Up Dharma Down tests its ‘Capacities’
It took the band Up Dharma Down four years to release its new album, “Capacities.” But it gained immeasurable affirmation when its loyal fans cheered wildly while hearing the new songs played live at One Esplanade recently.
“It gets me … every time,” said vocalist/keyboardist Armi Millare, profusely thanking the more than 2,500 people who showed up at the album launch.
Event organizers had to cut the line at the ticket stall because the venue could no longer accommodate more people.
“A lot of people think that in the last four years, nothing happened … that we were sleeping in comfy, fluffy white sheets. But in reality we were doing gigs relentlessly in and out of town, and we were writing and recording songs as early as 2010,” Millare told the Inquirer.
Last year, two songs, “Indak” and “Tadhana,” were released as a preview of “Capacities.”
Millare said that the new album is the group’s tribute to the kind of music they have listened to during the band’s formative years. “We wanted to test our ‘capacities’ as songwriters, not as instrumentalists. It’s not just how guitars and drumming come together—anyone could do that. Our strength as a band is how we create songs of our own.”
Bassist Paul Yap said that producing “Capacities” was relatively easier than the first two albums. “We now know each other’s strengths and weaknesses.”
He explained that the band survived the probing stage on its first album, “Fragmented” (2006), and got past the so-called sophomore slump on the follow-up, “Bipolar” (2008).
“On ‘Capacities,’ we know what songs we won’t get tired listening to,” he added.
Out of 16 tracks recorded, only nine made it to the album: “Turn It Well,” “Luna,” “Parks,” “Indak,” “Feelings,” “Thinker,” “Kulang,” “Tadhana” and “Night Drops.”
A bonus track, a duet version of “Feelings,” features Paul Buchanan of the Scottish band The Blue Nile.
“This is special to us,” said Millare. “We are not done celebrating. It’s a marker that we have achieved something that we always wanted to get.”
In between their day jobs, all the members are committed to the band.
Millare and Yap write most of the songs while drummer Ean Mayor and guitarist Carlos Tañada handle the technical side of the recording process.
“Sometimes, we’d be surprised at how much the song has changed from the original, but it’s all for the better,” said Tañada, who wrote the upbeat single “Turn it Well.” He wrote it for his girlfriend as a birthday gift, and Millare rewrote parts of it until its final form.
The band members, however, do not feel confined to their respective instruments. In “Capacities,” the sense of nostalgia circa 1980s in the songs was achieved by using synthesizers and applying electronica beats.
Millare considers every song important, but her favorites are “Luna” and “Feelings.” In songwriting, she emphasized that her intention is “not to make hit songs, but songs that would strike a note somewhere,” she said.