Awards.
In their Dubai concert on November 16 at the Indian High School Football Field on Oud Mehta (in front of St Mary’s Church), Itchyworms will share the stage with two other leading Manila-based bands: Wolfgang and Slapshock.
Separately, these bands command respect and huge following beyond their home turf.
The following is an interview with Itchyworms members Kelvin Yu, Chino Singson and Jugs Jugueta.
Q: You are admired for the refinement of your music, which though it has a predominantly rock flavour, there’s depth in song-writing.
Kelvin: Thank you. We take pride in creating good music. We have never written or released a song just for the sake of it. We want our songs to stand for their own merits, even among our children and grand children.
Chino: We’re happy to have admirers, but I didn’t know people admire us.
Jugs: It feels great to be appreciated.
Q: What’s the latest news from the band?
Kelvin: We have just finished recording our latest single, which will be part of an upcoming extended play (EP) release. It will hit the airwaves soon and available for download. A music video for the single is also in the works. Stay tuned.
Chino: We’re setting up activities for 2013 and our revamped website.
Jugs: We’re in Dubai for a gig again. This will be our third stint in Dubai.
Q: Eraserheads are considered the pivot of reviving Pinoy (colloquial for Filipino) rock. What’s the direction the Pinoy rock scene is taking and what’s your role in it?
Kelvin: The rock scene is different now, not only in the Philippines, but around the world. There so many new elements -- the internet, social media, piracy, music downloads, etc. and because of these new developments, bands will be leaning towards creating music independently, thus giving them more freedom.
Chino: We're happy to keep the flame burning, so to speak. OPM (Original Pilipino Music) is very much alive in the many bands in our music scene.
Jugs: We were fortunate enough to be where we are. The music industry in the Philippines is very trendy, but there will always be fans who love and support bands. We will always be here for them.
Q: In your future albums, do you intend to focus more on music/song-writing or in coming up with “concept albums”?
Kelvin: If we come across a good concept then why not? But for this upcoming release, we just want to have the freedom to write anything without being constrained by a concept.
Chino: It depends on what we feel like writing about or committing to. Seriously, songs with stories are nice to listen to but hard to write.
Jugs: We have an idea for another concept album, but we fell it it’s not the right time to put it out. In the near future, who knows?
Q: Do you aim to write more English songs, to sort of appeal to a wider audience? Or you’re happy to stick to Filipino songs?
Kelvin: There is no conscious effort on our part regarding Filipino or English songs. As long as its music done by a Filipino in whatever language or genre, we still consider it a “Pinoy” creation.
Chino: Our new song is in English. Again, it depends on what we’re feeling when we write songs. Songs in English can be considered Pinoy rock as long as they’re written by Pinoys. Look at True Faith and new bands like Someday Dream.
Jugs: Our new song/single is in English. It's called After All This Time.
Q: What inspires your song-writing? Who comes up with what material? How do you divide the job?
Kelvin: When we write songs, someone usually brings a song to the table and we arrange it collectively.
Chino: Personal experience is always the best inspiration for songs. Jazz (Nicholas, the drummer) or Jugs usually write the basic ideas of our songs but we all contribute to the arrangement.
Jugs: Generally, Jazz (Nicholas) or I have a song or half a song or an idea, then we all help refine it.
Q: When you write your songs, do the tunes come first or is it the lyrics?
Kelvin: It really differs from one song to another. Sometimes, the lyrics come first, sometimes it’s the melody.
Chino: There's no set formula.
Jugs: Usually it's melody first, but sometimes a great line or title can start a song, too.
Q: What has changed for the band since you last came to Dubai.
Kelvin: Nothing’s changed. We will still eat plenty of hummus.
Chino: We're about 5-10 pounds heavier.
Jugs: Last time we played in Dubai, Showtime was just starting out. But now, Showtime has been airing for three years already. Hopefully, the Solid Showtimers of Dubai will come and watch my band play there.
Q: What do you think makes a great band?
Kelvin: As long as everyone is on the same page and share that creative spirit, that is greatness.
Chino: A band is only as good as its drummer, so a great band is made by a great drummer like Jazz Nicolas.
Jugs: Honesty. If you are sincere as a band, as a songwriter and as a performer, then you have something special.
Q: Do you consider your band as a work an accident of nature or your personal histories?
Kelvin: It’s our destiny to put together Itchyworms.
Chino: The initial combination is always magic, but keeping a band together is something all of us work on.
Jugs: We get along so well as musicians and as individuals. It really must be magic.
Q: What ingredient is necessary to boost Pinoy Rock?
Kelvin: Love your own. The local music scene in the Philippines is a treasure trove of undiscovered talent and music. Make an effort to learn more about them and support the local music scene.
Chino: If Filipino kids keep on forming bands and writing their own quality songs, then we needn't worry about the Pinoy rock scene.
Q: Do you use social media extensively to reach out to a wider audience? There’s this American kid who sings many of your songs, proudly loads them up on youtube and even plays on gigs with you? Is that a one-off phenomenon or do you find kids from other countries following his lead?
Kelvin: Yes, we use social media (Twitter and Facebook) to reach our fans both locally and across the globe. It's a truly powerful tool to make your presence felt even if your fans are thousands of miles away. We discovered “Akosichris” by chance when he made a cover of our song “Penge Naman Ako Nyan” on Youtube. It was the first song he recorded and uploaded to Youtube and it became a hit. He followed up with more covers of OPM songs, which has been quite popular online.
Chino: We do use social media but I think we haven’t maximized its potential. Yes, AkoSiChris has covered our songs and many other OPM hits! It is a joy to perform with someone who truly loves the material. I don't know of any other foreign artists covering our songs, but Chris is the genuine article.
Jugs: Yes. I'm very active online, especially on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook. We are also in the process of rebuilding itchyworms.com again. Yeah, we've seen his videos and it's very very cool :) It's really nice to reach out to different people all over the world!
Q: Do you consider the rise of social media, including music sharing and piracy, a threat to your livelihood? Do you robbed of royalties from music records by MP3 sharing?
Kelvin: We just have to understand these new thing for us to take advantage of them. We fear what we do not fully understand. We believe that the rise of social media has a lot of benefits that would outweigh its threats, but that is for another discussion altogether. It’s a long conversation which can discuss over a bottle.
Chino: Social media is just a tool. Whether it damages us or helps us is a matter of perspective. But there is no doubt that the record industry is indeed changing. As Van Halen said, “You’ve got to roll with the punches to get to what’s real’.”
Jugs: The old business model of the music industry has been destroyed by piracy, music sharing, downloads, Youtube, etc. A lot of record companies and record shops have already shut down. But it’s okay, that's life. We have to find a new model that works in the current environment. I think that we should view the CD/album/single now as the marketing tool. It isn’t the main product. The main product is the band.
Q: What have you prepared for your Dubai gig this time?
Kelvin: Our set list is a surprise. You have to be there to find out!
Chino: I personally like performing our originals and sometimes our Eraserheads and Apo covers. We'll hopefully bring you an entertaining and polished live show.
Jugs: We want to play a lot of songs in Dubai. We hope you guys like it.