A Short And Incomplete History Of Filipino Indiepop
Life in the gladhouse...
Back in the early-to-mid 1980's, the Philippines had a thriving underground music scene centralized in its capital city of Manila. Bands like Betrayed, Urban Bandits, Ethnic Faces, Dean's December, Violent Playground, Under Blue Skies, Strange Days, Charlotte Russe, Silos and a lot more were directly/ indirectly influenced by punk and new wave, still gigs were few and far between. Recordings have been real scarce, as well. Apart from the not-too-many and sporadic 7" singles and cassette releases, a compilation tape entitled Subterranean Romance went on a limited circulation and it pretty much summarized the whole scene: lo-fi and very DIY. Moreover and most importantly, it was inspired and awfully promising, with an intense fan-following. It's interesting to mention that a small number of the bands, like Charlotte Russe and the Silos had a penchant for pop. Sadly, only the Silos were able to release at least one song, which appeared on the above-mentioned Subterranean Romance compilation. One of Charlotte Russe's live gigs meanwhile, was heard over the radio courtesy of the short-lived station, DWXB 102.7 FM. Known for its "dare to be different" tagline, XB 102 catered to non-mainstream listeners and integrated these bands onto their playlists along with the likes of The Pale Fountains, Aztec Camera, The Lotus Eaters, Care and Orange Juice. Even so, the radio station was shut down in 1987 and majority of the local groups faded into obscurity, while some have continued making music, although taking a different musical path.
When the 1990's began, a few like-minded souls started musical projects in the shoegaze and dream pop spectra. Some were testing the waters of Teenage Fanclub-inspired pop fuzz. Others were starting to cover Wedding Present songs. Several of these bands gave birth to a lot of other outfits, sharing members most of the time. Examples: Dreamy pop quartet Fingernail Cocktail splintered into two: Archaster and Mono Workshop, which eventually became Colour Contest. Aspirin and Candyaudioline's main songwriter, Allan Montero formed Soft Pillow Kisses. Carnival Park came to existence when Ryan Marquez of Sodajerk and his old buddies from Ear Candy and Supergloo fell in love with the Acid House Kings, Moving Pictures and twee. There were also a rather infamous number of bands who had a very brief existence, a handful of which were one-gig wonders (Ciao!, Eliminator Jr., Her Handwriting, Cake Shop Collection, Sarah Sitting). Releases during this time were very rare; the only chance you'll get to hear their music was at gigs and events like Awakenings, No Zone and Buzz Nights. However, some shoddy live recordings of bands like the ultra-fun Wadaiko and its equally engaging offspring, Sarah Sitting have been floating about the world-wide-web for quite some time. Notwithstanding the hissy recording quality, you could imagine how fun the gigs were. And they were lots of fun indeed. Fanzines like Scenester and Nine attested to this, as both documented detailed accounts and views of what was then, the booming and distinctive '90's Manila indie scene.
Rain of crystal spires...
The years from 1998 to 2003 were vital points in time. The bands were playing almost regularly at various venues around the metropolitan area; the scene was flourishing. The shows were very intimate. Everyone knew each other. It was like a small music convention because it wasn't just about the bands playing at a particular night. For one, it became a venue for mix-tapes and cd swapping. In addition, continuing on with what Scenester and Nine did earlier in the 1990's, new zines and newsletters like Taste Like Tea, Sometimes and the Buzz Night newsletter were spread around. One memorable instance that occurred during one of the Buzz Night shows was a mix-tape exchange between the bands playing and the people in the audience. Everyone became friends.Throughout this period, a good number of the bands and their non-indiepop associates had releases albeit with a limited number of copies: Carnival Park, Soft Pillow Kisses, Blue Stereo, Sodajerk, She Came To Stay, downboydown, Melody Wrench, Archaster, Kid Auto Races At Venice, among others. The Mutual Admiration Society compilation was issued in 2000 under Definition Records and was distributed in the US and Europe. Upon its release, people started taking notice, locally and abroad. American indiepop label Shelflife Records signed up Carnival Park and Spring Boutique (which also issued an album through Japan's Quince Records) for their cd-r series. Italian imprint Best Kept Secret had Apple Orchard, Sodajerk and Under Shooting Stars on their roster. The Fantasy Lights contributed a song on the Hit Music Only compilation from Swedish indie Heavenly Pop Hits. Local major Universal signed up Soft Pillow Kisses to throw in a song to an indiepop compilation album entitled I'd Spend My Day With You that also featured Trembling Blue Stars, Club 8, The Fairways, Birdie and more. Valenzuela (a little town north of Manila) imprint Dorothy Records - owned by Carnival Park member and Taste Like Tea editor, Mike Dy - had a couple of really tasteful cd and cassette releases and was getting US and Canadian distribution. Another local indie, Factory Girl issued the Working Titles comp with songs from Sodajerk and Carnival Park. Someone from the indiepop-list even said that the Philippines was the next Sweden.
