Orange & Lemons to perform 'stripped-down set’ in return to stage

Leah Salterio - The Philippine Star
Orange & Lemons to perform 'stripped-down setâ in return to stage
The Pinoy pop-rock band will stage a mini-concert on April 29 at Teatrino in Greenhills. Says lead vocalist Clem Castro, ‘We wanted to sound as organic as possible, so we hired a string quartet and a rondalla ensemble. We also enlisted legendary guitarist, Nitoy Adriano of The Jerks, to give a different flavor.’
STAR / File

MANILA, Philippines — When popular Pinoy pop-rock band, Orange & Lemons (O&L), disbanded in 2007 after eight years of performing together, that was heartbreaking not only for their loyal fans, but more so for the lead vocalist and creative driving force of the group, Clem Castro.

“If we didn’t disband, for sure we’d be releasing album after album,” admitted Clem. “But I believe God works in mysterious ways. When I turned 40, I began to reflect and look back. I wanted to preserve the legacy of Orange & Lemons and my life’s work. This paves the way for the idea of reforming.

“Thankfully, (brothers) Ace and JM del Mundo went on board and we announced our comeback in 2017. At that point in our career, we were more focused on what we would leave behind and how we wanted to be remembered. The rest is history.”

Although Orange & Lemons started in 1999, the all-male band only got its break in 2003. “We were struggling for five years,” Clem lamented. “During our period of struggle, I had already written a lot of songs from my juvenile years until after college.”

The first three albums of Orange & Lemons were “carefully plotted,” according to Clem. Their 10-track debut, Love in the Land of Rubber Shoes and Dirty Ice Cream, was released in 2003.

“Even before the first album came out, many of the songs from Strike Whilst the Iron Is Hot and Moonlane Gardens were already existing,” Clem informed. “So, it was just a matter of picking appropriate songs from the shelf to show our growth as a band and personally, for me, as a songwriter. Then, the unthinkable happened. We disbanded in 2007 and lost all momentum.”

A decade later, Orange & Lemons members regrouped and tried to pick up from where they left off. “While we were reflecting on the direction of the fourth album, we re-recorded Love in the Land of Rubber Shoes and Dirty Ice Cream,” Clem revealed.

“After that, I checked on my inventory of unreleased materials and found Pag-ibig Sa Tabing-Dagat. It was a song I wrote in 2008 that never saw the light of day until we decided to work on it, releasing it as a single. It was also the first release with a new keyboardist at the helm and we loved how it turned out.

“We followed it up with another Tagalog song, Ikaw ang Aking Tahanan. That was the time when we figured we’d release an all-Tagalog album, pay tribute to the language, and incorporate more rondalla arrangements. It’s something we’ve never done before.”

“In the past three albums, by design, we slipped a couple of Tagalog songs as an indicator that Orange & Lemons is a Filipino band, despite the Anglophilic direction of our entire repertoire. So, we took up the challenge and started working on new materials, did some research, brushed up on Filipino poetry and literature and listened to kundiman.”

Putting their respective influences together, including the input of Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP) president Arsenio “Nick” Lizaso, also the chairperson of the NCCA (National Commission on Culture and the Arts), whom they met in Bulacan and encouraged them to contribute to a kundiman project he was working on. That completed La Bulaqueña.”

“That was perfect timing since we were gunning for that direction,” explained Clem. “We recorded and contributed Awit Ni Maria Clara (Jose Riza), Bituing Marikit (Nicanor Abelardo) and our own modern kundiman original, Ikaw Na Walang Hanggan. They appeared in the Kung Hindi Man video series of the CCP last year, months before we released our album. In a way, their approval somehow validated our choice of direction.”

Eventually, Orange & Lemons released its fourth album, La Bulaqueña, the band’s first all-Filipino release that pays tribute to the members’ Tagalog roots, since they all hail from Bulacan.

“We wanted the album to be unpredictable and surprise everyone,” Clem granted. “I used to write Tagalog poetry. With this odd concept, nailabas namin ang pagka-makatang Tagalog, being pure Bulakenyos.

“Naniniwala kami na napakaganda ng ating wika. Ginamitan namin ng malalalim na Tagalog ang mga awitin, mga kataga at linyang hindi na karaniwang ginagamit. It was very challenging to interpret and give justice to historical materials. We were more scared of bastardizing it, than alienating fans with this direction.

“As a band in our mid-40s, we were not keen on repeating our works in the past. We want to achieve something that our parents would be proud of and with a sincere hope that the new generation would learn to appreciate.”

Orange & Lemons will stage a mini-concert on April 29 at Teatrino in Greenhills and they assured it will definitely not be their usual gig.

“It’s a stripped-down set, with newest member Jared Nerona on upright piano and me using just an acoustic guitar,” Clem disclosed. “We wanted to sound as organic as possible, so we hired a string quartet and a rondalla ensemble. We also enlisted legendary guitarist, Nitoy Adriano of The Jerks, to give a different flavor.”

The list of guests includes vocalists Lara Maigue (award-winning soprano) and Sandra Lim Viray (Queen of Philippine Jazz). “We will be performing the songs in the new album in its entirety, including some old Tagalog tracks from our past catalog and a never-before-played live cover of a Levi Celerio song,” Clem excitedly announced.


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