Spotlight on Moonstar88
Moonstar88 is one of the longest lasting local bands we have had around. Despite their having gone through a few line-up changes, they have not lost that signature style that is immediately identifiable as, indeed, of Moonstar88!
When I was in high school, it was their second studio release titled “Press to Play” that really got me introduced to their music. Their songs like “Sulat” and their rendition of “Ang Pag-ibig Kong Ito” became my favorites and to this very day, I sometimes still listen to them. Their music was a part of my past as a young music aficionado as it was for many other young Filipinos, as well. Moonstar88, in my book, is one of the premiere local bands we have today as a band that has attained and earned a certain status that includes them in the list of some of the most recognized bands ever. Plus, they seem like nice individuals that some people have labeled them to be role models to young aspiring musicians and for those who are just beginning their appreciation for OPM, especially for the local bands category. I certainly don’t disagree with that as I have been keeping an eye on the career of this band ever since 2002. And 11 years later, the time has come for me get to know them a little more, as also to provide readers with a different insight on them, and to not merely ask questions to which we already know the answers, anyway. This definitive write-up with Q&A portion will reveal some integral details on what has kept the band going strong, grounded, and evolving.
Moonstar88 is composed of Maychelle Baay on vocals/guitar, Herbert Hernandez on guitar, Pao Bernaldo on bass, and Bon Sundiang on drums.
Here is my interview with Moonstar88.
INQ: This question is for Herbert. Ever since “Moonstar88” was formed, did you ever imagine “Moonstar88” would be still active and performing to this very day despite a few line-up changes ?
(Herbert): Uhmm..ever since talaga, alam ni Pao yan, since day one yung nag kaka palit na ng line-up, lagi ko sinasabi kay Pao.. Kahit anong mangyari, itutuloy natin ‘to kahit anong mangyari and hindi naman ‘to first time for a band, di ba? So, marami naman precedent na nakita naman naging successful like “Sandwich” , di ba? Mas major pa line-up changes nun, na yung drummer. So, yan yung nagbibigay sa amin ng strength and as long ang mga fans nag l-long for our songs …yon. Ako hindi ko iniisip huminto at gumawa ng kanta at hindi tumugtog as “Moonstar88”. And sabi nga: “Wala ngang graduation pag tumugtog, eh.”
INQ: Do you all still get “butterflies in your stomach” before a performance ? Would having “butterflies in the stomach,” in fact, be the “push” for you to give your very best and greatest act, each and everytime?
(Maychelle): Yes, all the time. whether it is a small intimate gig, like we are having here at B-Side or 70’s Bistro. Uhmm.. Sometimes those are the most ..Parang…nerve-wracking gigs nga, eh! Kasi before …Just waiting for you to say the next lines of the songs that they have been waiting for you to perform. so, you wanna be in that zone with them. If nakaka relate sila to the song, and of course you have the big gigs like “Myx Mo!” , or Summerslam. It doesn’t matter how small or big the gig is..Uhmmm.. It will always be there and I think to some extent I think it is something yun nga medyo cliché sinasabi ng artist na parang to some extent it can really push you to…it’s sort of a mix of adrenaline and being nervous at the same time. For me, I can’t have a lot of nerves with me, kasi I start to shake. (Herbert): Everytime from kaba to sobrang enjoy. Yan, yung best moment of every gig. (Pao): Pag babanda may time na sinasabay namin ang pag work at pag babanda. Minsan, ang hirap na mag work sa morning, pag alam mo na may magandang gig sa gabi. The anticipation, sobrang inanu ko na yung moment na yun na parang “Mamaya, panalo gig namin sigurado!” Kaya halo, eh, kinakabahan ka na excited ka at the same time hirap ng mag work, gusto mo na matapos…yung mga unang days namin…yung anticipation, sobra! Pero pag nandun ka na, alam mo na gagawin mo !
INQ: What are some of the most funny or embarrassing moments the band has experienced while performing ?
