10/23/2015

Boys to men

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There’s something boyish yet charming about this band about town. Among skyscrapers and ongoing construction, Jensen and the Flips stand on the rooftop of Lyric in New Manila, where lead singer and guitarist Jensen Gomez daylights as part of the company’s musician think tank. For this late afternoon shoot in New Manila, they are three members shy of their typical swag-alicious Von Trapp seven.

Besides being boyish, “unassuming” would be the band’s other operative word. Google their music videos (one of which is a scintillating lyric video for Is This Love? that hearkens back to the sound of The Weekend and gets the point across without even trying) and what you get is — as a fan writes in her music blog — “the sonic equivalent to the human sexual response cycle.” If to see is to believe, then to hear is to relieve. Theirs is music for making love, or when you’re recovering from it. “The song is about addiction,” says Jensen. “Doing things na alam mong masama sa ‘yo pero masarap.” Talk about candor. But there is a sense of ease with which he and his bandmates slip it in.

If in the words of their predecessor, soul artist Bing Austria of Juan Pablo Dream and Flippin’ Soul Stompers, the role of soul in Manila’s cultural conversation is to promulgate sex (not necessarily the act but the very spirit that electrifies it) and cultivate a good time, then expect to get that and plenty of it. Sing it with me (to the tune of Bennie and the Jets): “Jejeje… Jensen and the Flips.”

Jensen and his friends banded together at the De La Salle-College of Saint Benilde when they were all still in music production with the exception of Carlo Maraingan (percussion) who was taking up industrial design. The lead singer, alongside his then-professor Michael Gemina (drums/vocals), who apparently failed at the former because he didn’t show up regularly to class, Choi Padilla (bass/vocals), Mel Roño (guitar) and (not seen in photo) Carlo, Sam Valenia (guitar/vocals) and Miggy Concepcion (keyboards) would end up becoming Jensen and Flips many years later.

YOUNG STAR: What was the inspiration behind the name? It sounds a little like Bennie and the Jets.
MICHAEL GEMINA: I studied music in Berkelee (College of Music in Boston). When I was there, they had different names for different races. They called Filipinos “Flips.” That was the first time I ever heard that. What was a flip? They explained to me that it was “f*cking little island people” which was then dialed down to “freaky little island people” to be more respectful, sort of. For me, it was derogatory but we asked other people about it and they thought it was catchy.

Where do you get inspiration for writing the songs?
JENSEN GOMEZ: Life. Well, since concept band yung Flips, may mission statement kami. Sexy music. Pa-cute. Pa-pogi. Pa-yummy. Haha! Yung songs sa album namin, either sensual or sawi.

How would you guys describe your sound?

MICHAEL: Pop. And everything else that falls under it. Like with the track that we did with Rez (Toledo) of Logiclub, it was a slow, almost electronic kind of sound. Then we have a track called Crazy that is overproduced with crazy instrumentation. We have strings, horns. Basta everything that falls under the pop genre. It’s “Poul.” Pop/Soul. Haha!

Who are your influences?
JENSEN: Iba-iba eh. Yung percussionist naman si Carlo, metal talaga. Si Michael, pop talaga ever since. Si Mel naman…
MEL RONO: Well, I’m old. Haha. So I’m old school. I like to listen to guitar heroes. Not the game ha. Haha! Mga Santana. I like melodic lines.
JENSEN: Singer-songwriter talaga. John Mayer. Justin Timberlake. John Legend. Old school din. I grew up listening to Earth, Wind and Fire. Mga Al Green.
CHOI PADILLA: Earth, Wind and Fire. David Foster. Martin and Gary V. We like yung mga bonggang arrangements. Like if you watch the halftime shows of Justin Timberlake.

Before you, there was Bing Austria, Conscious and the Goodness. How would you distinguish the new sound of soul?
JENSEN: Mas pop kami. With sina Mike (Constantino), usually mga Maxwell. With Bing naman, old school brass section. We did that for a couple of shows pero mas Justin Timberlake, 20/20, FutureSex/LoveSounds yung sound namin. We’re still trying to develop it.
MICHAEL: A lot of the bands these days stick to the record. What you hear is what you get. With us, it’s different. Like for the song Crazy, when you listen to it on the album, it’s not the same when you listen to us play it live. The live experience has to be totally different. Or else, bakit ka pa nanuod?

Describe the perfect seduction.
MICHAEL: Food. I’m not joking. Food and coffee. That’s the best way.
CHOI: More on the touchy-feel. More contact. The eyes.
MEL: Probably the trying to get you but not really getting you.
JENSEN: Wit.
CHOI: And wet.


For their regular gig sched, visit http://www.facebook.com/jensenandtheflipsph

Photography by Karen dela Fuente
Produced by Toff de Venecia and Tin Sartorio
Shot on location at Lyric, 80 Horseshoe Drive corner N. Doming Street, New Manila

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