MANILA, Philippines – There’s a moment in The Cab’s 2nd album “Symphony Soldier” where the lessons of American blues, hip-hop and soul from The Rolling Stones to Parliament Funkadelic, The Red Hot Chilli Peppers to Maroon 5 are fused so effortlessly it transcends homage.
It’s in the desire romp of “Bad” but really crystallizes in “Endlessly,” co-written with pop meister Bruno Mars. Alterna-pop is coming out of the woodwork and The Cab’s brand of Timberlake-and-Michael-Jackson-meets-rock-band-grit-and-theatrics is at the spearhead.
Originally formed in 2005, The Cab are in Manila to play a few local dates in support of their latest LP, having just opened for their idols, Maroon 5, at the latter’s recently-concluded concert.
With a string of hits like “Bounce” and “One of Those Nights” in the wake of their debut album, they have since left their Fueled By Ramen/Decaydance label and struck out on their own as an indie band.
Lead vocalist Alexander de Leon notably tweeted when “Symphony Soldier” was released: “we paid for it all on our own and refused to take no for an answer.”
With critical acclaim from Rollingstone.com, Absolutepunk.net and top of the chart hits in the UK, US and Canada, two of the founding members — vocalist Alex De Leon and pianist Alex Marshall — sat down with RAPPLER for this exclusive.
You just opened for Maroon 5’s gig and are playing a few dates here on your own. How amazing has the tour been?
ALEX DE LEON: The tour’s been incredible. If you’d asked us 5 or 7 years ago what our dream tour would be when we were still in high school, it would be with Maroon 5. If you could tour with any band in the world, these would be the guys. It took 7 years of ups and down and hard work but we finally made it.
It must be surreal to just be sharing the stage with your musical idols.
ADL: It’s so surreal that just being at catering and eating, then the Maroon 5 guys walk in and they’d be like, “What’s up, guys?!” Or when they’d be on stage and they’d say, “We just want to thank The Cab for playing with us tonight.” Oh, my God! It’s just great!
ALEX MARSHALL: If you tour with a huge band or act, you never know if they’re going to be really nice or standoffish when you meet them. But then we had drinks (with Maroon 5) on the first day. They said “come have drinks with us” and there we were. Definitely adds a few years but, yeah, that was it on the first day.
ADL: When you share a beer with somebody, that’s it! You’re brothers. It’s the “beer bond.”
You formed this band when you guys were still in high school. Did you have plan Bs if the band didn’t work out?
ADL: We graduated from high school and went on tour like a week later.
AM: (This guy) was the brain. I would play sports. I was a jock. This just kind of happened and we just had to figure out what the next step was.
ADL: It all happened by surprise. Marshall was enrolled and I was going to Arizona State University. I had a scholarship and I had all straight As in high school.
Yeah, I was a straight A guy. I was the guy that people would pay to write their paper. I would do their homework.
I’ve probably partied enough for the past few years to make up for not partying in high school.
Now you’re in Asia, thousands of miles away from home, playing your songs to thousands. What do you love about it?
ADL: Music is more or less a piece of the person who creates it, it’s an extension of you. So if you play a show and see even one kid singing along with the music and words you came up with, it’s pretty surreal.
Last night (at the Maroon 5 concert) it was — I don’t know — 10,000 or 15,000 people? So, wow, yeah, we came up with that? Those are our songs, our stories.
It’s great to know that people can relate to the same thing and, in that way, you can bring them joy and happiness.
If people are going through hard times and they go to our concert and escape their reality to just be happy, just forget about the world in an hour — it’s a really cool thing.
AM: We’re way on the other side of the world and people still respond to us. They’re singing songs I wrote in my room.
What are your goals as a band, though? You’re going into a world tour and prepping for a 3rd record. How do you top something as critically acclaimed and responsive worldwide as “Symphony Soldier”?
ADL: A few years ago, the cool thing was to be cute and famous and have radio songs. But now the cool thing is to be a hit because you’re cool.
The big songs of the past few years have been by Foster the People and Fun’s “We Are Young,” but those bands didn’t aim to be on the radio; they aimed to just be really cool. Then the cool people started listening to them, and then they got to the radio because they were cool.
That’s why the indie and DIY stuff are popular now, because they’re not popular. Before, it was just write the catchiest thing possible and be popular.
We shoot as high as possible. We want to be the biggest band in the world. We want to be like Maroon 5.
There’s a lot of fusion going on in your sound. Is that a conscious process in song writing?
ADL: We’d take (Marshall’s) classical piano kind of mind and then my pop sensibility; it’s a hybrid.
We definitely have this rock side and then this Timberlake, Michael Jackson side. Everything’s been kind of done before. Rock and roll has been done, R&B has been done; you just have to go into those genres and put your own spin to it. You’re not going to create something that’s 100% unique. Ever.
AM: It’s not really a race to see who’s the best; it’s whoever’s feeling it at the moment. If you’re on, you’re on.
They say the great songs come together effortlessly and are written really fast.
AM: This wasn’t a single on our record, but “Love Sick Fool” was written in, like, 45 minutes. We were both feeling some pretty heavy stuff and a while later there it was. We pretty much recorded the same thing and didn’t change much.
ADL: Yeah, the great songs come together really fast. The good things, you don’t really overthink them.
You just feel that they’re good as opposed to being calculated. It just kind of takes the soul and all the music with it if you think too much and just force something to work.
Like that “Call Me Maybe” song. Dude, you can hate on that song all you want but if it comes on and you’re bobbing your head, it’s catchy as all hell.
And those songs are written so fast because when you’re writing it, they’re just [snaps fingers]. – Rappler.com
The Cab performs in a series of free (yes, free) shows at the Ayala Malls: TriNoma on September 21, Alabang Town Center on September 22 and Glorietta on September 23.
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