(Bon): Ako, meron! There was this one gig at Marikina, it was a radio event. Then, uhhh, in the middle of “Torete,” yung tahimik na part, bigla may umubo! As in, dalawa lang kami may mic, eh. So, lahat tumingin sa akin. Akala nila ako. Yung pala, yung DJ na nag h-host siya, yung umubo backstage habang may hawak siya na mic. Tapos tingin lahat sa akin. Sabi ko: Ah, okay! Hindi ko alam nangyayari. So, yan yung isa! That is one. (Maychelle): Madami pa… Pero kinalimutan ko na kasi. Yung mga small wardrobe malfunctions… tapos nalaglag ka sa kanal after ng gig! (Herbert): After ng gig, nalaglag siya sa kanal. Uhmm, yun. (Pao): Bigla siya nawala! haha… (Maychelle): After the stage, diretso ka na sa E.R. Ganun. (INQ): Exhaustion ba yun ? (Maychelle): Hindi. Nalaglag ako sa kanal, haha.. nyaks. (Pao): Kasi madilim, eh. (Herbert): After ng gig, bigla siya nawala..nalaglag na pala siya. (Maychelle): Tapos, consistent na funny… Ay! I get to mention the wrong establishment name. Kaya, yun. Tapos, magtatawanan lahat ng tao. Tapos, ako… parang “What did I say that was missing?” Yun pala, mali pala sinabi ko”.
INQ: All performers wish they will be able to not only give a great performance, but wish, as well, to have a successful act. What constitutes a successful performance for you ?
(Maychelle): Interactive kasi ang performance ngayon. Hindi siya one-way na. So, especially for a performance like us, it has to be interactive. So, uhmm….give and take siya, parang, uhmmm… you give something to the audience and you get something back. Tapos, iba yung dynamics. You get to interact, no matter if nag-usap kayo. But not necessarily nag-usap kayo, but you’re talking through music. Tapos… yun. Yan ang perfect situation again. It doesn’t matter if it is small or a big gig , if it’s 5 people or 10,000 people. Well, if there is that connection and interaction…sobrang saya-saya talaga namin.
INQ: “Moonstar88” has come a long way now. Looking back, Herbert, how did it feel to hear your music being played in the radio for the first time ?
(Herbert): Aaahh.. Nung first time kami ni Paolo… Ako sa L.S. yung first song nung narinig namin yung first single na “Torete”. Sobrang nerve-wrecking, yan yung term nila, na parang gusto mo sumigaw. Totoo pala yun! Actually, naalala ko yung ‘That thing you do’ . Ganun na ganun, alam mo yung eksena sa ‘That thing you do’? Kasi, first single ng Moonstar88 came up nung 2001. Sobrang text lahat, text. Pero ang totoo niyan, kahit 13 years na tayo, ganun na pa rin. Everytime naririnig namin yung single, nag t-text pa rin kami. (Pao): Nagpapadala kami ng message everytime naririnig namin sa radyo. (Bon): Para kang sinagot ng girlfriend mo, na official na kayo. (Herbert): Ayun ang magandang description nun! (Pao): Pero… magandang description, para kang sinagot ng girlfriend mo. (Bon): Na “Oo!”… officially, kayo na”. (Pao): Parang sinagot ka ng nililigawan mo. Example, may date ka at pinatugtog sa radyo ng kotse ang kanta niyo, tapos nilakas mo ng konti. Pogi points ka nun! Haha..
INQ: “Moonstar88” is very much identified with the local scene of the late 90’s. Yet, it’s a band that is widely embraced and beloved by many fans, both young and old today. Not a lot of bands have a similar claim to that–that they don’t get pinned down to the era wherein they were first introduced to the listening public. I’d like an input from all of you to my query: What do you think is that unique characteristic that distinguishes your band from other bands, or makes this band able to flow and adapt to the times and the changing and often fickle tastes of listeners ?
