"I didn't like the name but it doesn't matter. They played great band music." - Nina Araknida Sunstar, Flip / September 15, 2002
"Few rock bands in town could stand at the crossroads of a dynamic and evolving music scene and knock down the high walls that divide music genres and audiences with as much success as Sheila and the Insects. " - Ronald P. Villavelez Yup!, Issue 1.03 / November 2001
"Sheila & The Insects’ music is new wave-influenced post-punk rock music that is considerably heavy yet still melodic " - Cris O. Ramos Jr. The Manila Times / May 31, 2003
"What does an indie band do with the oft-maligned mix of rock and new wave? In the case of Cebu-based Sheila and the Insects, plenty." - Ganns Deen PULP , PulpReviews / Issue 13, March 2001
I was the first to arrive at the Ayala Entertainment Center. It was 9pm. I was with Yani and we were waiting for the others to show up. The band before us was already playing. Their setlist was mostly cheesy covers that made me lose my appetite. This band had one serious identity problem. I'm guessing they couldn't decide among themselves which music genre they should adopt, so as a compromise, they just decided to play them all. You try to please everyone and you end up pleasing no one. Its a common story. I'd have lambasted more this pseudo-show band and all the others like them if not for the fact that we almost fell into the same trap before. Part of our ugly past.
So anyway, the irony of it all was that the show was titled "Local, Vocal, and Proud" which should have made it a showcase of local original music. But going through the band lineup, it was obvious, most we're showbands and bands trying to pass themselves off as alternative bands playing alternative covers which still makes them a showband, only of a different type. There were of course, notable exceptions; Cattski did an all-original set, and of course us. We were playing originals mostly with just a single cover tossed in for kicks. Something that would have been unthinkable half a year ago with the old SATI lineup. So there, new and improved.
One by one the guys show up and shortly, we we're up. I wasn't too excited about the gig itself coz it wasn't a paying crowd so I hardly expected the audience had come there to watch us play. More like might-as-well-stay-coz-I-got-nothin-better-to-do type of crowd. Worse, the venue was notorious for its horrible acoustics. If the architect designed the place to capture the ambience of echoes in a cave, then he's a genius, no doubt. As it is, we had to make do with what was there. It's pointless worrying about something that can't be helped.
And we played.
I had fun up there. We played as a much tighter-sounding band, no bias. No wild cheering after every song, but the applause was deliberate. Not token. So there, an accomplishment of sorts.
When we climbed down the stage after our set, people lined up on the side, all greeted us and said it was a great show. I guess I had underestimated our impact. I was pulled to one side by a familiar face and asked if I could be interviewed for TV. I said "sure".
I was shown an idiot board with the questions the VJ was gonna ask...standard stuff. No problem. Why is it that they always pull you out for interviews right after you do a set when you're still sweating like a sprinter.
So anyway, the prepped questions we're sensible and I was already forming my answers mentally when for a first question, this VJ decides to do an improv and had to ask the one question every band including ours absolutely detests! "Why your name?"
How the hell do you explain away a name as absurd as Sheila and the Insects. I couldn't so I dilly-dallied and skirted the query as best as I could. Whew. All VJ's should take a mandatory course on what not to ask rock bands. Phaleeez!
A frustrating ending to what would have otherwise been a satisfying show. At least the post-gig beer was cold.
Coming into a practice session, we usually aim to run through as many songs as we can and try to polish our whole song lineup. But what usually happens is when we get to one of our new songs, one of the guys usually comes up with an idea for a new riff approach or arrangement perhaps. So we play the song again and see if it sounds better, and then we do it again...then another time...
Then we look at the wall clock and discover to our collective horror that we've already spent half an hour of studio time. So by the time we're done with the 1 hour we originally alotted for the practice, we end up deciding to extend by a half hour more. The same thing happened again today.
Sometimes i find it funny. It's no surprise then that we're planning to set up band gear at our place maybe one weekend so we can do some serious work without being bothered by a wallclock.
Our gig's this saturday and we're ready. Me, I'm pretty anxious.
