Pizza and beer with Danao, Dancel, and Dumas
Stefan Punongbayan (The Philippine Star) - July 23, 2016 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines – How exactly does music sound in 3D?

Supreme got our serving of a different kind of reality one Monday evening up north in Quezon City. The drizzle had just abated, and so we asked Johnoy Danao, Ebe Dancel and Bullet Dumas to swing by a pizzeria at a nearby food park to talk about music over a couple of brick-oven pies and a few bottles of beer.

To say that we were stoked when they obliged is to put everything mildly. After all, it’s not every night that one gets to chill in true rock ‘n’ roll fashion with the three most talented and passionate stalwarts of today’s local concert scene. But of course, we set up this inuman session just for you readers. So go ahead, come drink with us.

SUPREME: What made you decide to come together as a group? Is there a common denominator among the three of you?

EBE DANCEL: They’ve been playing na before I came along. May Danao-Dumas na, tapos I came to one of their shows at nagprisinta ako. Sabi namin, “Subukan natin for a few shows,” pero hindi na kami tumigil. It’s been a year and a half, I think, or almost two years.

JOHNOY DANAO: I think our common denominator is that we’re all both singers and songwriters, at magkakaibigan kami. Actually, somehow, magkakaiba rin talaga kami ng tugtugan.

BULLET DUMAS: Magkakaiba rin tayo ng pinanggalingan, ano?

DANAO: So yung pinaka-common lang talaga ay friendship. Naks, showbiz!

Describe your dynamics, both in the professional aspect and the personal. I want to know just where that symbiosis lies.

DUMAS: Ako, padawan ako. Ako yung natututo sa kanilang dalawa most of the time.

DANAO: Yun ang akala mo, pare.

DANCEL: Hindi, pero sa ibang aspekto, sa ‘yo talaga kami natututo (laughs).

DANAO: Para kaming nagfi-feed off sa isa’t isa, hindi lang sa music, kundi sa iba pang bahagi ng buhay. Siyempre, may sarisarili kaming bagahe, di ba? Binabato-bato namin sa isa’t isa yung mga bagahe para gumaan-gaan nang kaunti. Willing namang saluhin, at yun ang maganda.

DANCEL: Walang inggitan. Wala pa akong naaalalang kahit isang beses na nag-away kami. Kung meron kaming hindi pinagkasunduan, more or less yung desisyon ng isa ay malapit sa desisyon ng dalawa. We have a Viber group, at doon lang kami minsan nakakapag-usap. Down to the posters, hanggang ngayon kami rin ang nag-uusap at gumagawa. We don’t have a manager. Individually siguro, we have managers and representatives, but only three people make decisions when it comes to our group. Walang lamangan kahit sa finances — everything is divided by three, at walang opener at walang front act program-wise.

How much have you grown since Bridge, Sugarfree and Bullet’s previous band?

Well, I may not necessarily write better now, but I write more carefully. Pinag-iisipan ko na ang lahat at mas may conscious effort. That’s the challenge kasi — the more songs you write, the harder it is for you to come up with new material. You always have to look back, na baka nagawa mo na yun. Also, not just because I left the band, pero I’ve had the good fortune of spending a week every year with the likes of Gary Granada and Ryan Cayabyab. Yun lagi ang sinasabi nila sa akin: “Mag-ingat ka lagi sa sasabihin mo. Kahit ano pang format ng kanta mo, que gumamit ka ng computer o gitara, galingan mong magsulat.”

DANAO: Since nag-disband ang Bridge, siguro mas kilala ko na ang sarili ko bilang musician. Alam ko na yung direction na gusto kong tahakin at mas nag-develop na rin ang boses ko since 2004.

DUMAS: It was 2006 until 2010. Third-year high school pa lang ako noon, may band ako called Pruweba. I still play some of our songs pero ibang arrangement. Siyempre, kumpara dati, ako na ang nagsusulat ng lahat ng kanta ngayon.

We tend to judge everybody based on their musical preferences, so what are the top songs on your phones’ playlists?

DANCEL: Eto. I Remember You by Paul Buchanan, Everglow by Coldplay, Iisa by Gary Granada, Cynthia Alexander’s Owner of the Sky, sh*t wala na akong maisip. I got four.

DANAO: Ako, by album kasi ako makinig, eh. James Taylor yung nandito, Pearl Jam, albums ni John Mayer, meron ako ditong Ultimate Singer-Songwriter Playlist sa Spotify, Paul Simon, and alam mo hindi sa akin ito, pero meron akong Taylor Swift.

DUMAS: Ako, si Kendrick Lamar ang sina-soundtrip ko ngayon. Yung soundtrack din ng The Little Prince kasi ang galing ni Camille at Hans Zimmer, tapos Snarky Puppy, atsaka System of a Down.

