Friday, November 14, 2008

NEIGHBORS LIVE at 6 UNDERGROUND (Radio Blogcast #18)

[BY JONEIGHBORS] I am not a singer. Yes I could carry a tune but to sing in tune will take lots of practice on my part. I used to be the front man of Neighbors for 5 years I think. You could never hear or see me sing willingly outside the band because I know I will not do justice on the songs I want to sing, plus I don’t want to end up dead after. You can only catch me singing if we’re inside a closed room, someone’s backyard and I’m fucking stoned or drunk, whichever comes first. I don’t even have any song writing skills also. There are so many things running on my mind, nothing gets written on paper. I attempted to write one song “It’s a Party”, the melody and the lyrics really suck; it became a running joke within the band. Now I know my limitations.

My part as being the frontman/vocals of Neighbors is somewhat similar to Phil Collins’ when he was with Genesis. Is it accidental or by default, I don’t know. After Wire Tuazon and Teng Alcantara left the band to pursue their professional careers, we became an instrumental ska band focusing more on the 60’s/traditional side of things. We focused on being an instrumental band because no one’s doing it during that time and we’re good at it. There were some tracks with words in it but mostly it’s all shouts and a little bit of toasting. No serious singing. The downside of being a 60s/traditional instrumental ska band is that people get bored with what were doing or they are just not ready for that kind of ska. Yes, we enjoyed playing Skatalites tunes, but sometimes there’s no point in playing if no one’s watching or appreciating the music. This happened before “Angono Ska Explosion”.

We huddled, drafted a plan and agreed to have someone front the band. We called up some friends, I think there were 3 of them, told them what the plan is and they agreed to audition. We gave them their study tapes and lyrics on some song we want them to sing, gave them about a week or two to study and scheduled the rehearsals after. They came on their scheduled audition, narrowed down to 2 singers. One is a best friend since grade school and the other is a friend of Gabby, our keyboard player. The first one Dee-e Samodio has been singing/fronting bands since high school. Actually he’s the one that convinced me to form a band when we were in high school. He’s more of a pop/rock aficionado and he can sing, also one good thing about him is his “showmanship”. Every time he’s up on stage he’s so fucking hyped-up and his one liners are so fucking hilarious. He’s like a rabbit on speed, man! The second one is Jonah, I forgot his last name. He told us that he used to jam or used to be a member of The Aga Muhlach Experience. We don’t know if he’s telling stories about that but we auditioned him anyway. We all agreed to let them sing on 2 different gigs to gauge them. The Set with Dee-e went well, it’s like clockwork. Jonah’s set was different. We were scheduled to play at the 70’s Bistro together with Put3ska that night and I can see Jonah is behaving differently. He was quiet most of the time and I can see that he was nervous. We had some beer and joked around at a sari-sari store beside 70’s before our set. Gabby jokingly told him “taena pre dapat maayos ang kanta mo sa Neighbors, dala naten ang Angono dito, kung hindi sibak ka agad sa banda hehehehe”. Everyone laughed including him but he knew that it was meant as a joke and a warning. We were scheduled to play in between sets of Put3ska, we went up on stage at 11pm. We did 2 starter instrumental tunes, “Jumpstart” by the Forest Hillbillies and “Skalloween” of The Skatalites and an original song “Sound’s Sharp”. Jonah was supposed to sing at the second bar of the song but no words came out of his mouth. We were all dumbfounded and looked at each other and saw him pale white and sweating. That went on for 2 stanzas before I went up to my mic and blurted out the words. Man, you could see his nuts going up his neck and if he was one weak person he’d faint of embarrassment. The set went well after that but he knew then and there that he was out of the band. Dee-e was the third man to front Neighbors but his stint with us was short-lived. We did about 4 scheduled gigs before leaving the band. His style was way different with the image and music the band is projecting during that time and he knew that we were going on a different direction compared to the other bands he fronted. It was 60% image and 40% music at the time. After the 4th gig he explained everything why he’s leaving the band and we told him our side. We agreed and respected his decision, no hard feelings between us and him. He would still jam with us from time to time on some occasion or host our monthly production “Rudies All Around”.

So we went back to the drawing board. We searched and thought of who is willing and fitting to front the band until everyone had an idea. Why not let someone within the band be the vocalist, it will not be hard for everyone to adjust because that person will know what to do. Everyone agreed with the idea after downing 2 “long-neck” bottles of Emperador brandy and on the third bottle they either voted or forced me to front the band. I agreed after finishing the 3rd bottle but told them that I’m not a good singer and it’ll just be a trial until we find someone more fitting to sing. Well…. it has been a 5 year trial of sorts. “Angono Ska Explosion” and “From Parquet to Concrete” happened, we had some out of town gigs and around the city and it was at that time that Neighbors really came out of its own and established itself as one of the best and respected ska band in the capital. I’m not saying that these things happened because of me, we worked hard for it and we believed in what we do. Everyone in the band did their part. You cannot buy respect, you have to earn it.

After five years, I passed the microphone to the new man Edward Merced. If he had joined five years earlier, we would have gone places. (World domination hehehe). He’s one hell of a singer and a well of a drinker. There were also internal changes during the time he joined the band, but that’s another story.

This live recording happened a year after Edward joined the band and it’s evident that the band has matured as musicians. We consciously dropped the posture and image of a ska band (suits, porkpie hats etc) and adapted a more casual approach on clothing since the second album. For us, music and the right attitude comes first before image. This live set was recorded at 6 Underground, Palanca st. Makati February of 2006. It was one of the best performances we had not because it was being recorded live but everything was just right that night. The place was jam-packed, nice sound system and equipment, cheap beer, very good atmosphere; close friends were there to support and share a laugh and there were a large percentage of women that night. Smoking was not allowed inside. The air inside smelled great, it smelled of perfume and powder and women’s sweat, it was sweet.

01 whats gone wrong
02 The Secret
03 Come On
04 Mama Used To Say
05 Untitled
06 Kundiman
07 It Must Be Love
08 Daytripper
09 Tequila
10 Relation
11 Problems
12 No Worries
13 Monkey Ska
14 The Clockworks
15 Monkey Man