By MARGA MAGALONG
You can say that music is a form of literature — it’s pretty simple to understand. The basic body of any pop song is a verse, a pre-chorus, a bridge, then finally the chorus. It’s a lot like a plot triangle where the song tells a story — and if it simply has no story, then at the very least, there’s a dramatic situation. But a song with dominantly no lyrics? Ambient music is a literature that encompasses the two-dimensional confines of music without the lyrics interpreting the song for you. I find great freedom in the sulit experience one listening session of ambient music can give me — minus the paved direction vocals give you, you have the luxury to introspect what the melody of ambient music means to you, and its anarchic nature leads to the construction of an atmosphere.
Sound Architects constructs just that. It’s not enough that you can just put their music in the background — almost instantly, they transcend any listener to a different space. Layers upon layers of textured shoe-gazey post-rock madness; you can almost touch it — and take it from me: it touches you.
This local act has been around since 2014 with members Johann Mendoza and Patrick Roxas on guitars, Rjay Concepcion on bass, and Felix Cordova on the drums. In partnership with Polaris Project, the boys of Sound Architects releases their album “In Time of Need.” The guys of GIST had an in-depth talk with them on the relevance of OPM as a genre in 2017, and their influences as a band; all over a cup of coffee.
GIST: First of all, the band’s name does not lie! I listened to some of your tracks and you guys truly are architects of sound. Are any of y’all architects in profession?
Everyone: *laughs* No…
Felix: I’m an engineer!
Close enough! Noticeably, in terms of radio and mainstream popularity, music with vocals still has a bigger following. Ambient music is a bold move. Why do you guys chose to create music with no vocals?
Johann: We’re much more inclined towards making instrumental music, especially with the fact that we study music, kaming tatlo ni Rjay and Patrick. Instrumental is what we deal with.
Rjay: Yung approach na ginagawa naming, hindi siya mainline na doon mag-rerely yung listener all throughout. Mayroon kami layers of music na ‘pag narinig mo mag-iinflict siya ng tagos […] Mas open siya to interpretation, mas marami siyang ma-cacater na audience and problems.
Felix: Music, when unbound by words, mas tumatagos sa expression. […] Not all words can explain what you feel.
Patrick: Well, hindi naman lahat ng bands kailangan may front man […] you can connect with the music without words. Mas-nagiging deep yung learning.
What was it like recording ‘In Time of Need’?
Johann: Hindi naman siya yung type of recording na nasa forest kami for months isolating ourselves. We recorded at Point B – it’s a very popular studio, especially for indie bands. It was just a slow process, especially in writing and recording kasi we were busy with academics. The whole process was conceptual – we made sure all of our tracks were coherent.
Patrick: Satisfying siya matapos because it took a long time.
Everyone: More than one year.
Rjay: Kapag nag-rerecord kami, either ears lang namin o ears lang ng friends naming. Sobrang learning experience ‘yun, dahil maraming nagcritique. Maraming point of view na nakikita.
How do people usually react when listening to your music?
Rjay: Maraming types of listeners. Yung mga nasa-phone. Yung mga na-tatrans – ‘yun ang pinaka-okay. ‘Tas may isa, nag-uusap lang habang m ay music. May iba nag-heheadbang.
What was the best gig you guys ever played?
Johann: May super last minute gig na invite kami – ‘tas parang hindi siya bar gig, nasa function hall siya for this Chemical Engineering convention. Kasi may friends kami sa UP, they’re in a band called Capacities and engineering people sila – ‘tas nakulangan sila ng banda. So we went there looking like street people; naka-t-shirt lang, ‘tas lahat sila super formal. So when we started playing, super conscious kami – biglang nag-momoshpit lahat ng tao in their heels and gowns.
Is the label OPM still relevant as a term to categorize the likes of Apo Hiking Society and James Reid in one genre?
Johann: We just say Filipino band. For me, vague term ‘yung OPM eh. What does it encompass? What does it mean to be OPM? Filipino music ba kami? We kinda sound like we’re from the States. The banner that we rally under is ‘local independent music’ […] Before ma-define what is OPM fully, we really have to answer the question: what is Filipino music? As a person who studies music, it’s a question that hasn’t been answered – even by the academe, it’s still being debated. Basta-basta lang siya inaaply so nawala ‘yung sense niya.
Patrick: Actually Filipino music dapat indigenous music, na katutubo talaga. That is the original Pilipino music. Currently, our sound is from the western influence.
In a nationwide sense, what do you guys think of the local independent music scene?
