POSTS UNDER

Future Perfect

“It’s not a matter of singing more loudly or yelling or trying to show off your vocals. It’s more so just singing more passionately.”

by Maine Manalansan

For the 35th Philippine National Book Awards, there was a lone contender under a new category, “Best Book of Graphic Literature (Wordless).” Rob Cham’s Light, published by Anino Comics, an imprint of Adarna House, Inc., is a quiet but ambitious work, rich with world-building and adventure, without utilizing any verbal narrative push. The protagonist is a simple humanoid creature, the perfect entity to let loose in each of his sprawling made-up worlds.

Having started on Light originally as a set commissioned by Neonmob, an online collectible trading card site, Rob conceptualized it as something based on a narrative, “where you piece together the story as you collect more and more cards.”

“I worked for about two months just planning because I had to figure out the composition of each page, if the story I was telling was clear, if there were unnecessary pages, what character designs worked,” he shares. “It was eight months after starting that I had finished all 100 pages, give or take what time I devoted to freelance work and video games.”

Rob, who has been working professionally as an illustrator and graphic designer for seven years after completing a bachelor’s degree in management — “I had it in my head I was going to be an accountant” — has also been independently publishing his comics for about six years. “The first professional illustration gig I ever did was for Young STAR, actually,” he says. “That’s my timestamp.” It’s his personal work, published on Tumblr, that has gained a lot of attention, though, for its humor and its slice-of-life micro-dramas and punchlines, echoing the work of artists like Adrian Tomine, who Rob names as someone he idolized at the time.

Second helpings: Rob Cham’s Lost is a follow-up story to his award-winning first comic, Light.

In many ways, Light is a departure from his early comic work. “I wanted to do something new,” he says. “I kind of grew weary with what comics I was doing, and I wanted to challenge myself.” Gone are the domestic scenes with friends and exes. With Light, what we have is a good, old-fashioned adventure story.

Light became one of the more popular sets on Neonmob, and Rob showed it to his friends. “I told them that this was the most work I’ve ever put into a comic, and no one would ever get to see it in print.”

Thinking that the hundred pages of full-color comic would never get printed, given the high cost, Light sat with Rob for a while, until some time before 2014, when Adarna House revived its comics imprint, Anino Comics. Carljoe Javier, a friend of Rob’s, was named editor-in-chief and was looking for pitches.

Although Rob had a different comic pitch in mind, he sent Light along as proof that he could finish a graphic novel. Writer Adam David suggested that Anino Comics run Light instead. Having acquired the permission from Neonmob, Rob published Light with Anino Comics in April 2015.

“I didn’t really expect to win any awards for Light,” Rob says. “I kind of just stumbled upon having it out in the world, and I am kind of still taken aback at how many people buy my books and like them.”

Asked about his plans this year, Rob’s plate seems full. Working on a third book in the Light series, which he hopes he can have done by November next year, he’s also in the throes of another original graphic novel — a secret project — and trying to put together zines for small press expos, as well as a potential collaboration with fellow comic artist Apol Sta. Maria. Maybe an exhibit is in the works for next year. “I’m also trying to lose weight,” he says, as we’re deep into the Christmas season. “I gained 20 pounds this year, and I don’t want to buy new clothes.”

 

 

by Carina Santos

This 16-year-old student-athlete is turning his love for tennis into a legit advocacy.

by Marga Buenaventura

Disney’s ‘Dream Big, Princess’ campaign introduces us to figure skating royalty.

by Marga Buenaventura

When we say that the local music scene is thriving, we rarely think of the veterans. The seasoned legends who paved the way for creativity to flourish today are the reason that local music has a history, a tradition and a solid network of roots to keep it firmly planted in what’s real. But when the local music scene thrives, it evolves. The game constantly changes, and the musicians that emerge from their bedrooms and step on the stage are the ones mapping out the uncharted territories of our sonic landscape, pushing the envelope of sound further and further until boundaries become blurred and divisions disappear. It’s the acolytes, the newcomers, the dreamers that make local music what it is today.