Sometime ago, i just can't remember exactly, we had agreed to cover Coldplay's God put a smile on your face. So i brought my coldplay CD and my laptop so we could all listen to it just before going inside the studio for a practice session. I've got a busy dayjob so I never have enough time, much less the patience, to learn a song's chords or riffs by ear. It just takes up too much of my time. So, what I did was I just searched for tabs in the internet. Just a few keystrokes and voila! I have the lyric and tab sheet printed up. It's not exactly accurate as it turns out but its a good starting point.
Hey, if it saves me time, its the way to go. I'm guessing some musicians may call this cheating. The hell. I call it creative time management. My thinking is that if I was to spend time for my music and craft, I'd spend it on writing songs, not on deciphering and reconstructing chord patterns. So anyway, we're gonna do the song for our upcoming gig this saturday for the Local Vocal and Proud concert at the Ayala Entertainment Center.
Going into the show, I got the chance to see this new group Fader do a set. They were the band playing before us and was just a replacement band for another that couldn't make it at the last minute. Ian was able to book them on such short notice and they we're a pretty much very new act yet ironically, they we're one of those who were so well received by the audience. I've never seen or heard a local band use the digital delay on the guitar as creatively as they have. Really refreshing.
As I was enjoying the ethereal music, Booboop gives me a nudge (I was oblivious to his presence up until this point) and tells me he feels a bit nervous. I give him a surprised look. I've never felt nervous before a show except one time: my very first gig with the band. I was a wreck but I survived and vowed that I'd be ready the next time. So, anyway, i wasn't really worried. We'd been practicing a lot and I knew we'd be ok.
When it was our turn, we took our time setting up, rightly so i felt. It was like we all understood we had to be perfectly comfortable with everything before we started. So the audience settled in and waited gamely. Our first song was "Magnet". It starts with a heavy stacatto guitar riff and then suddenly elevates with a piercing yet emotional lead guitar. The audience applauds suddenly like they sensed the delicious barrage coming their way. From that point on, I knew we had them.
The rest of the gig was like a dream. I never realized how much I missed playing up until now. We played all originals including 2 new songs: "Disco is Dead" and "Maude". The audience loved it. Our closing number was "Idle Hands". And with the 2 female backing vocals, the anthemic ending came to life. The song soared and climbed higher with every cycle till I got goosebumps listening to ourselves. It was an emotonal song and the audience surely must have felt it too. Our last note was greeted with a rousing applause.
June 11, 2004 -
As I'm eating breakfast, i'm told Ian called twice already while I was still in the sack. I call him up wondering what could possibly be pressing at such an early hour. As soon as I got Ian on line, he narrates his (mis)adventure from last night. He got mugged in a dark alley near where we were preparing for the show.
From the way he sounded on the phone, he was clearly distraught. He briskly described his ordeal:
After he left the art center after our setup and SATI rehearsal, ian decided to take a short walk with Niño, a friend of his who happened to be his neighbor. Walking by a dimly lit and lonely alley, he decides to stop to take a leak when suddenly from out of the shadows, 3 guys with clearly unfriendly intentions approach them. Niño sensing danger, is able to run away but Ian is caught with his pants down. It would have been a totally hilarious picture except now, two of the guys pull out guns and threaten the now shaken Ian, (not from the pee) and demand his wallet.
Ian manages to say he doesn't have money so they ask for his cellphone, backpack (containing our digital camera and tape recorder), and later, his shoes. Can you believe it - they ask for his sneakers!
Anyway, to cut the story short, Ian survives without any bullet holes (thank God) and manages to report to the nearest police precinct to get help. The police immediately accompany them to the scene and the vicinity to check if the punks we're dumb enough to still be around. Unfortunately, they stayed out of sight.
So the night ends (its around 2am already by this time) with the crime in the blotter and Ian headed for home in his socks.
