Your eyes can deceive you. You might be seeing five dads decked out in polos wielding instruments on a stage, when your ears tell you that you’re hearing a group of reckless teenagers living out their dreams of being in a band. Your gut tells you they’re having the time of your lives, and everyone in the crowd feels it. That’s what it was like attending Basement Lung’s launch for their debut album “Candelaria” at Saguijo, playing songs they wrote in the ‘80s like it was yesterday.
Before the Eraserheads even existed, a group of high schoolers named Raymund Marasigan, Don Marasigan, Choy Guerra, Menel Emralino, and Macky Sevilla spent idle summer afternoons in a living room jamming with borrowed instruments and a mic plugged into a karaoke machine. (Betamax, anyone?) Eventually, life happened, and some of them left the sleepy town of Candelaria, Quezon to go to college, find jobs and raise families. One of them even went on to become one of the most respected and prolific local musicians today. But just like your first heartbreak, you never forget your first band.
They would later reunite to play shows when they returned home for holidays, and it was only a matter of time before Raymund suggested that they record the songs for posterity. The tracks were meant to be handed around just to their childhood friends and neighbors when their guitarist, Choy, emailed one of the demos to Jam88.3. When DJ Russ Davis heard Tanong, an anthem sung with a whisper, swathed in feedback and lo-fi warmth, he was baffled; he couldn’t find anything about Basement Lung online, as though these kids came straight out of the ‘90s (with a non-sequitur band name to match) and were too cool for the Internet. It turns out they were all just hanging out in Raymund’s basement. Lang.
Word spread, and they started getting booked for gigs all over Manila.
“I think we played more this year than we did our whole career,” said Raymund with a laugh while the band sat on the flight of stairs at the basement exit. They even got college kids moshing. Music may have gone through a lot of changes since the band began 25 years ago, from the reinvention of recording technology to the upheaval of the music industry, but if anything has stayed true all along, it’s this: a good song is a good song.
Choy, Don, Menel and Macky may be releasing their debut album in their 40s and joking about aching backs, but they still exude the same sense of wonder and sheer thrill of playing music with your best friends without worrying about fame or fortune, or even day jobs. That’s the kind of spirit that makes good old rock ‘n’ roll.
(Album highlights: Yakap, High Hello, Tanong, Perfect Alibi)