Johann: Whether good or bad – that’s out of the question. What matters is Filipinos keep creating […] Napansin ko, mas-centered sa Manila, but I’m aware of smaller communities in different cities! Sa Baguio, they have indie-norte. Sa Pangasinan, they have Pangasinoys. San Pablo, maraming hard-core and emo bands and they’re tight-knit. Sa Davao rin, they have a lot of promising indies […] Ang dream ko for the local scene, nationwide, may magandang touring circuit – na bands from Manila or anywhere, can play in Cebu or Dagupan and vice versa.
Who reaches your music? How far does it go in terms of diversity in audience?
Johann: Through the internet, when we released ‘Icarus’ a bunch of people with Russian names started liking our page so I guess umabot doon. We know people from Baguio, Dagupan, Davao and Cebu listen to us.
Felix: After we launch the album, we’re going on tour in Luzon and a leg in Davao. We’re hoping that we could reach more people after that.
Rjay: …and through that, we hope to encourage other bands to push for their music nationwide and other South East Asian countries.
What are your influences individually as band members? And how has this affected your style of playing?
Johann: I grew up listening to a lot of progressive death metal and progressive metal. Bands like Mastadon, Opeth, Porcupine Tree, even older ones like Pink Floyd or King Crimson. A lot of other post-hardcore genres – I guess they’re all at the intensity na gusto ko. Gusto ko ganoon rin ka-intense yung music na ginagawa ko. Besides that, also a lot of avant-garde – so doon pumapasok yung textures and walls of sound.
Rjay: Nagsimula ako makinig sa mga tito jams. Since iyun lang pinapatugtog sa bahay; bands like Metallica, Pearl Jam. Sobrang napag-tripan ko rin ‘yung mga Jimmy Eat World, the emo scene. Noong pag-pasok ko ng college, doon nag-open up ‘yung preference ko – kasi nga, I study in the College of Music. Pati sa jazz, experimental – kaya sa music namin, hindi lang isya mainline na nagdadala ng buong song. The song could lead to anything. Then I realized: I can have my own band as well.
Felix: When it comes to my infant stages of music, ‘yung pinapatugtog ni Dad sa bahay – mga Metallica, Slayer, even stuff like Nirvana and Guns ‘n’ Roses. Then I began delving into the more alternative grunge rock scene, like Stone Temple Pilots, Red Hot Chili Peppers. But in terms of playing drums, kung saan nakuha ko talaga yung palo ng hampas is the post-rock giant And So I Watch You From Afar. They’re all heroes to me.
Patrick: When I was a kid, our helper introduced me to rock music. As a kid, she let me watch some live concerts of Nirvana and Guns ‘n’ Roses so I got inspired to play the guitar. Come high school, I started listening to Bullet for My Valentine, Breaking Benjamin. When I started studying music in college, I got exposed to more genres – like jazz, post-rock like Mogwai, hip-hop, and soul.
Has your sound changed compared to your previous releases and now with ‘In Time of Need’?
Rjay: At first, nakatali kami sa tag ng post-rock na may holding hands at harmoniou. Then we got introduced to the label, Continent Records, doon naming nakita na our sound could be aggressive. Doon lumabas yung aggressive side ng playing namin. Nasa college din kami, so mas nagging intense iyung hardships namin – our music became in sync to our experiences.
Patrick: One thing is the maturity of each member. Since we started in 2014, we’ve had more experiences and studied music more in-depth. From there, we’ve started experimenting with our sound more. It’s become a balance between a sound for holding hands, and an aggressive sound.
What atmosphere do you guys hope the gig will be?
Rjay: Hopefully, immersive yung experience pero also, the time in-between sets could be used to talk about what they felt while listening.
Johann: Kahit hindi nakatutok sa amin, as long as they’re really listening to our music. It’s not solely oral, we’re trying to make our performance as visceral as possible. As loud and as there as we can, but at the same time, make it a multi-dimensional experience. We’re gonna try to cover Mow’s with visuals to accompany our music.
If you could invite any musician, alive or dead, foreign or local, to watch the album launch – who would it be?
Johann: For the lack of a person to think about, for some reason naisip ko si Kevin Shields ng My Bloody Valentine.
Felix: I don’t know…Dave Grohl? He seems like a cool guy.
Patrick: Mario Camarena! Or some people from CHON.
Rjay: Yung prof ko noon sa MUL13, si Sir Joey Valenciano.
Trip on their euphoric sound and spend your Saturday night in their post-rock madness!
You can listen to them here: https://soundarchitects.bandcamp.com/
For more updates, like them on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/soundarchitects/