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Ben&Ben: Staying home and still making music together
The nine-piece band, currently the country’s most-streamed artist, has finished two songs during the quarantine and is working on one that directly takes inspiration from the fans.

Ben&Ben: Staying home and still making music together

Nathalie Tomada (The Philippine Star) - May 30, 2020 - 12:00am

The concert scene has been put on hold but the beat goes on even on lockdown.

For Ben&Ben, it may take awhile for all nine band members to reunite on stage but it doesn’t mean they’re not making music together.

Ben&Ben is twins Paolo and Miguel Guico on acoustic guitars and vocals; Poch Barretto on electric guitar; Jam Villanueva on drums; Agnes Reoma on bass; Patricia Lasaten on keyboards; Toni Muñoz and Andrew de Pano on percussions; and Keifer Cabugao on violin.

The STAR recently caught up with this tight-knit indie-folk-pop group in a Zoom chat during a break from working on their next (still-untitled) song to be released under Sony Music Philippines. It has been, you could say, sourced from the plenty of love they receive in the comments section of their social media pages. They’ve looked to fans for inspiration. And it’s a new and exciting experience for Ben&Ben who has mainly anchored the music-making and songwriting on their own personal experiences.

This is just one of the things that they’ve been keeping themselves busy with from ECQ to now MECQ.

Miguel said, “We’ve been trying to keep ourselves going with the momentum. We’ve started with the online shows but I think right now, yung top priority pa rin namin, of course, is to do whatever we can to help our frontliners and those who are in need during these times.”

“And of course, pati yung mga tao sa bahay. Pag sila ay nagkakaroon ng anxiety or nababagot or whatever, in one way or another, we try to give them comfort through our music. That’s why keep on doing the online shows and the content that we released,” Miguel said.

Among the most noteworthy they’ve done is setting up a COVID-19 donation site (www.puhon.ph), which garnered 2.2M views in the first 24 hours, for shining a light on stories and messages that offer encouragement to frontliners. Puhon is a Visayan word that means “hopefully” and a famous lyric of Ben&Ben.

Other than music, the members have been coping with the quarantine through baking (Patricia), exercise (Poch, Patricia), at-home photography (Toni), Zoom chats or Google hangouts with people whom they can open up about feelings of stress and anxiety (Andrew, Poch, Keifer), enrollment in an online course (Keifer), as well as a daily routine (Paolo and Miguel) that involves their job and other interests (“We’ve been creating coffee variants. Naka-try na ako ng iced, hot, iced with milk, hot with milk,” Miguel mused.)

More importantly, the quarantine has given them more time to tap into their creativity. “For some reason, nakakulong ka sa bahay at nakakulong ka to your own thoughts at sobrang dami pang nangyayari sa labas, mas marami kang naiisip eh. Pati yung mga naisip mo dati pero lagi kang nag-ta-travel at wala kang time. Ngayon may time. So we found ourselves having the opportunity to write more because there’s more time to process our thoughts,” Miguel said.

They have made at least two songs during this time and learned to adjust to the “new normal” in music-making.

Paolo shared, “The new normal for us is that we’ve discovered an App, which is the closest we can get to do a jam. Pwede mong ilagay yung instruments mo dun tapos hihintayin mo magpatong ng instruments ang iba. Ganda ng application na yun, called Band Lab, parang siyang Google Docs in music.”

This new process has its unique challenges and advantages. Agnes shared, “Kailangan namin mag hintayan in a way. Kailangan ilatag muna ang drums before you can record. It somehow takes more time, but I think it’s more fulfilling once you’re done. It has a delayed gratification effect.”

“Parang yung minessage mo yung crush mo, tapos inaantay mo yung reply niya. Parang ganun (laughs),” Paolo said.

“Although technically, mas mabilis din siya kasi dati kailangan namin mag-antay ng libreng schedule para makapag-jamming,” Andrew added.

One thing is for sure they miss jamming, brainstorming ideas and performing together whether on stage or in a studio. “Nakaka-miss lang yung batuhan namin ng energy in person because our dynamics as a band, it’s very important. The feel of live, it has unexplainable energies, and we miss that but of course, we can’t do anything about it as of now, so dito muna kami,” Miguel said.

After the band’s successful nationwide tour to promote their Limasawa Street album in 2019, the year 2020 was supposed to bring them to more overseas gigs such as in the US, Hong Kong, among other Asian stops. It has always been a dream of the band to also represent Pinoy music in the international music scene.

Nevertheless, the band takes a philosophical approach towards these cancelled plans, believing that everything has a purpose or maybe it’s not meant to be — but, there’s always something to be thankful for.

At present, Ben&Ben is the highest-streaming artist from the Philippines. It has amassed more than 500 million streams on Spotify and over three million monthly listeners, and charted on the platform’s Top 50 with nine songs simultaneously. They entered the Billboard Social 50 Chart, which ranks the most active musical artists on leading social-networking services, just two weeks ago and have already climbed to No. 29.

They’ve also just released their first international single titled Doors, which is mixed by Grammy-winning engineer Miles Walker (Beyoncé, Usher, Coldplay, Rihanna) and mastered by Leon Zervos (P!nk, Maroon 5, Beastie Boys, Willy Nelson).

They’ve found out that one upside of the quarantine is they’re able to connect with international listeners more.

Paolo shared, “Funnily enough, yung dream namin na maka-connect with listeners from other countries, we’re able to achieve them more now. Everybody is online, which makes it easier for us to reach out. I mean, we’re all stuck at home so it’s easier to say, hey, we’re the same.”

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