The Local Outsider #36: Intertwined, Them Bloody Royals and Sabu

In case you missed our announcement earlier in the weekearthings! will be closing down on 11 April. That means you’re reading the last ever edition of the Local Outsider, that column we started three years (and thirty-five installments) ago to better keep tabs on all the good music coming out of the Philippines, only to constantly cram it the day before publication. Turns out, yes, it is difficult to keep tabs when you’ve got a lot of other things to do.

Early in this blog’s history I wrote about feeling there is a budding resurgence in local music. (Or did I? I can’t find the entry, but I’m sure I had that thought when I wrote about this Sponge Cola song.) And then it felt like I was wrong, because it didn’t happen. But then, the past has this weird way of holding us hostage. I was, and still am, thinking of that period roughly fifteen years ago – wow, fifteen years ago? – when local music was on the charts, and not as a fluke.

But in the past seven years, it has been the case, although not as loudly as it was before. Times have changed – we are more fragmented, and perhaps we are also more reliant on Spotify – but if you think about it, the formula is there. We have a bunch of future legends. Some indie acts aren’t afraid of being more popular than the crowd demands them to be. (“Let this group be our little secret” is a sickness we must be rid of.) And perhaps it’s because I am more aware, I’m hearing of a lot of new acts bubbling under – and there’s a much bigger chance they’ll be picked up and get sent on the next stage of their careers. (Case in point: Aly Remulla was just picked up, last week, by the folks at OC Records. Wasn’t I just begging someone pick her up last month?)

So, yes, things are looking good for local music, but in a different way. It won’t be like the last time we had a golden age. But it’s fine. It’s all fine.

And now, our very last column.

 

I was watching a pop-up gig with Singaporean singer-songwriter Charlie Lim the day before he performed at this year’s Wanderland. It was a chance to catch up with Nat, aka Nia, our friend from Cebu; we were talking about another band in the line-up, Intertwined. It’s good, she said, that they won that band battle that secured them a slot at the festival; she thought they deserved it, and considering they haven’t gotten as much attention as other new Cebu-based bands like Mandaue Nights and Three Legged Men. Now, of course I wasn’t at the festival, so I haven’t seen them live, and I’m only basing things on “Be Mine” and “Love of My Life”. Interesting. They’re soulful but not the sort I expected – rather the sort that would have mainstream appeal. Core members Amanda Gabucan and Henrick Pestaño have a keen sense of musicality, and they exploit it to the hilt: “Be Mine” is so deliciously satisfying I was on board halfway through. Fingers crossed they do break out further.

I’ve featured a lot of Cebuano acts over the years and, up until now, I remain excited at the depth of acts from the island that we blinkered imperialists (sorry) don’t get to see unless we seek them out. I hope the local music press amp up their coverage. As for me, I hope to return to Cebu for personal reasons and watch a bunch of gigs. I know, I’m not a gig person, but Nat has been begging me to go for that reason alone. At least I can justify being nervous when I particularly focused on Cebu’s music scene in that interview I had a few months back.

 

Them Bloody Royals aren’t new. They previously existed as The Royal (inevitably I haven’t heard about this band either); their frontman is Sib Sibulo, who you might remember for his work on MTV; the members have come from all these other bands that were staples of NU 107’s rotation. They’ve just released their debut (arguably) single “Ravager” a couple of weeks back. Yes, it is crunchy rock, of the kind that should remind you, on the surface, of the more jagged side of the 80s British invasion, but with the verve that feels of this time period, and yet shorn of context forevermore. This is a roundabout way of saying they sound classic and, er, evergreen. But they are, really, and I’m actually excited to hear more from them soon. This song feels like an album is on its way; too bad we won’t be around to review it once it drops.

 

I wanted the last song on our last column to be a singer-songwriter. I realize there’s one in almost all of our installments. It’s where I lie musically, but not really, but then, still, yes. Okay, that sentence didn’t make sense. I was meaning to write about Sabu but lost track with all the cramming and the other stuff I’m juggling. So, only now am I listening to “Tulog Na”, which she released last year, and let me be one of the many to say that this song is carrying me away. Closing this column (and this blog) down is bittersweet, as you’d expect, but this song is telling me what I have been telling myself for months: that it really is time, because sometimes things get too much to bear and all you really need to do is rest.

But I haven’t talked about Sabu. Her voice is, like, really expressive, without really reaching too far out. It works for me. I know she’s got other stuff out but I’m imagining she hasn’t really hit her peak yet. I smell crossover appeal, too.

But, yeah, it is time to rest. [NB]

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