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FEATURE: The crossover appeal of the ransom collective

What sets The Ransom Collective apart from the manufactured bunch is that they know how to play the game on their own terms. Jeraldine B. Capco  
MANILA, Philippines - The Ransom Collective has seamlessly transitioned from an obscure act with a fair amount of hype to a self-sustaining indie icon capable of bringing huge crowds to their shows.

For thousands of hip, tech-savvy millennials, no other local band has captured the fantasia of youthful spontaneity quite like The Ransom Collective. The indie-rock collective are neither schooled at the Bowie academy of misfits nor the eyeliner-smeared emo of the early naughts. In fact, their appeal very much represents the Coachella way of life: peppy, well-dressed guys and girls with model-y cheekbones and privileged backgrounds, exuding a non-committal image of cool with uplifting, old-timey anthems that the younger generation of music fans will surely dig.

They have the looks, the runway strut, and the aspirational aura to reign over trendy brands and glossies. Their sound has crossover potential. Their social media metrics and streaming stats are primed for internet domination. To sum it up, they’re what every youngster wants in a band at least as far as demographics are concerned.

DIY leanings

What sets them apart from the manufactured bunch is that they know how to play the game on their own terms. Without intrusion of an external force, they conquered the top spot of the Spotify Philippines viral charts and placed second on Deezer’s music competition called Young Guns. They won the first annual Wanderband contest, headlined music festivals and opened for international acts. In less than four years together, The Ransom Collective has seamlessly transitioned from an obscure act with fair amount of hype to a self-sustaining indie icon capable of bringing huge crowds to their shows.

“We like being the way we are,” says producer/frontman Kian Ransom, whose understated demeanor beams with confidence in a way that doesn’t strike me as excessive pride. “We’ve turned down a couple of label offers for a number of reasons. Every time there was a challenge it was fun to rise as a group and I think we kind of got addicted to it. We kept on having these challenges like EP launch, album launch, recording and music festivals, but we emerge victorious and make sure to accomplish those things as a group. Independence teaches you that.”

Multi-tasking

Part of the well-deserved success one can attribute to the band’s systematic distribution of work among members, with each performing a specific role and function aside from their respective musical instrument of choice. Kian Ransom is in charge of the production and creative vision, the songwriting style and music direction that the band pursues for a given project or timeframe. He also works closely with their manager Raymond Fabul in terms of decision-making and overall leadership. Violinist Muriel Gonzales takes care of the finances and oversees quality control. Bassist Leah Halili spearheads the program during launches and listening parties, and writes the script. Jermaine Choa Peck, the band’s percussionist, mans the sponsorship and PR duties, which includes contacting press people. Lily Gonzales, the band’s keyboardist, is also the in-house graphic designer and video editor, ensuring that every element fits their “brand.” Drummer Red Claudio, who they fondly call “Bunso,” is quite busy with school, but helps with logistics and securing a space for their rehearsals. “Puwede na kaming magtayo ng sariling agency,” Leah Halili jokingly tells Supreme. If The Ransom Collective were a top-tier ad project, then they might have succeeded in pushing their “brand” with corporate sponsorships supporting their shows and attendance-breaking records.

All About Traces

But number games aren’t exactly a priority. The Ransom Collective have always been in touch with their music first, rendering personal feelings into chest-beating anthems and piling on the bombast with heart and ease. This brazen gesture is something that you can hear on their upcoming full-length album, “Traces.” Their new release is more than just a product of studio hard work; it’s a monumental achievement that documents their humble beginnings as a DIY act that has gone through great trials. “We definitely made a lot of mistakes in the studio as far as our approach to recording is concerned; even just practicing beforehand we could have done more.” Kian says in discussing their frustration during the recording phase. “We fully finished it last year, we even had a full listening party, sat down and listened to the final album. We thought that was it. But then a week or two came by and we felt like it’s not at par with what we expected.” Band violinist Muriel Gonzales adds: “It took us nine months to rerecord some of the songs, polish the sound, and find the right people to help us out in the process. And now, we’re here: all set to release our full-length album.”

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Unlike the bright, starry-eyed giddiness of their debut EP, “Traces” is a testament to their maturity as musicians and complexity as songwriters, opting for a more diverse content. “‘Traces’ is all about bits and pieces of our journey, the memories we keep and forget; the small, intimate ones,” Kian shares. “All of the songs that we’ve released so far are pretty upbeat, but there are a lot more emotional songs on the album.”

Aside from foot-stomping tunes Settled and Open Road, the new record contains sparse, mellow songs with intricately arranged parts and indelible restraint that the previous EP lacked. Its development is more apparent in songs such as Tides and the title track. The latter, with its brooding qualities and surprising twists, might alienate fans in general, but it’s through this sonic openness that we get to see a different side of The Ransom Collective: one that is bold enough to test their limits and willing to pare back when the world gets a little bit unforgiving.

Another song that seems to bend in the same direction is “Doubt,” offering an insight into the band’s lowest of lows, challenging the band to put aside their differences to work towards their common goal. “It’s a very personal song,” Kian confesses. “I wrote that halfway through our existence as a band. That song is just about self-doubt, like how far we could go as Ransom Collective.” The confessional tone of the record suggests that they’re finally ready to open old wounds, feel the pain, and carry on with heads up high. And that’s what excites me about “Traces”: there’s a raw emotional honesty to it that you can’t fake. It doesn’t need to subscribe to its captured market or target audience to achieve fulfilling results; it’s an album that teems with so much color and emotional flavor, lingering in what is familiar and personal.

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Tweet the author @ianurrutia.

Photos by Jeraldine B. Capco

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