Working for Indie Manila, it’s almost always been every month that I get to have a first “something”. Now guys, this time’s “first”, is something else. I guess I’ll be speaking for everybody that went to that event that night.
I’ve been at bars, restaurants and theatres, even in a wine cellar; sweated the hell out of a place that felt like a sauna packed with 200 people in it, and I’ve also experienced barely dressing up for a concert. But I have never covered an event for Indie Manila in Victoria Court. In a freaking Motel. Not until last saturday.
I swear I asked our Editor twice about the venue. (Ay teka, sa Victoria Court talaga? insert smiling emoji here). I accepted the assignment because it’s a place I know well; not that I’ve been there a lot of times, but it’s just that if you have spent the 5 years of your college riding the LRT and if you always pass by the Pedro Gil station, and if you’re facing the side leading to Manila Zoo, that Victoria Court Logo will always catch your eye.
And this time, your ears and your hearts. Because in that place, Ely Buendia (Eraserheads, Pupil, Oktaves) and Jay Ortega (DRT, Gnash, TRES, & Wally Gonzalez Bandwagon) along with their whole ensemble of a band will be performing soul and motown that night, with the launch of their band, Apartel’s first ever music video for their song “Is It Hip?“.
I arrived at Victoria Court Malate in the usual fastest manner I can think of when i’m coming from EDSA; rode the MRT, then hopped to LRT Line 1, going to Pedro Gil. Walked my way to Victoria Court Malate. Thank goodness they were not playing inside a themed room; well I kinda half expected them to. They set up the stage at the center of the open space of Victoria Court, But hold on, they did the press conference for the band inside a Batman-themed room.
And there we were, seated and setup for the presscon. Notebooks and cameras at the ready, waiting for the band to come. With everybody having their fill of food and drink (yes! there was food! #blessings) the room filled with silent anticipation and excitement before they came. I honestly believed that every person in that space had a question they’d want to ask Ely and Jay, and this might be a noisy presscon given who we will be asking in a few moments. But when they finally came, instead of the torrent of questions rushing in, it was quiet. Everybody was just like, UGH. A silent awe replaced all the anticipation we had awhile ago, as Ely and Jay settled on the bed inside that Batman-themed room. I mean really, who else wouldn’t be struck with their presence, especially if they are in front of a lot of people, sitting on a bed, inside a motel, together. With all of the band behind them of course.
Questions didn’t come pouring in not until a brave soul broke the silence and asked the first question. And yours truly got to ask a few questions too:
Press 1: Why is “Apartel” the name of your band?
Jay Ortega: Ely came up with the name.
Ely Buendia: I’m a big fan of, I don’t know if you know the band “the motels”? That 80’s new wave band? I was inspired by that, so Apartel.
Jay Ortega: We went thru a lot of different names, and parang “Apartel” sounded perfect for the kind of music that we do, so it stuck.
Press 1: What kind of music are you playing?
Jay Ortega: It’s essentially soul, inspired yan ng tracks from Memphis, Motown, that type of music.
Indie Manila: We all knew you from Pupil, Oktaves and Eraserheads, and when I heard the song “Is It Hip” it’s like a different Ely Buendia right there. Is this something you have been wanting to do before? And why the change? And why do you think the best time to do it would be now?
Ely Buendia: Yes, I’ve been thinking of doing a soul band for a long time now, and also Jay. We kind of converged this year, we found out na pareho pala kami ng gustong gawin. And I just want to make it clear: I’ve been doing soul since the beginning of my career. If you listen very well to E-head songs there are soul numbers there, alot of soul numbers there. So, kumbaga, it’s been in my DNA, listening to soul, uhm, Motown, Michael Jackson, Stevie Wonder, Manila Sounds, VST, Rico J. Puno. So it’s always been there, and I think now is the time to do it because I found the right people to do it with.
Astig.PH: Wont you have a difficult, challenging time, taking care of Pupil also?
Ely Buendia: My manager does the taking care of.
Astig.PH: I mean yung, di ba, exposure for Pupil, and now for Apartel, wala bang conflict?
Ely Buendia: Fortunately everything has been working out fine. May konting problema lang with regards to some gigs and schedules but yeah, all in all, I don’t do naman something like, at the same time, you know. Like right now, Pupil has just finished promoting its 3rd album, and we kind of like to remain low, so all of my energies are focused on Apartel now.