Still June 11, 2004 -
Later that day on the second night of the 3-night Idiot Board series, as expected, Ian's story was the hot topic. Not surprisingly, many found it funny....don't get me wrong, we all love Ian, but you gotta admit, imagining him being robbed of his sneakers was amusing at least and hilarious to some. Everybody felt sorry for Ian but, his story's good for "pulutan" (side dish for drinking sessions) for the next couple of days at least.
Oh yeah, by the way, the first night of the idiot board gig was a success. We all had a blastin' good time.
Ian texts me that we should meet up at the venue so we wouldn't have to pay for studio time for our practice. The production crew was gonna set up the instruments for the 3-night gig at 8pm. So by crude estimation, we could probably start practicing 9 thereabouts. It turns out, we we're off by 2 hours at least. Swell. We started practicing around midnight.
We particularly worked on the song "Idle Hands" coz we had asked 2 girl friends of Ian to sing back-up for us. We had much work to do. Good thing the girls we're game. We actually sounded quite nicely after a good hour's work.
It was a long night and probably one of my most tiring practice sessions. But I'm sure it'll be all worth it for Saturday's show. Tomorrow's gonna be the first night of Idiot Board. Ian's obviously nerve-wracked. It's been pretty much his show most of the way so the stress shows in his face. He'll survive. He better.
We we're supposed to meet up but Booboop begged off because he said he needed to rest his kidneys so we reset our practice to Wednesday. Scary, considering our debut gig date was looming closer. Deep inside though, I knew we'd do ok.
We meet up at Backyard Project studios again for a practice session. Before we went in the studio, we assesed our song line-up and decided that we'd be better off working on adding another original song rather than practicing "The Shiek". Its such a tricky song so we decided to polish instead "Disco is Dead" the new song. We went in the studio and ran it instinctively and surprisingly, it all came together rather well. We're definitely using it for the Idiot Board line-up.
Jerros is out of town for the weekend but the three of us decide to set-up an amp and practice in our garage. We used a borrowed guitar amp and used it for Booboop's bass. Ian and I just used our acoustic guitars. No mic set-up, but it wasn't needed. We started at around 2pm and we worked on the guitar dynamics for the song "Maude" which was by now sounding quite nicely with a shimmering guitar intro that Booboop call "Euro-shit". Later that day, after working on the song more, we got to agree it sounded more like "Sheila-shit". Better. We started work on new songs after a few cig breaks and a liter of soda. (Booboop drinks only mineral water as per doctor's orders). We jammed the song "Violet", a song that I felt should have been included in the "Manipulator" album. Surprisingly, we came out with an eerie sound and arrangement that was a mix of 70's sounding bass line (think Santana), a bluesy rhythm guitar, and "slide" guitar lead alternating with Ian's trademark "new wave-y" textural guitars. It sounded pretty exciting that we spontanously came up with an idea for the song's video (hint: sexy girls will be in it, naturally).
We also started work on a song that I wrote, titled "Disco is Dead". It's supposed to be an anti-pop ditty. Booboop's bass for this was very minimalist and served the song well. We agreed to work on it more after our gig next week. O yeah, next week's gig is the first public appearance of the new Sheila and the Insects. Idiot board at the Mango Square plaza.
We ended the practice at (what a surprise) almost 9pm! We were so hungry so we left to grab a bar-b-q meal and parted ways afterwards. Twas a good session.
Sheila and the Insects shows up at the backyard project studios for a rehearsal. This small recording studio which has evolved and expanded through the years to become a practice studio, a beer house, a canteen serving arguably the best porkchop this side of town, and a guitar factory, is where SATI recorded practically all of its albums. We arrived early but had to wait our turn as a band was already practicing inside the studio. The food, cheap yet really good and the light converstion kept the wait easy. Our practice started immediately as soon as the other band was done. We didn't waste time and immediately started work on SATI's new song "Maude". It's really shaping up quite nicely. We also went through the other SATI songs that we plan to perform in our first real gig with a new line-up and since our last band gig in January of this year at the Sinulog show in Fuente Osmeña.
After two hours worth of practice, we called it quits and packed up for the day. Next session will be Sunday.