Felip finds SB19 bandmates’ support for solo projects ‘empowering’
Before his solo debut, SB19’s Ken Suson—who performs under the mononym Felip outside the pop group—couldn’t help but worry: “What if they don’t like my new material?”
“I don’t think that feeling will ever go away. I wondered about how people would react to my music. ‘Will they like it or not?’” Felip told the Inquirer at a backstage huddle at the recent “We Play Here!” concert by Warner Music Philippines.
In 2021, the singer-songwriter released his first solo single, the smooth Vispop R&B song “Palayo.” He followed it up with the mythology-inspired hip-hop track “Bulan” the next year. Last February, Felip finally unveiled his first EP, “COM•PLEX”—a collection of six hard-edged tracks that convey some of his most innermost thoughts.
Felip’s solo efforts were generally met with positive reviews. And seeing the fans appreciate his self-penned songs promptly melted away whatever doubts or misgivings he might have had. “That’s where I try to shift my attention,” said the 26-year-old performer who hails from a musically inclined family in Zamboanga del Sur.
Of course, criticism is inevitable. And Felip acknowledges those, especially constructive ones that he believes can help him improve his music. But every so often, he stumbles upon hurtful comments that have nothing to do with his work—these he opts to ignore.
“Although criticisms can make you grow stronger and stay grounded, some of them are below the belt. Some say all sorts of things just because they can. I try not to dwell on those. But if I see that the comment can help my music, then I appreciate it, even if it’s delivered in a very frank manner,” she said.
In “COM•PLEX,” Felips explores eclectic cocktails of hip-hop and other genres: There’s “Rockstar,” which melds hip-hop and Japanese instrumentals; “Superiority” is an anime-inspired song delivered in Tagalog and Cebuano; “MicTest” is a punchy Jersey Club bop about his Bisaya roots;
“DrinkSmoke,” his personal favorite, is a melodic trap song about hitting rock bottom and falling into bad vices; “Criminal” is an R&B anthem about self-empowerment through acceptance; and “StrayDogs” is a hip-hop track laced with brass instrumentation.
“My voice is naturally deep … and I’m a fan of unusual vocal tones and timbre, so I tried to do that here. There are metal, hip-hop, some gospel, a little jazz and some Latin-inspired elements. I’m a fan of metal bands like Slipknot. I grew up in church because my grandfather and father are pastors. So I was exposed to all these types of music,” he related. As part of SB19, Felip and his bandmates, Pablo, Stell, Josh and Justin, often perform songs that are poetic or whose messages are steeped in metaphors. Felip’s personal storytelling, however, is more straightforward. His solo projects allow him to do that. “It’s the kind of music that I like, and I like to share with people,” he said.
Through his music, Felip hopes to encourage his listeners to stay strong and not let negativity get the better of them. “All of us go through dark times. But believe in yourself. Whatever happens, believe that you can do it,” he said.His bandmates couldn’t be more supportive about his personal endeavors. “They congratulated me and told me about their favorite songs. They complimented the catchy melodies, the lines, the parts they liked about my songs. And I’m happy to hear their thoughts. It’s their way of showing support and it feels empowering to me. It boosts [my confidence],” he said.
Held at the Samsung Hall in Taguig City, the “We Play Here!” show also featured other music acts like Dilaw, JRLDM, Leanne & Nara, Lola Amour and Playertwo. Felip closed the show, much to his surprise.
“When I perform onstage and hear people’s voices, singing along … it makes me realize that there are people who really appreciate the work I do. The fact that they memorized my songs so they can sing along with me makes me very happy already. As long as I know that there are people who listen to me—no matter how many or few—that’s enough for me,” he said.