Indie Manila: With all of the things you have been doing, what are the most fun things, unique things, and also challenging things that you have encountered so far?
Ely Buendia: I guess one of the most unique is that the way we approach song writing, ’cause I always used to write by myself. Usually while driving. I never sat down with anyone save for, siguro yun nga, the E-heads before just one time, nung ginawa namin ung Overdrive sa Sunken Garden. But we don’t really, like, sit down and write. And with these guys, we took a different approach; most of the songs in the album were jammed muna, and then, it was thru that process that the songs were made. The first single was actually written that way: we went to my studio at home and then jammed some riffs, and then Jay started shouting the title, “IS IT HIP?? IS IT HIP??” and from there we wrote the song. So everyone was involved.
Jay Ortega: It’s a first for both of us, I’ve never shared lyrics with anyone either. Lyrics kase, these things are very personal, talking about something you have experienced. But to be able to share it, it’s different, but very pleasant na experience.
Press 2: Are you going to have tours around the Philippines, and also concerts?
Ely Buendia: We hope so.
Jay Ortega: That’s in the plans, hopefully we get enough sponsors together and they wanna do it. For now this essentially is also the kick off of “Apartour”, so after this tuloy tuloy na yan, we’re booked till december. Hopefully, sana tumuloy tuloy. It’s a fun group to work with, we enjoy each other’s company. I can’t say that for all the bands I’ve worked with, but with this it’s, like ano eh, it’s like family. We truly enjoy hanging out and spending time together, it’s made it easier to want to make more music.
Press 1: Do you think your music can reach the masses?
Jay Ortega: I think so. I very well think so actually. There’s a bunch of songs in the album; all twelve of them I really really really like, but there are quite a number of them that I think can very easily reach the masses. there are a few that are in Tagalog, some of the twelve are written in Tagalog, and there are some that are very ano eh, it’s easy listening eh. So tingin ko kaya naman.
Press 1: What song kaya dun sa mga list ninyo na papatok sa masa?
Jay Ortega: I don’t want to put a song in a corner and say that “that’s the one that should do well”. I think the whole album can speak for itself, and if there’s a song na papasok sa panlasa ng masa, ang dami eh. I don’t wanna name a song per se, I think I’d rather leave it up to their decision kung ano yung matype-an nila. Sana pakinggan nila yung buong album.
Indie Manila: How was it like, working with Marie Jamora for the video?
Ely Buendia: I’ve worked with her before, a long long time ago. She co-directed the video “Maskara” with me, and then as you well know, she went a long long way from there. She studied in Columbia, made her feature film “Ang Nawawala”. When the time came, parang unanimous na we wanted someone who was experienced na, not only sa music videos, but also for feature film, kasi we wanted a very noir sensibility music video. And we’re old friends with her.
Jay Ortega: We’re actually also both directors (Ely and Jay) but parang we’d rather have a 3rd person na ka-vibe din, same wavelength na ma-gegets yung ibig sabihin ng song. She’s also a good friend of my wife so that helps too, and this crew’s amazing. And at that note, we’d also like to thank Marie Jamora, we’d like to thank TBA who helped us out, and the whole crew. Ang tiyaga rin nila with us. and also Pao Orendain, Amazing Cinematographer.
Press 4: Where will your music be available?
Jay Ortega: Itunes, Deezer, Apple Music, Tidal, Spotify, in 241 countries.
Ely Buendia: We’re not releasing it on CD though, Purely Digital
Jay Ortega: Download, or Vinyl. Its being pressed in Japan, we’ll get it by the end of the Month.
Indie Manila: Any reason behind that?
Louie: May CD Player ka?
Jay Ortega: Wala na eh di ba? Lahat naka phone, naka iPad, USB
Press 2: Eh Bakit Vinyl?
Jay Ortega: Like what Louie is saying, there are more people with turn tables these days, plus the fact that it does sound way better. Yun din ang pinanggalingan kasi namin eh, lahat naman ng pinapakinggan naming soul music, growing up nasa vinyl.
