Parokya ni Edgar on its longevity: We just want to play
On the cover of Parokya ni Edgar’s latest studio album, “Pogi Years Old,” band members Chito Miranda, Darius Semaña, Buwi Meneses, Gab Chee Kee and Dindin Moreno are photographed sitting side by side on a sofa, just chilling. Well, except for Gab, who was, according to Chito, channeling his inner Joey Generoso.
On the desk behind them are an assortment of books and action figures, a computer screen and what looks like a tube of pain relief ointment. The wall is decked with posters—Eraserheads, Kamikazee and … the Mocha Girls. In front of them is a small table cluttered with clothes and bags of junk food whose labels they didn’t bother hiding. Those weren’t props, they insisted; they really were munching on them.
They hired neither makeup artists nor stylists. And there was nothing that remotely resembled a proper setup. The men were simply hanging out at their producer’s place in the United States one day, when they decided to get on with the photo shoot. No particular reason—they just felt like doing it right then and there. This is how they roll in the parokya.
While other pop-rock groups talk about their yearning for evolution, artistic growth and all that jazz, Parokya is more than content having shows. This carefree attitude they have toward their music and career is one of the most crucial reasons they have lasted this long—more than 20 years as a band and more than 30 as friends.
“We don’t take ourselves too seriously,” Chito said in an interview. “And it works for us just fine.”
Excerpts from the Inquirer interview with Chito:
Many of your contemporaries have long disbanded. But you’re still here making music. We don’t really see ourselves as serious musicians. We don’t fight over musical integrity or anything like that. Some of our peers who are in it for the music end up getting interested in pursuing something else, which may no longer be in line with their bandmates’ vision. That was never a factor in Parokya. More than anything else, we just want to play and be in a band.
You joked that your lack of musical skills has actually helped you in the long run. Yes, because it made our music more accessible and familiar throughout the years. As much as I would like to write something that Rico Blanco would have come up with, I can only write simple words and use four chords. That’s it for me! We have stopped singing about high school crushes, so that’s progress. We now sing about tito topics. In our new album, we have a song called “Kweba ng Ermitanyo,” which is about staying at home, instead of going to bars.
How big of a factor is your friendship? We know each other very well. We respect, love and understand each other’s personalities and traits, good or bad. And we all share a love for money! Without each other, we wouldn’t be earning as much. So we have to stick together (laughs).
Why did it take you six years to release a new studio album? We were just too busy playing gigs, touring and promoting the compilation albums we released between 2010 and 2016. This is our day job, and our schedule is punishing. Ideally, free time would be devoted to writing songs. But then again, the last thing we want to do when we have free time is to work more. We also want to spend time with our families. We have to ask for a free day from our manager, so we could record new stuff.
Going through the track list of “Pogi Years Old,” I see that the song titles are as wacky as ever. How do you maintain the humor?
As individuals, we’re really boring. We’re quiet, we read comics, collect toys, especially now that most of us have families. These days, when we don’t have work, we stay away from each other. But just like everyone else, once we get together, we act like barbarians! I don’t think there’s a conscious effort for us to be funny. That would be exhausting.
What was the selection process like? We just write and record as many songs as we can, regardless of style and genre. Kapag marami na, album na ’yan! That’s why our albums usually come off “chop suey”; we don’t stick to one kind of sound. We aren’t like other bands that think of themes before they set out to work, or those who record about 20 songs and just choose 10. If we’re happy with the song, we will put it in.
You covered Jose Mari Chan’s “Beautiful Girl.” Did you get to work with the man himself? We loved that song! It’s very nostalgic, so we wanted to record it. Our label, Universal Records, told us that he doesn’t always say yes [to artists requesting to cover his songs], so we got nervous. It was quite an experience, because he was a stickler for details. And we presented through e-mail our first take on the song, he said outright that he didn’t like it.
He said we needed to stay faithful to the song. He was very strict about how the notes were sung. We spent months going back and forth until, finally, he became happy with what we have. I heaved a sigh of relief. Jose Mari Chan saying that he liked our cover meant that he really liked it. Sulit ’yung pagod.
Vinci Montaner, who left the band in 2012, is featured in that song. Is he officially back? Oo, kaya divided by six na naman ang kita!
Are you more flexible about members taking breaks? We were strict about that when we were young—everyone has to be present at recording. But as we grew older, we realized that it was stressful forcing people to do that all the time. So, if someone wants to take a break, go. Buwi, for instance, is now based in the US, so he’s not always with us. He played for half of the songs in “Pogi,” while the remaining half was done by Moonstar88’s Pao Bernaldo.
Would you say that the band is more relaxed now? Yes, because we’re older! When we were kids, road trips meant being noisy and poking fun at each other. Bawal matulog!
But now, we just sleep in the van. We play, then go back to the hotel and sleep. We’re done with partying. We have been doing this since our teens, so the novelty of it all wore off long ago. Yes, we drink a little, but that’s it.
Music acts like Aegis, Sugarfree and Yeng Constantino have had their discographies turned into musicals. Would you want that for your songs? I have been approached about it. I didn’t want it, really. I think our songs aren’t that “epic” to be used in a play. We don’t have anthemic hits. But then, people keep telling me that it would work. Maybe I’m just not that confident about my songs. But we never know.
How long do you plan to play? As long as we’re enjoying ourselves, it doesn’t matter if there’s no one listening to us anymore.
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