Roberto Seña makes his bid for stardom
Roberto SEÑA grew up listening to his famous parents’ music. In fact, as a young boy, he vividly recalls how he had cried his lungs out the first time he saw his father, Robert Seña—playing Thuy in “Miss Saigon,” at the West End in London—get shot onstage, by a singing and screaming girl named Kim! Also featured in that lavish Cameron Mackintosh production was his mother, Isay Alvarez, who originated the role of Gigi.
Now 20 years old, Roberto is making his own bid for stardom—as the lead vocalist of the alt-rock group, She’s Only Sixteen, along with drummer King Puentespina, guitarist Andrew Panopio and bassist Anjo Silvoza.
For months now, the exciting quartet has been creating a buzz on the concert scene and in cyberspace. Pop-music aficionados have been telling us to “watch out for that group” and check out “Dying To Meet You,” its signature hit song, on YouTube—but, as they say, “the proof of the pudding is in the eating.”
When we finally listened to their five-track EP, “She’s Only Sixteen,” we were treated to a scrumptious blend of alternative rock, Euro pop vibe, and post-punk sensibility. Yes, they are influenced by bands like Radiohead, Arctic Monkeys (“I Bet You Look Good On The Dancefloor”), and The Strokes (“Hard to Explain”), with Roberto’s voice channeling the “adolescent howl” of Paul Westerberg of The Replacements—but, the music they create is distinctly their own!
Seña’s confident baritone is a cross between Gary Daly (China Crisis) and Robert Smith (The Cure) in “Amygdala,” in which the hooks and riffs are even catchier than those heard in “Dying,” with a melody that blends well with simple lyrics that young adults can relate to: “You’re a Judas in disguise/ Always doing what you’re told.” The album’s other head-bobbers include “Roll The Dice,” the cautionary “Mr. Schemer,” and glossy and acoustic versions of “Dying To Meet You.”
When we chatted with Roberto and King early this week, the latter told us that the group, then called False Targets, has been around for more than three years. In the early days, they experimented with hip-hop and punk—and even used to cover Lady Gaga songs.
King shares, “You won’t hear them in our current repertoire (laughs), but they were part of our growth. The current lineup is about a year old. We’re still evolving, and our music is maturing. We have different backgrounds: Roberto is taking up Legal Management, Anjo’s is Economics, Andrew’s is Information Design and I’m taking up Management—but, our common denominator is music. We want to play at music festivals abroad, like the ones in Coachella in California and Glastonbury in Somerset, England.”
Sound and concept
How do they write their songs? Roberto, who wrote all the tracks in the EP, explains, “We all do our share. The 20-something tunes in our repertoire are about simple things, but the sound and concept get amplified during recording—that’s when the layers come in.
“The lyrics are just as important as the melody—they coexist! You can’t have one without the other. Sometimes, I’m on the MRT when I come up with the chorus (he sings), then I record it on my phone.
“I wrote ‘Dying to Meet You’ when I was in third year high school. That song started everything for us. We like a lot of local bands, but we want to create our own niche—we don’t want people to say that we sound like Parokya ni Edgar or Urbandub.”
For Roberto, what advice has his dad and mom given him? He replies, “They always remind me to take care of my voice, sleep early, stop cursing onstage, and talk to the audience.”
Does he take after his mom more than his dad? Roberto quips, “I’m a blend of both—may happy, at may grumpy. So, I’m a happy grump (laughs)!”
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