The Local Outsider #21: IV of Spades, Cheenee Gonzalez and Bita and the Botflies

Time again for my monthly catch-up with the more interesting things Philippine music has to offer, and, well… you know what I’m going to say here. But then this month’s column is a little unusual in that I have had an idea of who to write about for a while… and then let it boil, knowing there will be more ahead. I find that whenever I finish writing one of these things, one of the acts I just featured would be up to something. Guys, this doesn’t mean I have inside scoop or anything, all right?


IV of Spades is heading to Wanderland this year, after months where the more indie-oriented Twitter accounts on my feed had nothing but raves about these guys. The name suggests your usual indie pop, but no, fuck, no. Note to self: do not judge a book, especially if it has no cover. So, IV of Spades. Their Facebook page suggests they’re equally influenced by Earth, Wind & Fire and Phoenix, which, while initially miles apart, aren’t, really. Maybe the kids like these guys because the whole faded retro thing is cool, but I’m writing this while listening to their songs (rather than watching the music videos) and find myself liking what I hear, too. (I am more a fan of “Ilaw Sa Daan” and how intense it feels, like they performed this after running a long distance.) It’s interesting how often Filipino acts return to funk and soul – there’s always a handful of groups, often just slightly away from the margins, that are doing this sound; it inevitably goes back to the heyday of the Manila Sound, where this was everywhere. Consider these kids its representatives for the next couple of years or so, then.


A month or so ago Cheenee Gonzalez released her EP Windowpane, which, sadly, is nowhere online. (You can get it at her gigs, though.) Understandable, but it does make for a steeper climb to writing this column. I’ve had her on the list when the EP launch was making the rounds, but I only had her earlier single, “Salt & Pepper”, to work with. Good enough. I love her voice. I know she’s 23 but it sounds like she’s seen a lot – and it’s not the kind of wizened that comes with a husky voice that went through years of alcohol and drug use. She actually, kind of, reminds me of Sara Bareilles – she’s like the girl you always see at the coffee shop but could never approach out of intimidation. Not that you like her like her, but you think she’d make for good conversation. And when you talk, you’re hunches are proven right. I wish I could listen to the whole EP soon.


Finally, Bita and the Botflies, a band that literally brings me back to college… because one of them is a friend of mine in college. I’ve been doing this blog for five and a half years and I never imagined I’d write about a friend of mine who happens to be in a band. “Tagu-Taguan” is making the rounds on RX right about now; it’s a boozy track powered by a subliminal bass line and Sofy Aldeguer’s playfully coy voice. Sure, the songs give off this carnival vibe, which might creep some out, but – objectively – it’s quite good. They’ve got a couple of songs out (here’s their Soundcloud) and you can hear the bluesy sensibilities. Their guitarist Kevin Navea – yes, he’s the friend, and yes, he’s just one of the guitarists – tells me a third song is on the way. I’m curious about the direction it might take. It’s coming soon, he tells me. All right, eyes peeled. [NB]

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