(Maychelle): Honesty. (Herbert): Honest. (Maychelle): Honest music is timeless, I think. And then… (Pao): Yung mga influences ma i-inject from time to time. (Bon): Kung anu yung message ng song, nandun yun heart kasi. (Herbert): Hindi naman kami technical, so somehow…hindi namin magawa kung anu ang uso! So, somehow, binigay lang namin yung best namin sa capacity namin. So, that’s why siguro ma f-feel mo kahit ilang nota lang ginawa namin pero sobrang yan yung pinakamasarap at best. Hindi kami nag alinlangan yan yung best part na gusto namin sa kanta. (Maychelle): And I guess, ano din… hindi naman kami isolated na… hindi kami nakikipag-mingle sa ibang musicians. Actually, very eager kami ma impluwensiyahan ng mga ibang local musicians kahit anung genre na makakasabay namin. Like for instance, in this particular gig. (Herbert): Siguro nga tama yun. Isa yun sa mga major…na nirerespeto namin lahat ng genre. Lahat kinakausap namin. So, somehow bumalik din sa amin, so nirerespeto yung music namin. (Pao): Yun nga, eh! May mga producer na kaibigan namin. At the same time, fan ako ng banda. (Maychelle): Nanood kami ng mga ibang mga banda, katulad ng mga bandang bago. (Pao): Minsan nag s-session ako para sa “Parokya.” Paglabas ko ng stage, pagbaba ko, s***! Parang magugulat ako sa kanila. Kasi fan na fan ako ng isang banda nito. Tapos laki influence sa amin as a band. (Herbert): Sensitive kami din siguro sa paligid namin. Yun nga sabi nga ni Paolo, pati ni Mich. Marami kami circle of friends namin sa industry. So, hindi kami nahihiya humingi ng tulong, hindi kami nahihiya. Especially for this new album. Na sobra kami proud, pero alam mo, siguro 50% percent nun yung effort ng mga kaibigan namin to produce it well. Kasi ang laki ng involvement ng “Kamikazee boys”…sila Bords, pati si Eric Perlas, Allan Montero, at Chito Miranda. Sa totoo lang, etong bagong album, ang dami nagagandahan. Utang namin dun, dahil gumawa lang kami ng kanta. Pero the crafting sila, eh!
INQ: Who is the chief songwriter ? Or is everyone in your band welcome to throw in ideas ?
(Herbert): Actually…first two albums si Pao…maraming sinusulat. Nung third album namin and fourth album, ako sumipag gumawa. Pero, ever since ang “Moonstar88”, lahat gumagawa ng kanta. Kaya, ang bilis makagawa ng album. Yun nga lang, dahil sa economy, medyo natagalan kami i-produce. Actually, mabilis kami gumawa ng kanta. Ang tagal lang ma-record at ang tagal maging album. So, yun to answer your question. (Maychelle): Majority si Herbert…Pero, medyo mandatory requirement ‘to sa lahat. Everyone has put in at least some ideas for the album. (Pao): Naging batas namin yun, na lahat mag contribute dahil… feeling namin… dapat ang magandang album, iba-iba. Para hindi ka magsawa. (Maychelle): Well represented. (Pao): At iba-ibang lasa, di ba! So, yun.
INQ: Do you write songs for personal reasons and hope they will click ? Or do you write songs, bearing in mind your fans and what you think they may like ? Or is it both for yourselves and your followers ?
(Herbert): Ako…Never namin inisip kung anung iisipin ng iba Pag gumagawa kami ng kanta. Kasi mahirap na nga gumawa ng kanta. Tapos iisipin mo pa yung iisipin pa ng iba? So, first things first. Kung anung kanta sasaya ka. Ma-satisfy mo ang sarili mo na..uy!.. na express ko ‘to. Expression pa rin siya. It’s an expression of a moment. Kung ano yung gusto mo i-record or like, yung ibang kanta namin like “That song” kuwento yun ng isang fan namin…expression ko yun at interpretation ko ng moment na yun. Pero never ko ginawa yun para mag enjoy yung ibang tao.
INQ: For May: even prior to becoming the new voice for “Moonstar88”, what was your favorite song from the band back then when you would hear their music being played in the radio and when you would get to watch their music videos ?
(Maychelle): Actually, I first saw them sa UP Manila. I was still a student back then, so, sobrang na star struck ako ng napanood ko sila. But I actually like one song they never had a video for, and I only got to hear it in one radio station, I forgot the name of the radio station. Yung “Bata”, from the first album kasi…sobrang kaka iba yung theme. Hindi pa uso yung mga cougars nun at saka…Pero kaka iba yung theme, it’s about a big age gap in a relationship. So, yun…at saka sobrang jumpy yung song. Yan yung sobra… pag naririnig ko sa radyo nilalakasan ko sa dorm. Nag d-dorm pa ako nun.
INQ: For May: you have been the vocalist for “Moonstar88” for a few years already. How did you become the vocalist ? Were you handpicked by the band or did you audition for it ?
