MANILA, Philippines – It’s a little past 2 pm on a Sunday and I arrive at the façade of a band rehearsal studio in Pasig. Ron Francisco, who worked as the sound engineer for the new album, once told me that these guys are punctual—or rather early—most, if not all of the time; so I made it a point not to be late for this once-in-a-lifetime, exclusive interview with Sugar Hiccup.
It’s the original line-up from the ’90s—the founding member sans the bassist whom they had tumultuous conflict with years back—that I was to interview. Mervin Panganiban, the drummer, was still trying to find his way to the studio with a supposedly disoriented cab driver and the rehearsal studio was still closed, and the next thing I know, I find myself on the passenger seat of what I presumed was Czandro Pollack’s car, with him seated beside me on the driver’s seat and Melody del Mundo at the back, for the first half of the interview.
It feels a bit surreal being this close to them, and for them to be as open. Melody has flown in from the United States for the launch of the band’s 4th album.
She obligingly shares that she had to leave the band when she migrated for the US, with a baby growing in her womb, back in 2001. These days in California, she says, she’s just a normal person with a regular job and a family with 4 kids.
She did form a band called Stella’s Notch, and would still write songs whenever inspiration struck.
To say that Sugar Hiccup went through a lot during Melody’s absence would be an understatement. Bea Alcala joined the band as the new vocalist and with her, the album Of Tongues and Thoughts was released in 2006. “Bea put her own dimension to the band,” Czandro would say later into the interview, expressing that although he did miss Melody holding the mic, he was quite happy when Bea was singing for them.
Conflict within the band ensued and Bea and Czandro soon left.
A new band under the name Sugar Hiccup — sans Czandro, Melody, and Mervin— was formed. Melody and Czandro did not go in full detail regarding what happened after Czandro left the band, but from I gather, it seems that the situation got really ugly, with legal concerns crossing my mind. Czandro and Melody were obviously not pleased.
In 2015, however, Melody came back to the Philippines and the band had a reunion gig at 12 Monkeys in Makati. Around this time, talks of recording for a new EP began, and after laying in some tracks, they soon decided to turn it into a new album.
Completing the album was far from easy as Melody was still technically based in the States. Technology, nonetheless, made it possible. A sample scenario would find Melody recording her own voice and guitar tracks there, and sending the digital file to her bandmates here in the Philippines, where Czandro, Mervin and new bassist Iman Leonardo would have to study them, lay in their own tracks, and send them back to Melody for perusal.
It was about two years of laying in, recording track after track, throwing files back and forth, and working with a sound engineer to get the result they all wanted. Some of the songs were from way back; written in the ’90s, but never made it to past albums; other songs were written specifically for the new album, which ended up having 10 tracks all in all.
The band broke into the airwaves in 1995 with their debut album Oracle in 1995. The breakthrough single “Five Years” came from that album. Womb, which came out in 1998, was the last album Sugar Hiccup released with Melody on vocals.
It’s been close to two decades and suddenly, here they are, back with a new album, and their distinct, succulent brand of shoegaze, dreamy pop.
The big question is, why? Why only after two decades, when they’re middle-aged, all leading their own separate lives and busy with their own personal endeavours? Czandro and Iman are bandmates in Prank Sinatra, while Mervin pounds the skins for Imago. Melody, on the other hand, is living abroad. Why only now?
We are already seated inside the rehearsal studio when Melody confesses, “For me, it’s really more of unfinished business.”
“I don’t know about him,” she said, pointing to Czandro, who was hauling in equipment on the other side of the room.
Czandro walks towards us, saying, “Hence the album title.”
The title of the album is Closure. I slightly hesitate before asking, am I to take it literally?
“You may,” replied Czandro.
Melody chimes in. “Again, there were some songs whose inception was back in the ’90s. So what could have been another album back at that time na hindi nangyari, hindi natapos because life happened, because of life-changing events…so eto yun.”
“Gawin natin, tapusin natin (Let’s do it, let’s finish it) and let’s just see. We’re really excited na natapos (it’s done), finally. Ito na yun, and kumbaga,sabi nga ni Czandro, puwede na daw siyang mamatay (This is it and as Czandro said, he can die after).”
“Literally,” Czandro says in a serious tone, and I find it hard to believe he’s kidding.
I ask another question. Are we to take this as a sequel to your previous albums or as an entirely new saga? Because if we are to take it literally as closure, then it means that we are never to hear from Sugar Hiccup again.
And then, amidst the excitement of a soon to be released album, the saddest series of responses I’ve heard all afternoon.
“That’s a possibility, or should I say, a probability,” said Czandro.
“Not really a sequel, but a conclusion. I guess we’ve outgrown ourselves, already. We’ve outgrown the band. A lot of things happened to the band—or rather, the name of the band…“
Melody interrupts, “—blemished.”
“Used and abused, really!” interjected Czandro, convincing me that things really did not go well after he left the band.
“Another thing why it’s Closure’ is we’re sort of wrapping up,” Melody explains. “And supporting what he said about the band name, the word I used was ‘blemished.’ We had this image, but our music, the integrity of our music and of our band, was compromised. That’s all I can say. I’m sorry.”
“We’re wrapping this up for the sake of the band name, the band’s music, the band itself. Kasi yung imprint, yung stigma, gusto naming burahin eh. Yung kung ano man yung nangyari, for those na nakilala yung band, who weren’t listeners of the band in the ’90s and discovered Sugar Hiccup nung time na nagkakababuyan.”
(Because the imprint, the stigma, we want to erase it. Whatever that happened, for those who know the band, who weren’t listeners of the band in the ’90’s and discovered Sugar Hiccup that time it was all in chaos.)
Czandro is quick to clarify that they aren’t referring to the time when Bea Alcala was part of the band, but rather, the period after that.
Melody continues, “We’re doing this as part of closing the book or whatever, because eto talaga yung (this is the real) Sugar Hiccup. This is really the sound. And this is really the band, this is really the music. ”
“This is the supposed legacy,” Czandro said.
Sugar Hiccup will be playing what might be its very last gig during the launch of its 4th and quite possibly, very last album, Closure, on Saturday, December 30 at 12 Monkeys Music Hall & Pub in El Pueblo, Ortigas Center, Pasig. Show starts at 10 pm. – Rappler.com
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