DANCEL: Alam ko na yung panlima ko! Here Today by Paul McCartney. Nakakaiyak yung kantang yun.

Do you have any guilty pleasure songs nobody knew you sang in the shower (at least until now)?

DANCEL: Ah, ano, Aqua. (Sings:) “If only I could turn back time…” Katy Perry rin. (Sings:) “When I’m with him I’m thinking of you…”

DANAO: Pare, hindi pa naman nakakahiya masyado ‘yan, eh. Yung sinasabi niya yung nakakahiya talaga. Again, let’s see. Hindi rin kasi nakakahiya ang Disney songs.

DANCEL: Chumbawamba. Yung “I get knocked down but I get up again.”

DUMAS: Parang wala ako. Kung ayaw natin, ayaw talaga natin.

DANAO: Siguro yung pinakamalapit na sa category na ‘yan ay si Barry Manilow. Yung Mandy.

What’s your creative process like? How long does it usually take you to finish a single?

DANCEL: Unang una, before you come up with a chord progression at yung mabububulaklak na salita, I think you need to have a central idea. It’s just like talking to someone. Ayaw mo ng pasikot-sikot ka, eh. What do you want to say? Then you take it from there.

DANAO: Gaano katagal? Minsan, may isang araw lang. Minsan, isang oras. Minsan, may taon. May mga kantang ipinapahinga ko lang sa tabi-tabi muna tapos saka lang matatapos kapag may nangyari sa buhay ko kasi hindi ko pa nae-experience. Minsan kasi nag-aattempt kang magsulat ng kanta na hindi mo pa nae-experience, based on stories at experiences lang ng ibang tao.

DANCEL: Basta dapat documented ang lahat. Wala kang itatapon. I-record mo kasi baka makalimutan mo agad, di ba?

DANAO: Or nakasulat sa notebook na talagang lumang luma na.

DUMAS: Kasi minsan surprising na baka yun pala yung pinakamaganda mong naisulat, yung random notes mo, at doon ka kukuha.

DANAO: Babasa-basahin mo lang, baka mabuo mo yung kanta after a few months.

DUMAS: Ako, same na nagva-vary, pero before sobrang tagal kong magsulat kasi may idea akong I let the songs write themselves kumbaga. Ayokong pilitin kasi maghihintay rin ako ng tamang panahon o pangyayari para mas maganda yung imagery. Lately lang, though, nasa songwriting mode ako these past few months. Sobrang na-push ako kasi may deadline ako. Kinailangan kong magsulat within this certain timeframe at nasulat ko naman within two to three days, pero nasa constant editing pa rin.

What particular single do you think was the most difficult or maybe cathartic to write?

DANCEL: Lakambini.

DANAO: Ako? Buntong-Hininga.

DUMAS: Tugtog.

And that song do you wish you hadn’t made or at least could have been given more time to write?

DUMAS: Siguro yung kanta kong Postdahil yung chords niya ay okay lang, pero parang gusto ko pang i-tweak nang kaunti kung may time.

DANCEL: Old song. Alinlangan.

DANAO: Bakuran.

There was this OPM rock renaissance during 2004 up until 2007. These days, it’s all about EDM and other electronically driven, synth-heavy hits. Is there still room for folk and rock?

DANCEL: There is and there will always be room for folk and rock. It’s just that we move with the times, eh. Right now, computers are cheaper, technology is very accessible, so kids take full advantage of that. I personally think that’s the way to go, to take advantage of the opportunities being handed to you. That being said, a lot of people still write songs using acoustic guitars. Meron at meron talagang market ‘yan.

DANAO: Hindi mawawala yun kasi kasama na sa kultura natin ang magkaroon ng folk singers. ‘Pag sinabing singer sa bar na may gitara, folk singer agad ang tawag. Wala na sa genre, kasi tumutugtog din naman sila ng ibang pop na mga kanta, hindi lang folk. It’s very loose kung titingnan mo.

Tell us about Dama: The Repeat. Is there something we should wait for with bated breath that we haven’t seen in any of your previous gigs?

DANCEL: Mas marami na yung kasama namin ngayon sa Manila String Machine and we’ll be having more songs with them.

DUMAS: Possibly a new and longer setlist with them atsaka bagong collaborations. Ay, atsaka yung date, nagbago rin (laughs).

DANAO: Ako, may kakantahin akong bago na hindi ko pa kinakanta live kahit kailan. Doon na lang natin abangan.

* * *

Experience rock, folk, and strings in 3D. Catch “Dama: The Repeat” tonight at the Music Museum, Greenhills. Show starts at 7:30 p.m. Tweet the author @Watdahel_Marcel.

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