Ely Buendia: There’s definitely a renaissance (enlightenment) when it comes to how people listen to music; I guess you know naman na Vinyl sales are going up while CD sales have been going down. We’re supporting that movement because we believe that Vinyl is the best way, perfect way to listen to music, Analog is the best way to listen to music. Not that we have anything against CD’s but so far as far as we know right now it’s kind of a dent medium. So we would rather support Vinyl than digital. They can burn their own CD’s anyway, so what’s the use, di ba.
Jay Ortega: Lahat ng CD Collection ko, inaamag na dun sa bahay.
Ramone: and to be honest, people really take care of antique stuff, so we’d rather people take care of our music.
Louie: Tsaka mas dramatic din pag hinagis mo.
Jay Ortega: Pwede rin siyang frisbee.
After the press conference, we had the chance to interview Ely and Jay for a one on one:
**please access the video thru the link below:
Along with the anticipated Music Video Launch of Apartel’s “Is it hip?” were performances from some Indie bands. One of the Indie Scene’s Favorites, Farewell Fairweather, opened the night with their performance:
After which, they are followed up by the hard hitting rock music from Mean Jay:
Then the long awaited Music Video Launch of “Is it hip?”
With an electric and soulful long set, Apartel Definitely owned that night at Victoria Court; the mixture of people gathered that night, anticipating the intertwined talents that is the band, danced and raved that night with every note that Apartel had to offer. The crowd was indeed a definite mixture; from people on their late or early 40’s, some older, and to the young 20’s and the younger. That’s what music is all about: it gathers people from all walks of life and ages, and of course, with what Apartel is, its almost understood that it would attract such an audience.
As the 8 instruments and 4 voices came together, it projected a piece of art that is at its best; their songs projected their experience, and their excellence in their craft. It was all a match made in heaven, and maybe something that the fans did not anticipate until it became true; me included.
I’m still at awe when I remember that Ely Buendia sang a Tina Turner song; there’s an OPM rock icon in front of me, singing soul. The pleasant surprise turned into glee and utter admiration of such an artist. I know I’ve always used the line “I never really dreamed that this would come true”, but this time I really can’t help but repeat myself, especially knowing that Ely Buendia has been the frontman of a band I always heard everyday in our radio on a warm late afternoon, as it was his songs that I tried to play in the guitar when I was kid, that actually carried me thru some times (times i got dumped by a girl in highschool, etc), I still can’t believe my luck as I can see him in the flesh singing his heart out, doing what he does best.
I can’t even pick my personal favorite for that night! But since I have been listening to Michael Jackson lately and I have been wishing for a “Michael Jackson” Tribute night, it was definitely a thrill for me to hear Jay Ortega and the band play “rock with you”! like come on, I was screaming my heart out during the whole song! Loved it, definitely.
Also, I have never seen a band want to play that much till ‘now; the crowd was asking for an encore, and Apartel did really had a song for prepared for an Encore Lined up in their song list for that night, but after that Encore, the crowd asked for more, and they obliged to sing two more songs, right off the bat. They don’t just love the music, they love the crowd. And definitely, the crowd would love them back so much.
As I set out for the night after it all ended, and as I let my thoughts roll back to the awesome night that it was i felt my imagination run; Apartel is definitely a part of the indie scene; so will we see a night, somewhere in the metro, maybe in Route 196, Saguijo, or 12 Monkeys, where the line up would be composed of Jensen and the Flips, Sud, Concious and the Goodness, The Modern Playground, and Apartel all in one night? Perhaps for a Jazz/Soul/Funk night? And just how many people will come and see that?
I’ve written for The Modern Playground before, and I know that Jazz/Soul/Funk is not a mainstream music genre; to be honest it really has been a genre for, if not the general music lover (people who like a song regardless of the genre) the musical “high-brow” purist. And not everybody appreciates Jazz although we can all agree that it is one of the great forms of music out there, and classic at that. With Apartel Coming out as a Soul/Motown band in a place where what’s popular is something else, with Ely and Jay Leading the way, could this really be a start of a musical renaissance in the OPM indie scene for this type of genre? Will the Filipino Ear finally come to accept something new and embrace it?
I don’t really know. and nothing is for sure. But what I can say is Apartel is the next best thing since sliced bread. Soul/Motown at its Filipino best, with two brilliant artists at the helm. And I just can’t help but ask for more.