Friday, July 4, 2014

A sound track


photo courtesy of Cashmere Gonzalez, Josh's schoolmate from high school

Larger than life indeed! Sometimes I can't shake off being a proud momma; actually I feel a bit bad that we did not see that show and were in fact eating pancit at North Park at just about the time Josh's group was playing during Giordano's anniversary event in Makati.

I remember going to Josh's first gig ever -- in 2008 when he was just 12 years old. It was at Kublai's along Katipunan, atop Mercury Drugstore. The bar is gone now and in its place are a restaurant, a nail salon and a Nuat Thai. But I remember that Bea and a friend picked me up from Port Area that night amid a thunderstorm, and we went to the dark, smoke-filled bar and I wondered whether I would be doing the exact same thing for the next five years.

It was the summer before he entered high school. He was a bassist for Copperfront, which in retrospect was just a play on Nickelback. Here's something I bashed out for the group, upon their request, back then:

Youth is No Excuse
The real deal with Copperfront

Even if you find yourself in a bar that's full of people, pounding from loud music and the clicking of beer bottles, and hazy from the smoke and the colorful lights, it won't be hard to miss them. Copperfront members don't look like your typical grunge-alternative rock performers -- none of the frizzy, long (unwashed) hair, the statement t-shirts, the mean tattoos, not even that look that's a cross between angst and intoxication sported by most (wannabe) musicians.

Instead, these five boys would look just as comfortable in school uniforms, strumming guitars in their classrooms on a rainy afternoon. And why wouldn't they? They're just that – young men whose passion for music enabled them to start their journey a little too soon, even as all the great artists would probably say that “too soon” is nonexistent.

Adhee Lasala, vocals, is 20 years old and has been singing for his church choir for 2 years. Miko Villareal, drums, is 21, now studying to become a computer technician. He has been drumming for 4 years. The rest of the members are in high school – lead guitarist Thom Cruz is 15 while rhythm guitarist EJ Borja is 17. They are both juniors. The bassist, Josh Tulagan, is a freshman. He is 12 years old. Yes, 12.

So what brought them together in the first place?

The idea to form a band presented itself to them one night in April 2008. They were watching their friends, members of up-and-coming band Hi-Fi Indios, perform in Kublai's Bar in Katipunan. Somebody walked up to them and asked whether they knew any other band who would be willing to perform a set of four or five songs.

Now they themselves had been jamming here and there, whenever they chanced upon each other in their favorite hangout, Soundgarden Music Studio in good old Lorex Avenue in Valenzuela. See, that studio offers music courses as well as rents out instruments by the hour. Why not expand their audience beyond the walls of the studio? The more they thought about it, the better the idea seemed to sound.

They were given a month to get their act together. It was a good thing that the band members had a few compositions ready. They don't just perform; they create as well. All they had to do was rehearse more often. They started to introduce improvements on each other's compositions, with the end in mind of making the song better, more appealing to their audience. This was not just jamming anymore. Nor horsing around. This was business.

Their maiden performance on May 16 gave the boys an unexplainable high. Maybe it was the applause they earned from the handful of friends, family members and other bands who watched them. The gratification of expressing themselves to more spectators. The realization that if they tried hard enough, they could make good music together.

And as the gigs came one after another – they have played, so far, in Grindhaus (Valenzuela), Stoodio Bar, Sausage Bar and 9-Mile (all in Quezon City) – they got an even clearer picture of how they wanted to make their mark in an industry that is already deluged with performers in every musical genre. Filipinos are, after all, a highly talented people – and a driven one, as well. Amid the abundance of talent and drive, thus, how can these boys convince the rest of us that they're more than just another band and that their musical passion is more than just a phase in their young lives?

Adhee is candid enough to admit that they can't say for sure, whether or when opportunity – in the form of record deals and international performances -- would come knocking at their door. Certainly it would require their undivided attention. In the meantime, they will be happy juggling their music with their other responsibilities, studying and eventually pursuing careers.

What they can say for sure now, though, is that they are immensely grateful to those who have shown them support and confidence. Their families and friends who have shown unconditional love and belief in their abilities. Their mentors, primarily Hi-Fi Indios and the people behind Fatjack Productions, who hone their skills and expand their horizons.

For now, they are happy spending time together – they are each other's best friends, by the way – and sharing their music, their views on life, love and everything else, with anyone who cares to listen. They know they don't have to present themselves as experts. They just have to be themselves.

At this point, the boys recognize that they still need to do and learn a lot. More than the technical aspects, they need to get a good grip on themselves. Discipline is key, and it is as basic as showing up for rehearsals on time or playing their part at performance level all the time.

Ultimately, Copperfront wants to challenge perceptions that rock musicians are drug addicts, impolite with the ladies, and basically have their lives in the trash bin. On the contrary, the boys want to build on the promise held by the blank page that is the rest of their lives. And this early, they know they want this page to, well, rock.

Copperfront is long gone, but Cygnet is very much around. Josh, now 18, is starting another year at the UST Conservatory of Music next Monday, majoring in contrabass. He tried being more practical, seeing if he could do business administration or economics, but always, always, he is led back to where he started. I believe we're always eventually steered into where we are meant to be.

I wonder: What kind of music will be the soundtrack of his days?

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