I’ve been seeing and hearing that this year marks the full return of the recording scene since 2020. There is no official announcement about it, same as we can’t truly say that the pandemic COVID-19 pandemic is over as there is no formal declaration that it is.
You can just feel the vibe that had been missing back in the air, albeit not exactly as it was. If there is revenge travel for people who had been locked in their homes too long, musicians, too, got back to the studios like children allowed to come out and play after days of rain.
I won’t get far as to illustrate how things have become different. I’ve been quietly doing records for years myself, with my two band affiliations Syato and The Pub Forties, and on a few occasions, with solo acts, I get to collaborate as songwriter and instrumentalist.
Late last year, we in The Pub Forties went back to Forgiven Music Studio in Quezon City to work on our latest EP, a set of original songs we developed as soon as we got back jamming face-to-face, or after two years of not being in the same room. One indication that we were making records in a different way was the wearing of face masks. The protective cover for our nose and mouth symbolizes what had happened from the last time we recorded prior to the pandemic to our return under a new normal setup.
The EP (extended play), which we eventually called Escape to Alcaraz and had it distributed on digital stores by Widescope Entertainment, contains a song called “Cutting Shards” that I and our lead vocalist Aries Espinosa wrote by sending melodies and lyrics to each other via Facebook messenger around the time people were advised to go out only for essentials.
Another track, “Departure Area,” began life while I was playing an acoustic guitar seated on the bed because going to a coffee shop to meet a colleague was not an option. It is the first track we dealt with right after regrouping, and boy did we truly miss each other that our guitarist Vince Borromeo started putting exciting ideas into the song that by the time we were done with it, it already sounded like a rock opera.
Am I saying the separation did us good? It’s for listeners to say that. But I also wonder how it would have been if the pandemic didn’t happen. By the time we released “Next Big Thing,” the song we worked on in January 2020 and O/C Records released by March – just a couple of weeks after the WHO (not the band) declared COVID-19 as a pandemic – the next big thing was clearly the restriction imposed on people not to gather, which put a stop to live gigs and in-person recordings. An industry veteran was set to manage our band before the talks fell through understandably.
On a bright note, the digital age made it possible for recordings to still happen. Two songs I’m involved in as a songwriter came out recently, sung by female voices who, back in 2020, both interpreted on record my composition “Sandalan.” Singer Noela Amparo also appeared in person at Forgiven (renamed Minstrel Gospel Recording Studio) and dubbed her vocals for “Ewan Ko,” a song we used to jam when we worked on a band project years ago. I was on the phone miles away, helping recording engineer and co-producer Mark Zoleta deliver the track.
Enterphil, the digital arm of Ivory Music, released it last February under Syato, featuring Noela. Syato’s previous release was a song I penned called “Pagsapit Ng Unos” which came out, well, months before an unseen enemy unleashed a global disaster.
A couple of weeks ago, “Hiling,” performed by Angel Andal (a finalist of The Voice Kids Philippines) was put out by Curve Entertainment. Behind the song’s lyrics is Millie Vera, a former special features broadsheet editor who took me under her wing when I was a newbie. She sent me her Tagalog poem as I pulled from my vault an unfinished melody. It was my job to let the words and music flow together. She said that it is a song “dedicated to the bereaved families of those who passed on during the pandemic not necessarily due to COVID but because of the lack of hospital facilities that could have accommodated and saved them.”
Both “Ewan Ko” and “Hiling” were recorded without me being present in the studio (which had not happened before on a song I’m significantly involved in), but essentially in control. The new normal certainly changed how the game is played.