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Creative ‘lightning’ strikes Roberto Seña anywhere

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SHE’S Only Sixteen frontman Roberto Seña (2nd from left) with bandmates Anjo Silvoza, King Puentespina and Andrew Panopio

For Roberto Seña, charismatic lead vocalist and guitarist of alternative rock band She’s Only Sixteen, the best ideas for songs come from the most unexpected places, at the most unexpected times—say, while having lunch, or on  a train to school.

But just like lightning, inspiration can fade as fast as it strikes. And so Roberto makes it a point to capture the sudden flashes. He told the Inquirer: “When a melody pops up, I get my phone and hum into it. As for lyrics, I write them down immediately.”

He wrote parts of the band’s first single, “Dying to Meet You,” from their eponymous first EP (Universal Records), while aboard the LRT. And the idea for “Mr. Schemer” came up during a party, way back. “I saw a guy trying to ‘date-rape’ someone,” he recalled.

A meeting with a friend ranting about his love life sparked “Amygdala,” which the band recently released as  second single. “It started as a joke. Surprisingly, the song turned out well,” Roberto related.

He said this spur-of-the-moment style of songwriting was just right for him, since he wasn’t the type who would lock himself up in a room. “It’s always tough when I have to force myself to work,” he said.

A Legal Management student of De La Salle University, Roberto turned 21 on April 10. He penned all four songs in the band’s EP, which includes the three mentioned tracks, plus “Roll the Dice.”

His bandmates—Anjo Silvoza (bass), Andrew Panopio (guitar) and King Puentespina (drums)—contributed to the arrangements. They share the same tastes in music and the same sense of humor, which make collaborating efficient and fun.

“I create a song’s blueprint and record it in the garage. When they start working on it, the song becomes better,” Roberto said. “We make sure the creation process is a collective effort.”

He’s been asked countless times about the name of the band. His recurrent reply: “Wala lang.” This same can’t be said of their music, though.

The radio-friendly EP packs a punch—catchy hooks, groovy beats, driving rhythms and charming lyrics in one neat package. And it bursts with youthful energy. The band sound, a balanced mix of commercial appeal and uncompromising creativity, is reminiscent of The Strokes and Arctic Monkeys, with a smattering of Phoenix and a dash of hip-hop.

Roberto argued that there’s more to SOS than being a sound-alike of The Strokes. “I continue to discover new sounds. I listen to a lot of music—not limited to rock,” he said.

Defining their genre is one of the toughest questions he has had to address, given their continuously evolving, if not fickle, taste in music. “We don’t want to be boxed in a single genre,” he said.

“Dying to Meet You” is the perfect first single with its fun, almost quirky dynamism that compels one to move and let loose in the music. It evokes memories of restless high school days. The song’s bare-bones version, also in the EP, is just as delightful.

Equally impressive is the multitempo track “Mr. Schemer” with its “Stairway to Heaven”-esque opening guitars, and the suave, smooth-flowing “Roll the Dice.”

The EP is but a taste of what the band is capable of, assured Roberto. He disclosed their plan to release their first full album within the year.

They’re also part of the Wanderland music and arts festival tomorrow at the Globe Circuit Event Grounds.

“There’s no rush to put things out so we can work at our own pace,” he pointed out. “We want to add more elements to our recordings; add more instruments and flourishes. We want to achieve the effect that there are more than four of us playing. We also want to showcase our range.”

Yes, he’s the child of veteran stage thespians Robert Seña and Isay Alvarez, who luckily, Roberto said, aren’t really stage parents. They support but don’t force; they give advice but don’t impose. And for that, Roberto’s grateful. “I’m a free child. They’re just happy for me and the band.”

Does he feel uncomfortable when his parents watch his gigs? “In a way yes,” he confessed. “Sometimes, we yell cuss words!”

The frontman isn’t one to rely on pedigree just to achieve popularity. “I want to be known for our music,” Roberto said.


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