(Maychelle): They didn’t have a choice! Haha.. hindi! Uhmm.. I was a referral by Miro of “Stonefree.” He is the vocalist of another band, “Stonefree”. And…I auditioned. (Herbert): Kasi nung nag paalam na si Acel…nag sabi siya na mag hanap kami ng replacement talaga. Supposedly, mag audition kami. Then, siya yung first na ni-refer sa amin. Tapos, una pa lang na rehearsal, galing na! Kasi nag g-guitara. Tapos…(Pao): Tapos, may ilan months na dalawa sila. Parang may transition din. Tapos, may gig kami na lima kami. Bago umalis si Acel. May moment na ganun. (Herbert): Actually, vocalista na siya for 8 years. Mas matagal na siya kay Acel, pag binilang mo yung number ng years na. Pero, mas matagal kami gumawa ng album ngayon, eh. 5 years! Hehe.. Saka, kami gumawa ng album. Sobrang tagal na ni Misch.
INQ: For May: did you ever imagine that you would, one day, become the new lead singer of “Moonstar88” ?
(Maychelle): Never…never…uhmm..how do you answer ? Never, I never imagined…uhmmm.. I was… playing for other bands at the time. And my last band before I joined “Moonstar88” just got disbanded. And I was at that point where I realized, you know, maybe the music thing is really not for me ? So, it was completely unexpected for me to get a phone call from a friend saying na… he thinks I could probably be… I could probably take the role for “Moonstar..”
INQ: Despite that all of you have your own day jobs and separate professions, what has kept all of you still performing and making music together ?
(Maychelle): I actually had to ask myself that question when we had a not-so-nice gig in Laguna. Na parang… all of us are like uhmm… okay naman yung career namin. So, parang bakit ko kailangan ‘to gawin? Tinanong ko talaga sarili ko. Basic lang talaga… It’s..It’s passion! And so.. you always go back to the things you love. We never settle for anything less! (Herbert): Ako talaga… iniisip ko kasi yung kunwari yung day job namin. Okay naman kami sa day job namin. Gusto rin namin yun pero…etong music, gift ‘to, eh. Gift to ng anu… gift ‘to ng Makapangyarihan Diyos. Parang…it’s a sin talaga for me na hindi ko ma share ‘to. Kunwari, pipiliin ko yung career ko over music nakakalungkot na… and, dami na m-move sa kanta, eh, na hindi magagawa ng trabaho ko. I think it’s a gift, na parang binigyan ka ng isang bagay na dapat i-share mo. So, kaya nga ako, eh, priority ko talaga maka inspire ng ibang tao eh. (Bon): Uhmm… I would like to believe na hindi naman nawawala ang music. Or is music part of everything.. na ginagawa. Anything na maiisip mo na music, sa mga commercials, sa lahat. Nandiyan yan at pinagdadaanan. Never mawawala yan. Lalo na kung musikero ka, hahabulin at hahabulin ka ng pagtugtog or ang love mo sa music. So, kumbaga..uhmm.. dati umabot ako sa point na before I joined “Moonstar..” na parang for a while, wala ako banda. Pero, I never… I never gave up on music. Once in a while, hahawak ako guitara, gagawa ka.. pero hahabulin ng hahabulin ka ! Nandun talaga yung desire… hindi mawawala… uhmm.. Siguro kahit… Let’s say, nasa bahay na lang ako, matanda na ako, wala na ako trabaho. Pero, once in a while I will still write siguro. Hindi ko hino-hope na may mangyayari sa sinulat ko. Pero, passion mo yun! Sulat mo yun, eh. Parang poetry. Nandiyan lang yan, eh.
INQ: Are you close friends offstage in the sense that you also eat out together ? What’s your favorite comfort food ?
(Maychelle): Comfort food. (Bon): Crispy bacon, liempo. (Maychelle): Tuna and eggs. (Herbert): Ako, lahat ng pasta ng “Tomato Kick” (May): Kasi may restaurant si Pao, restaurateur kasi siya. INQ: Gusto mo i-plug ? (Pao): “Tomato Kick” sa may 55 Maginhawa St., UP Village. At yung isang branch, sa Katipunan Extension. (Herbert): Actually, dun kami nag m-meeting at nag-uusap. (Maychelle): At saka, pag nasa bahay kami ng isang member, pinagluluto kami ni Pao.