We at Young STAR had the privilege of acquainting ourselves with two of the local underground’s gamechangers. Curtismith (Mito Fabie) and Kidthrones (Eric Trono), two stalwarts of creative collective Logiclub, have been making their monikers known, tirelessly gigging in live hotspots all over the city. Here, we discuss their origins, the state of the scene, and what it means to chase one’s dreams.

Kidthrones

The name Kidthrones may be new to some, but Eric Trono himself is no stranger to the scene. Forming one third of electronic trio Danceplaycreate (the name a philosophy in itself), Eric formed Kidthrones — a combination of a riff on his last name and his feeling at the time about being new to the scene — as a means of exercising creative freedom.

Genre classifications don’t come easy in the world of music, and while some might characterize the stylings of Kidthrones as an eclectic mix of hip-hop beats and ambient electronic textures, Eric admits that when it comes to the creative process, pinning things down can be tricky. “It’s hard to categorize things eh. Sometimes it just happens when you make music. It turns out the way it is and sometimes it even surprises you after.”

Performing as Kidthrones, Eric often has to deal with the implications of a divided scene — one where you have to balance the expectations of your audience with creative integrity. “Most of the time, I feel like I can’t play my originals at gigs, because, you know, it’s a party, people wanna turn up. It’s a different thing as compared to a curated event where you have freedom to play your own stuff,” he says. “So I’ve compartmentalized these things. I do this type of thing in a better venue for this type of sound, as when I’m out partying and people wanna hear a certain sound, so I kinda provide that sound, with my own twist.”

In order to nourish that scene, divisions often need to be bridged. For Kidthrones, the key is opening people up to different types of sound. But with the ubiquity of programs like Ableton and the tendency for people to piggyback on musical trends, there’s a risk of copycats entering the fray. When that happens, Eric trusts the culture to be discerning.

“Some people get into this without the heart and soul, the purpose, the right attitude,” he says. “But you can tell from the music. When you hear it, you’re gonna find out, like, whether the person is legit or not. Ganun lang naman when you’re making music. It’s still an art.”

Despite the challenges facing this particular niche of the local music scene, Eric keeps things real. He and the rest of Logiclub, dead-set on bringing new vibrations to the public, aim to bring people together through created, curated events — gigs in which original songs are king and innovation is the law of the kingdom. Kidthrones, though his name resonates with images of royalty, doesn’t look for praise, but for a way to reach out through music. He explains by way of metaphor.

“I had a realization while I was at the beach. The analogy is, whether I wanted to be a flower, or a branch. ‘Cause the flower is like, you know what that entails. With the branch, you connect people, you help people grow. You know? And for the longest time, I’ve always wanted to be a flower, I guess. But there’s also beauty in being a branch, a connector, someone who helps out people.”

Curtismith

When their “IDEAL” mixtape came out, Curtismith’s name began to spread like wildfire. Laid over the tape’s eclectic stream of beats were an undeniable sense of flow and lyrics that seemed to pendulum-swing back and forth between doubt and hope yet grounded in an implacable optimism. It’s a fascinating thing, listening to music that talks about pursuing dreams, at the same time knowing that the music itself is dream made reality. And Mito Fabie, the man behind the moniker, is an expert dreamer.

You could say that the birth of Curtismith itself was the result of a daydream. Mito’s beliefs are generally rooted in a healthy distrust for the status quo, the mainstream aspects of our culture, the kinds of things that the masses — as loaded as the term “masses” is today — are taken in by.

“Lo and behold,” he says, “when I was thinking of this, I see a billboard of Anne (Curtis). I remember reading that she was a platinum award-winning artist, and you know, we know so many artists who’re so deserving of that title, and at that point in time, my belief was that her music did not get her that title, but rather it was who she was.” The Curtismith name was a tongue-in-cheek play on that understanding, using a popular name in the interest of not letting people know who you are.

