Stonefree lives up to its name
- Maridol Rañoa-Bismark () - September 4, 2002 - 12:00am
Even in the realm of music where weird is actually flattering, their name still makes you blurt out an incredulous, "Huh?"

The Stonefree band has one of the strangest-sounding names in town. And its four young members actually revel in it.

"In the music scene, stone carries a negative meaning. It is associated with long hair, things untidy, unpleasant. By calling ourselves Stonefree, we want to project the exact opposite of this image," says drummer Relly Mangubat, one of the original members and the most outspoken of them all.

So don’t get them wrong. They may be dressed in maong pants and t-shirt, but they’re as wholesome as fat-free milk.

Bass guitarist Regie Mangubat, lead guitarist Benson Jay Tanoja, vocalist and rhythm guitarist Miro Valera and Relly are your regular boys next door. Benson juggles work at an internet provider company with the band’s gigs. Miro has a Communication Research degree from UP Diliman and Regie is himself a UP graduate. Their music doesn’t jar at the ears, but whispers softly to it. Just the kind you’d like to listen to on a rainy, lazy Sunday night.

This is why Tapika Restaurant-Bar at 220 Katipunan Avenue, Blue Ridge, Quezon City, took them in as regular Sunday performers. Regie, Benson and Miro’s soothing strings hardly intrude on conversation.

Years of performing in such places as Tia Maria’s Katipunan, Ka Freddie’s Music Restaurant, Strumm’s and 8th Day have taught them to be listener-friendly. After all, experts say music combined with dining pleasure actually aids digestion. And if Stonefree’s pop/alternative music can do the trick for their audience, why not?

Because they’re young and more open-minded, the band doesn’t stick to the tried and tested in their repertoire. They take risks. Thus, expect them to come up with sounds that may sound strange at first, but which they love playing just the same because they feel good about it.

After all, this is not just another band content with playing covers. While they play tunes by The Red Hot Chili Peppers, matchbox 20, Goo Goo Dolls and others, each of the guys writes their own songs – English and Filipino. And they come up with concrete results.

A compilation demo dubbed Listen will hopefully be out in the market as the band’s debut album for independent label Avant-Pop Music soon. One of the cuts, Baka Naman, Stonefree’s ode to unpredictable love, was named Pick of the Week due to the avalanche of votes online at PinoyCentral MP3. The upbeat title track now enjoys airplay on primetime as theme song of ABC 5’s reality-based dating TV show, Single (Thursdays at 9:30 p.m.).

They also know that between merely performing and feeling the place is a yawning gap that can make or break them. So the members come to Tapika or other places they play in a full hour before the show.

How do we give this place a homey atmosphere where people can let their hair down while dining with friends and family? How do we condition diners for a new working week starting the very next day? These are the questions this band of former high school classmates always seek answers to, week in and week out.

The smooth-sailing show you see onstage is just part of the picture. Bring four songwriters together and creative clashes are normal. Behind that four-part harmony is a lot of arguing and tossing of ideas.

But seven years of sticking it out together have proven that these provide the extra spice that makes the going better.

After all, aside from soothing the savage beast, music can also forge a bond no minor clash of ideas can break.

AVANT-POP MUSIC BAKA NAMAN BENSON AND MIRO BENSON JAY TANOJA BLUE RIDGE COMMUNICATION RESEARCH DILIMAN AND REGIE ENGLISH AND FILIPINO MUSIC STONEFREE
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