When it comes to Sandwich, no introductions are needed. After all, their ongoing 17-year career and award-winning discography have cemented their place in the pantheon of Pinoy rock. Vocalist Raimund Marasigan, bassist Myrene Academia, drummer Mike Dizon, and guitarists Diego Castillo and Mong Alcaraz and have seen trends come and go, careers rise and fall, and the radical change of the music industry with technology and the Internet, but their latest release, “Debris,” is proof that they’re here to stay. It’s a riot of an album, with moshpit starters like Kagulo, anthems like Balintawak, and my personal favorite, the mighty fuzz freakout of Sunriser. Ultimately, it’s the sound of Sandwich, with more confidence and youthfulness than ever, ready to rock. It looks like Raimund’s not going to let anyone else beat his national record for crowd surfing any time soon.
Diego endearingly refers to themselves as the elderly statesmen of the Philippine music scene, a title befitting the prestige and respect they’ve earned. They may have gigged all over the Philippines and overseas, headlining major concerts, but they’ve always made the time to keep their eyes and ears on the vibrant local music scene.
“We go out of our way to watch new bands,” says Raimund, “We try not to be jaded na parang, wala. Magaling lang nung ‘90s, eh.”
“Shoot us now pag sinabi namin yun!” jokes Myrene. Compared to the ‘90s, Raymund points out, there are more venues now and ways for bands to get heard. Naturally, the soundscape of music has changed since then, but all of them are amazed by the variety of new musicians emerging every year.
Raymund continues, “When the (E-)Heads were coming out, everybody sounded like everybody. Everybody sounded grunge. Now, nobody sounds the same.” He himself has taken a part in diversifying local music by lending a hand to emerging bands of all kinds of genres, whether as a producer, collaborator, or fellow musician sharing advice over beer in a dimly-lit gig bar.
“The kids that come out, nai-inspire ako tumugtog. I still want to be part of the scene kasi gusto kong makita lahat,” says Diego, who was a DJ at the late NU107 along with Myrene. Many of the musicians that Sandwich listen to now were kids that listened to Sandwich. Take Cheats, Tarsius, Ourselves the Elves, or Flying Ipis, who the band invited to play at their album launch. Those artists are, in Mong’s words, “bands we believe in.”
One of their bigger goals as mentors, however, is to promote underground bands by taking them to shows outside Manila as opening acts, much like Thurston Moore did for Nirvana. They want to help introduce bands they like to larger audiences, and to open the eyes of audiences to all the styles and genres that lie underground. Diego says, “You’re telling these kids that it doesn’t matter what you sound like, tugtog lang kayo.”
“We all had day jobs in the beginning,” notes Myrene, but that didn’t stop them from playing shows and growing as a band. All of them still have work outside of Sandwich, since they have kids and responsibilities to attend to. However, they call the opportunity to play a gift, because there’s nothing like being playing music with your family to people who are willing to listen.
“At some point, it’s going to be very difficult. The older you get, the more — ito na, real world things na — basta, you don’t lose that drive to continue on making music. The trick is to make it because you love it, you’re a creative person, and you want to express yourselves,” Diego states as clear as day. Perhaps that’s the secret to Sandwich’s enduring legacy. It’s all about the music. Their enthusiasm, the thrill of playing in a packed bar full of people jumping and dancing on beer-stained floors, and their unstoppable urge to create music are part of what has driven them for two decades, inspiring a new generation of youth to rock out and make their own music. Even at this point in their career, they still know that it’s not about the fame or the money, but something more. “You must be prepared for the craft you want to do with nothing in exchange. Zero. Happiness mo lang,” Diego continues, ”and I’ll be there, cheering ‘Galing!’”
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Sandwich’s latest album “Debris” is out in record stores now.