Another thing that separates Mito from such figures of mainstream culture is that he isn’t concerned about sales. “IDEAL” was put out and circulated for free, with no expectation of profit, and the EP, which the Logiclub rapper is currently putting together, will be the same. “I’m trying to convey that I’m not trying to make the money from the music. Because if that ever happens, then it’ll no longer be for the music but rather for the money.”

That isn’t to say that Curtismith completely disregards money. He recounts instances of being unfairly compensated for live performances, and how much it sucks that other musicians in the scene are often pressured to play for the sake of exposure.

“We’re not given the creative freedom that we deserve. And we’re not compensated for the amount of work that we put in, in terms of just performances for example,” he says, on the greater problem of how society tends to treat creatives. “And I mean, I understand that you have to hustle, you have to grind, but at the same time, I feel like the people who hire us don’t respect the amount of work that we put into this, or the amount of effort.”

But things have been looking up for Curtismith. Gigs keep rolling in for this fire-spitting phenom. And each rap, each rhyme, each verse, is driven by a desire to change the status quo. “Hopefully things change, that’s why I’m doing what I’m doing, that’s why we’re doing what we’re doing. Because we’re trying to change it,” he says. “I think if our generation doesn’t do it, then, f**k, who will?”

by Jam Pascual

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

by Christopher de Venecia

From documenting the lives of party kids to churning one hugot line after the next, Ex with Benefits writer Jeff Stelton might just be telling the story of our lives.

by Gaby Gloria

It was a Friday night in London’s Southbank. While everyone else was getting wasted at their favorite pub (ahem, Prince Harry), I was watching the Friday gala of Here Lies Love, the award-winning David Byrne and Fatboy Slim musical that had just finished its Broadway run. I saw a few familiar faces: soprano Gia Macuja-Atchison (you might know her ballerina sister Lisa Macuja-Elizalde), who plays Imelda’s long-suffering nanny, was one. Miles away from his Sunday afternoon variety show gig was Mark Bautista, who was walking around the moveable stage in swimming shorts as Ferdinand Marcos.

But it was Christine Allado that caught my eye. When I saw her dancing as one of Imelda’s Blue Ladies and transforming into one of the EDSA Revolution protesters in the end, I couldn’t believe what I was seeing.

This shock had very little to do with her skills; she had heaps of it, even way back in high school. Christine and I were part of a teenage singing quartet that performed Destiny’s Child covers. Even then she had already distinguished herself from the wannabe Kellys and Michelles that the rest of us were. She had a voice that was (and still is) captivating, one that could hit high and low notes with ease.

It was the sheer timing of it that surprised me, the revelation that Christine had made it so far and so quickly. Besides being part of the ensemble, Christine happens to be Imelda’s understudy — a role she takes on with a texture of seriousness and honesty. It made me eager to know more about her journey. After all, you hear about so many Filipinos “making it” abroad but it’s never felt so close to home for me.

As she gave us a backstage tour of her latest stomping ground — the National Theatre, of course — I learned that she wasn’t simply plucked from obscurity and shoved in the spotlight. At 18, Christine left the comforts of home to hone her talents elsewhere.

I said this to the bartender at the theater, that I was friends with of the girls on the show. He was wiping a wine glass dry as I perused some CDs on the counter. “So she’s there,” he said of my friend backstage, as though he couldn’t believe it. “and you’re…here.”

I ignored whatever shadiness he meant by that, as I was too proud of my friend to mind. I then reached out to Christine on Facebook to ask her if we could meet a few days later, hoping that she wouldn’t think of me as a creepy stalker. Which, I swear, I was not.

Seeing Christine again was delightfully strange. My last vivid memory of her was of us laughing about a ham-related joke as we prepared for a singing contest in Baguio, but this time we were meeting in one of the cultural capitals of the world. As we chatted in her dressing room, I realized that she’s barely a year older than me, but she speaks as though she’s much more mature than her 24 years. She says her mom feels the same way, and that it might be due to her years spent away from Manila.

