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Ransom notes

The Ransom Collective: Winning hearts (and contests) seems to come naturally to these guys. Photo by ARTU NEPOMUCENO                                                                                                                               

Their sound, while by their own admission still evolving, is enough to impress 30-something music critics and make acolytes out of 13-year-old indie band enthusiasts.

Sometimes, when listening to a new band, you listen while bracing yourself for disappointment: a song can start off well enough, but squander its potential, fail to achieve flight with the chorus, or betray you with badly-worded sentiment. Once in a while, though — as on The Ransom Collective’s first official single, Fools, and one or two of their other offerings, like Images  — not only is that dreaded heart-plummet deftly avoided, but your fond expectations are fearlessly met, even exceeded. “Hope will take its toll/ And ignite your soul,” indeed.

The six-piece indie folk/rock band is made up of Kian Ransom (yes, he confirms, that’s his last name), Jermaine Choa Peck, Leah Halili, Lily Gonzales, Mu Gonzales, and newest member Redd Claudio. They have garnered comparisons to Mumford and Sons, The Head and the Heart, and Local Natives; one might also discern echoes of Arcade Fire and The Decemberists, and even  —  going further back  —  The Waterboys at their most joyous. Their sound, while by their own admission still evolving, is enough to impress 30-something music critics and make acolytes out of 13-year-old indie band enthusiasts. With a confidence and chemistry belying their youth, they combine inspired harmonies and rhythms, stirring acoustic guitar leads, and the sweet strain of a violin into something unfamiliar to the scene, but very welcome.

We talked to The Ransom Collective, about their recent past (the band came together in August 2013), the present, and their near future. This is what they had to say.

On how the ransom collective came to be

KIAN RANSOM: Originally, I started writing and recording songs in my dorm room at school in LA. I came back to the Philippines after a couple years of college, and a group called indiehouse PH expressed interest in me playing some stuff live for a video feature. At the time, There was no band, so I scrambled with my high school buddy Hunny Lee  —  our first and former drummer  —  and he introduced me to some people at UP Diliman. They were down to do this one-time feature, with no plan of becoming a long-term band. When we first practiced, we clicked so well, and we could all tell this was a sound we were collectively excited about. We then played a few small gigs, tried out for Wanderband (a large battle of the bands type thing) and we won! From there we couldn’t deny that we were officially a band.

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On the wanderland experience

JERMAINE CHOA PECK: The band was just starting when we joined the Wanderband contest. We actually made the video last minute and submitted our entry on the last day of submission (Kian even sent a USB instead of a CD because the file was taking too long to download)! Anyway, we were all stoked when we got in the Top 15 and then the Top 8. That’s when we started to get serious. We were all just happy to play, hoping to at least get second place just to be able to play in (annual music festival) Wanderland, but we got an even better result! More gigs, publicity, and fans kept on coming after the contest. Playing in Wanderland was surreal! It wasn’t our best set, but definitely one of the best experiences we’ve had as a band.

On each member’s role in the band

KIAN: We all have similar tastes in music, and I think that contributes to our unity and “intentional” sound. Individually, we each bring different things to the table. Some of us, especially Jermaine, bring lots of energy, while Lily and Muriel are great at helping narrow down and refine our harmonies, (Kian) writes the music and lyrics, Leah has been establishing our social media presence and marketing, and Redd is our newest member, but as the drummer, he’s serving as the backbone and beat of the music, and he’s nailing it. We are also self-managed, so we each fill different roles. A few of us are in charge of a Twitter account, FB account, or Instagram account, one of us is the official treasurer, one of us handles the scheduling and event management. We have set up a pretty efficient self-managing system that we are all quite proud of.

On the songs, and their evolution

KIAN: The overall sound has definitely evolved as we’ve learned how we work as a band. Fools and Images are the songs where we think we found our sound, and the direction we want to go. The most common theme or motif within the music revolves around growing up. Most of the songs are about things kids, teens, and young adults go through. They are often influenced by nostalgic memories, or big life events that we all have gone through at one point or another.

On what they will remember

LEAH HALILI: The whole Wanderband/Wanderland experience was huge for us. We had the chance to hang out with one of our favorite bands from the festival the night after, and that was something we won’t forget.

On the future of the ransom collective

KIAN: We’re working on an EP that we plan to release this year. We’re also starting to gig more, write new songs, and keep developing our live set. We want to give people a good show, we want to be one of those bands “you’ve gotta see live.”

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Visit The Ransom Collective at https://www.facebook.com/theransomcollective. Listen to their songs on Soundcloud and Deezer (they are currently ranked second in the international Young Guns competition, which ends this Sunday; go and show your support).

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