Love's going out of fashion...
However, it slowed down after that. A few of the bands called it quits (like Carnival Park and Balloon Derby), others didn't play that much anymore because of various reasons (Days Like Postcards and Archaster). Nevertheless, in the past couple of years, there has been somewhat of a resurgence. New bands began popping up from everywhere, like Farewell Isobel, Slumbook, Dewdrop Fountain, Sunday Picnic Love Affair, Grace Period, Outerhope, Lazy Lorelei, The Wentletraps, Golden Teardrops and Melody Style Apartment. The Fantasy Lights recently released a 3" single under Cloudberry. Balloon Derby and Carnival Park reformed two years ago and are planning to go into recording soon. There's also news that Dorothy Records will return to the scene, probably with a different name and will produce albums by Carnival Park, Balloon Derby and Lazy Lorelei. It seems like in the next year or so, the Philippines' indiepop scene will be abuzz once again.
Not The End
Here's a list of bands, labels and releases of from the Philippines compiled by Melanie in Manila.
- "Her Kindercrush" CD-R (Shelflife Records CD-R Series #4, 2002)
- "Candy Coated Kisses" (Autocollants cover) Track on "You're Still Young At Heart" (Shelflife Records Compilation LIFE 050, 2003)
- "Poignant" Track on "Guitar Skecth" (Quince Records Compilation QRCP-20, 2004)
- "That Happy Glow" CD EP Split w/ Sodajerk (Dorothy Records [Philippines] 2001)
- "Portland, Oregon" (Cat's Miaow cover) Track on "Dashboard Teddy V1" (Dorothy Records Compilation, 2003)
- "Moonlight Darling" Track on "Working Titles" (Factory Girl Records Compilation, 2003)
- "You Fancy" Track on "We Are Not Alone" Cassette (Best kept Secret Compilation, 2001)
- "It's A Sweet Thing!" CD-R (Shelflife Records CD-R Series #9, 2003)
- "Sunny Day Pop Tuesday" CD (Quince Records [Japan] QRCP13, 2003)
- "A Hiding Smile" 7" single (Humblebee Recordings HBR004, 2006)
- "Across Haymarket and the Triangle" Cassette (Best Kept Secret [Italy] LIE 101, 2006)
- "Paris Was A Daydream" Cassette (Best Kept Secret [Italy] LIE 076, 2003)
- "Last Wednesday" Cassette (Popgun Recordings 049, 2003)
- "Summer's Near" - Track on "Stamp Collecting For Beginners" CD (Secret Crush Records SCRT01, 2003)
UNDER SHOOTING STARS
- "Making Pillows Out Of Sweaters" Cassette (Best Kept Secret LIE 081, 2003)
- "Clouds Upon Clouds" Track on "Hey, Where'd The Summer Go?" CD (Humblebee recordings Compilation HBR003, 2004)
- "Pop On" Cassette (Best Kept Secret LIE 078, 2003)
- "That Happy Glow" CD EP Split w/ Carnival Park (Dorothy Records [Philippines] 2001)
- "Critical Mass" - Track on "Fandawagonesque: A Teenage Fanclub Tribute" CD-R (Lousy Music/Patio Sounds UK limited, 2004)
- "Training Wheels" - Track on "Working Titles" CD (Factory Girl Compilation, 2003)
- "The Things You Say" Track on "Dashboard Teddy v.1" CD-R (Dorothy Records Compilation, 2003)
- "Training Wheels" Track on "We Are Not Alone v.1: Songs For The Lo-fi Generation VOL. 6 Cassette (Best Kept Secret Compilation, 2002)
THE FANTASY LIGHTS
- "Blueprint" Track on "Hit Music Only" CD (Heavenly Pop Hits Compilation CD POPH01, 2002)
- "Mutual Admiration Society" CD Compilation (DEFCD001, 2001)
- "Dashboard Teddy V.1" CD-R Compilation (2003)
- "That Happy Glow" Sodajerk/Carnival Park Split CD-EP (2003)
- "Working Titles" CD Compilation (2002)
Browse Indiepop Directory entries for Philippines
BandsApple OrchardCarnival ParkDashboard TeddyDays Like PostcardsJoaquin EsquivelFantasy LightsThe LubitelsMoscow OlympicsSodajerkSoft Pillow KissesSpring BoutiqueUnder Shooting Stars