As she gave us a backstage tour of her latest stomping ground — the National Theatre, of course — I learned that she wasn’t simply plucked from obscurity and shoved in the spotlight. At 18, Christine left the comforts of home to hone her talents elsewhere. After spending two and a half years as a part of Hong Kong Disneyland’s talent pool, she enrolled in the Royal Academy of Music in the United Kingdom to study music and drama.

We got to talk more about her life in London, especially why it was necessary to dream beyond the Philippines. She admits that she’s been putting her British work visa to good use; jobs just keep coming in, even when she’s stopped expecting them. Besides theatre, Christine is also part of an all-female classical group called Zyrah. As of writing, their latest single The Children—inspired by The Game of Thrones—is number one on the iTunes classical chart.

Call it talent, a stroke of luck, or sheer determination. Whatever it is, you can believe they happen to a girl like Christine Allado, and rightfully so.

YOUNG STAR: Hey Christine, what made you to move to London? From Hong Kong you ended up here.
CHRISTINE ALLADO: One time I went to Singapore on holiday to watch The Lion King. I was sitting in the audience, and I said, “I really wanna do that. And I think I can.”

Then the next day, I researched schools, and then I made a PowerPoint presentation just to compare schools and prices. After that I booked a ticket to London in order to audition for seven schools. I got accepted into three or four of those schools. I eventually I decided on the Royal Academy of Music. It’s funny ‘cause I suddenly wanted it so much. You know when you really want something? I was researching like crazy. I was dead set on it.

But you didn’t study music or drama when you were in the Philippines, right?
I didn’t take it up as a course, because I didn’t think it was a career. I always thought it was just a hobby. In the Philippines I feel like you can’t really earn enough (in theater) to make ends meet… I mean, you need a lot of projects or you need to be famous. But here it can be a means to live. I think that’s why I kind of had to leave. You have to go somewhere that supports it.

Was it hard to be away from home and to be independent?
Oh, yeah. (Laughs) I left for Hong Kong at 18 — I didn’t know how to cook or clean or anything. And suddenly, I’m by myself. I also remember the first time I went to Hong Kong and did the show in Disney, the girls in the dressing room were like, “Oh my God, your makeup is really bad.” (Laughs) They said it in a funny way, and they taught me. I’m still not good at it, but with YouTube videos, you kind of learn how to do it.

But it’s really hard sometimes. I remember there was a time my dad was suddenly really sick and I was in the middle of doing a show. I was about to go onstage when I got a call from my mom about it. I literally burst into tears, but I had to sing these songs that were not sad. (Laughs) But in everyday life, it’s nice to be independent. It’s really nice to not to have to think about going home early to please your mom.

It’s good your parents were so supportive of that. I feel like back home there are a lot of parents who are like, “Don’t go, stay here.”
Yeah, yeah. (I’m) very lucky, I think. Actually, my sister wants to study in Australia and my mom’s like, “No, stay here with me!” (Laughs) But I think ‘cause she saw that there was a bigger opportunity for me to do what I was good at, not in the Philippines, she didn’t want to hinder me from (pursuing) that.

Let’s talk about your role as the Imelda in Here Lies Love. Did it make you more sympathetic to Imelda as a person?
What I know about her is only know based on what they taught us in history class. I actually felt like people admired them too much. Especially in the beginning, they were blinded by how flashy they were. But definitely she is portrayed in a sympathetic way in the musical. Personally, I don’t sympathize. The way I play Imelda, I think, I try to look at her in a harder way. I think Natalie (Mendoza) plays her in a very human way. In a very feminine way. I still wanted to keep her hardness, the evil that was there through the stony facade.

That’s pretty interesting. Are you doing theater full-time?
Actually, I’m with Universal Music too. I have a girl group called Zyrah. Parang we do epic music, kind of like Hans Zimmer with vocals. It’s very different from theater, which is scary but fun. But cool. It’s a different world, but it’s something exciting as well.

by Marga Buenaventura