Meet Ben&Ben: the outsiders of local folk-pop

The songs of Ben&Ben are calming, nostalgic, and hit home every time. What’s so funny about this easy listening folk act is that there’s nothing easy about what they’re doing. This band is putting in work to breathe new life into Manila’s acoustic sound. From getting their start on Soundcloud to winning awards at last year’s Philpop to releasing their EP five months after, they’ve been rising up so fast you have to wonder what drives them.

For the two brothers Miguel and Paolo Guico, music wasn’t a written in the stars situation. “Actually, we were engineering students. Medyo malayo siya sa music,” Miguel reveals. It was the drive to make music together that got them to form The Benjamins back in 2014. Miguel was on guitar while Paolo played the keys. They wrote their first single Dahilan, recorded it, and posted it on Soundcloud around that time. “We didn’t intend to make it into something na: ‘ah itutuloy-tuloy natin ito,’” Miguel elaborates, regarding their early beginnings. “We just wanted to release our work out there.”

Their sibling relationship is the face of the band. But how does their relationship as brothers affect the music they make? “We fight a lot,” Paolo answered frankly. “I think the fact that we’re siblings makes it comfortable for us to fight over ideas that get better and stronger upon defining them through these arguments.”

Come together: Ben&Ben consists of Poch Barretto on electric guitar, Jam Villanueva on drums, Agnes Reoma on bass, Patricia Lasaten on keyboards, Toni Muñoz and Andrew de Pano on percussions, and Keifer Cabugao on violin. | Photo courtesy of Ben&Ben

 

But now Ben&Ben is beyond family matters. After their EP launch, the brothers decided to have a full band join them. Their current lineup consists of Poch Barretto on electric guitar, Jam Villanueva on drums, Agnes Reoma on bass, Patricia Lasaten on keyboards, Toni Muñoz and Andrew de Pano on percussions, and Keifer Cabugao on violin. Talented musicians who came from different local acts like Runway Hits, Asch x Value Meal, Dissonänce, and many more. One would think that they’d be divided because of their different genre backgrounds. But that’s exactly what glued them together.

“You can hear it in each member, yung character ng instrumentation nila, all of the influences that we have,” Paolo explained when asked how these differences affected their sound. “When we put the song together, it has its own flavor,” their bassist Agnes agrees. “Hindi kami nag-aagawan sa parts as in walang pagalingan o hindi ako mag-aagaw atensyon para mag-shine yung ganitong instrument,” she says. “It’s all in the fact na parang isang boses lang yung kumakanta.

“I guess what sets us apart in the contemporary is the fact na our sound is, as you describe, acoustic-folk. But in reality, none of us actually listens to indie-folk, at least the contemporary version of it,” Paolo says. “It just so happens that yun yung pinaka-natural na lumalabas. But since none of us listens intensely to that type of sound, it comes off as we don’t fall into the necessary cliches of the genre. We’re coming from an outsider’s perspective.”

 

“When you listen to our songs; you can feel happy, sad, and all types of emotions all at the same time.”

 

The fact that they’re outsiders of folk was what made them game changers of the local genre. Philpop clearly saw that. It justified their top position in Spotify Philippine’s Viral 50. And it’s no mystery that they already had a growing fanbase even before their EP launch.

All in all with a full band to back them up and their sound getting the recognition it deserves, Ben&Ben is focused on establishing not just their name, but refining their sound. “We want to be known for being able to move people in a certain way that only we can do,” Paolo answers. “When you listen to our songs, you can feel happy, sad, and all types of emotions all at the same time.”

With this in mind, what would be the next stop in Ben&Ben’s journey to that right direction? “Japaaaan!” Pat sang out loud, breaking the silence after the question was asked. “Yun yung goal talaga namin,” she continued. Taking Asia by storm isn’t a far-off goal for them.. With the drive and heart that they have for what they do, you can’t help but fall in love with these outsiders of folk.

Check out Ben&Ben’s music on Spotify.

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