INQ: Who’s your favorite politician ? Why ?
(Herbert): Ako siguro…si Obama is perfect sa akin, dahil… yung about the change. Siya yung naka adapt sa digital at… Yun! Malaking catalyst siya ng equality sa lahat at ng opportunities sa lahat ng tao. Hindi lang sa America, pero nag r-reflect din sa Pilipinas. (Maychelle): Ako si Hillary Clinton, uhmm… gusto ko din si Obama siyempre! I support his presidency. Pero, parang…may depth kasi yung mga policies na…prine-present ni Hillary in terms of ties with foreign countries like the Philippines. I like her… parang… basta I like her. She is my favorite Democrat. (Pao): Ako sa local naman, dati si Bayani Fernando. Dahil sa changes nagawa niya sa Marikina. Si Bayani Fernando, paborito ko dati kasi may political will.
INQ: Compared to the band’s previous release in 2007, what does your latest album titled “This Year” have to offer ? And for those who haven’t bought the album yet, what can they expect from it ?
(Herbert): Well… yung mga taong involved sa production, sobrang collaboration kasi yung album. From music production, composition up to packaging… lahat yun up to shoot, hanggang music video, lahat yun friendship, eh. (Maychelle): Labor of love talaga. (Herbert): Lahat ng mga kaibigan namin na may talent nag contribute sila. Yung album cover, gumawa nun ay si JP Cuison, isang sikat na illustrator-artist. Tapos yung music video namin, kaibigan din namin nagbuo nun. Tapos, nag produce din ng album like we said earlier na…sina Chito Miranda. (Maychelle): Allan Montero. (Herbert): “Kamikazee boys..” ang daming involved, eh ! Sobra na… lahat na gusto namin maka-tandem, nangyari. So, ang kulang na lang ang makikinig. Naka-hain na, perfect na ! So, sana…marami din bago. Tri-na-try din namin na hindi ulitin ang mga hindi nagawa namin. Yung mga kanta, arrangement. Chinallenge din namin ! (Maychelle): We would like to think… we’ve grown as songwriters, may technicality and crafting involved. Hindi kami lumampas sa 4 minutes!(Herbert): Ayun… conscious kami na hindi lumampas sa 4 minutes… wala na kasing oras ang tao ngayon, eh ! (Maychelle): At mababa na ang attention span ng tao. (Herbert): Ayun lang siguro intention namin sa lahat ng ginawa namin.
INQ: For those who aren’t too familiar with your music, how can you describe the sound of “Moonstar88” ?
(Paolo): OPM kami nasa sarili namin generation. (Maychelle): Or Rey Valera meets “Eraserheads”. (Maychelle): Jukebox na rock, haha.. (Paolo): Mahirap mag bigay ng adjectives… siguro parang kami sa generation namin proud kami na part kami ng OPM. Dahil din sa mga contribution namin na kanta, pero paano i-describe ang hirap, eh ! (Herbert): Dati ang description namin…spunk. (Maychelle): Bittersweet music. (Herbert): Yan! Bittersweet music. (Maychelle): Ako, anoh ! (Herbert): Ikaw? ‘Eto, baka mas articulate ‘to! (Maychelle): Haha… nag isip na ako ng sagot. Alam mo yung joke na daga sa guitara, yung d-a-g-a? Kasi, pag nag-guitara ka, ang una mo matutunan chords na “D”, at saka “A”. (Herbert): Ah, yun ! (Maychelle): So, pag may kanta ka na d-a-g-a, sigurado yan ang unang-una mo magagawa na kanta. So, kami yun yung d-a-g-a na may minor sa gitna, haha… kasi may drama! (Herbert): Sobrang… sobrang simpleng banda. Simple lang yung music. (Bon): Masaya na ma-drama ! Bittersweet ng totoong buhay ng tao. (Maychelle): Somewhere between anger and serenity.
INQ: When everything is said and done, how would you want “Moonstar88” to be remembered ?
(Bon): Ambassador ng OPM. For all generations. (Paolo): Pag sinabi mo OPM, which is common, kasama na kami dun. (Maychelle): Okay sa akin yun, na ambassador ng OPM. (Herbert): Spokesperson ng mga feelings ng bawat Pinoy !
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