Behind-the-scenes notes on new Eraserheads songs
It’s been a couple of weeks since the monumental launch of the Eraserheads’ new singles. The two songs came with the September issue of Esquire Philippines, a feat that took fans by happy surprise.
Music journalists can explain the merits of both songs in comparison to the band’s previous releases – the last being more than a decade ago. But perhaps one that comes close was a vague description I received when I was trying to learn more about them:
“Parang Eraserheads na ngayon.” (It’s like the Eraserheads for today.)
It’s a kind of description that makes sense once hearing the songs. They are old and new. But certainly, it’s still quintessentially the Eraserheads.
Hangover quest for more
For the fans who attended the magazine launch and bore witness to the “Not Eraserheads” jam at the end of the night, the new songs are a bonus to the well-loved superband that’s been greatly missed.
“Do not think of this EP as a precursor to a full album. We don't know if or when that will happen,” advises project coordinator Sancho Sanchez, in an email exchange I had with him a few days after the event.
For now, yeah, that’s it. So what’s a fan to do?
We milk the experience of listening to these gems for all they’re worth. We gobble up what we can, including ice cream made in tribute to this spectacle. (Yes, it is a well-executed flavor created by Sebastian’s Ice Cream after being challenged to create a concept inspired by 1995, one of the new songs—a nod to a different era.)
Reunion of old timers
The songs themselves take you on some kind of nostalgic journey. It is interesting to note that two longtime friends and collaborators of the band were pulled in to complete the experience. We ask them for more details.
Sancho, for instance, worked with the ‘Heads in various capacities in the past.
“I worked with them as their A&R guy in BMG records, starting from Cutterpillow up to Carbon Stereoxide. I'd be present in most of the recording sessions and I would usually contribute a track or two in each album. For their live shows here and abroad, I worked with them in different capacities, as a roadie, sound engineer and recently, live session guitarist.”
Sancho’s involvement came via Esquire EIC Erwin Romulo, who also wore the hat of record producer for the songs. They bounced the idea around while still in London and talked more seriously about it when they got back to Manila. As project coordinator, he took care of the timeline and assisted Erwin in his capacity as producer.
Erwin courted artist Cynthia Bauzon-Arre quite differently. After the London tour, Erwin asked Cynthia and husband, Arnold Arre, to dinner.
“I thought we were just going to do some catching up, it turns out he had something up his sleeve,” Cynthia recalls. That something was the sleeve design.
Cynthia’s Eraserheads-related work is expansive. After working with them for an advertising-related project, she was asked by drummer Raymund Marasigan to design their fanzine, “Pillbox” – her first independent project with the Eraserheads outside advertising.
“A couple months later Ely asked if I'd like to illustrate a picture book they were writing. He gave me the outline, I faxed them a watercolor sketch, they liked it and that was the birth of ‘Fruitcake.’”
Then on, Cynthia was their often-sought artist. Album design credits read like the Eheads discography: Aloha Milkyway, Natin99, Carbon Stereoxide. (She also took care of Ely’s solo album, a couple albums of Raymund’s other band, Sandwich, and Raymund’s electronica counterpart, Squid9.)
She and Arnold worked on the Ultraelectromagneticjam tribute album, the Heads Set box set, the two Eraserheads Anthology albums and the reunion concert album.
Yes, of course
“I have so much history with the E-heads so it was a no-brainer,” Cynthia confesses.
“I also learned that Sancho was on the production team, which meant that it was really going to be a reunion. How could I say no? I had complete faith that Erwin would be able to pull it off and of course I knew it would be awesome to see everyone all together again. My '90s is filled with memories of working and hanging out with these people.”
For the recording, Sancho was recruited to be project coordinator for the songs and had front row seats to the entire process, having to be present at each recording session.
From Sancho Sanchez’s Instagram account:
"Dahil Sabado ngayon. (Because it's Saturday.) (2nd draft of Sabado lyrics handwritten by co-writer and co-producer Erwin Romulo). #EsquireEheads," reads the caption. (WATCH: Music video for new Eraserheads song 'Sabado')
He shares, “I wanted to know what kind of songs they would come up with today and how it would sound like, and to witness the creative process that brought the new songs to life.”
It was not all privilege, however. The work involved came with challenges, especially in terms of the foursome’s hectic schedules.
Cynthia notes of the same issues, matter-of-factly. Because of the schedule, Cynthia and Arnold attended a recording to hear the music and were sent rough cuts after, so that she could get started.
This is "Sabado," a piano version performed by none other than Buddy Zabala. Shot during the Eraserheads recording at Sound Creation Studios, July 2014.
Given complete freedom, Cynthia worked a whole weekend creating studies.
She recounts, “I made so many, anything that came to mind I would put to paper and then send them in batches of 5 or 6. It was a fun exercise but I can't say it wasn't difficult.
Before, it was easy because they were all in one place – literally and figuratively. Brainstorming sessions were really fun back in the '90s. Now, since everyone was busy with their own gigs and lives, I had to send the studies via e-mail and talk to Erwin and the members individually.”
From Arnold and Cynthia Arre’s Instagram account:
"A few of my design studies (made a lot!) #esquireeheads #inthemaking #latergram," read the caption.
This is the final version:
The end, for now
The approved design features color blocks with an inverted E. Cynthia says that it was the common favorite.
It was, in the end, very rewarding. “I was pleasantly surprised to see how easy it was, still, for them to breathe life to the songs,” Sancho muses.
Cynthia adds, “Try to listen to the new songs as the works of art that they are. Appreciate the guys' growth as musicians and marvel at the craftsmanship that went into the production.”
If there’s a next time for more Eraserheads songs, no one really knows, not even the band. For something that resulted from a whim, the fact that so many thousands now have new music in their hands is a feat that must be credited to Esquire, the band, and the team that came together to take us all back on a musical trip.
As Cynthia contemplates, “They are the Eraserheads, but at the same time they're not anymore. There is a line in Sabado that goes "itapon ang kahapon, yakapin ang darating...at kung kailangan niyo ako, lagi naman akong nandito" which says it all.
(Throw away yesterday, embrace what’s coming…and if you need me, I’m always here.)
They are all ready to move on with their lives but if we need them and their music, they are just a ‘play’ button away.” – Rappler.com
Candice Lopez-Quimpo is a writer-editor who enjoys being a hands-on mom. While she constantly looks for stories to tell and collaborations to explore, she often finds herself pondering the curiosities that come with everyday life and the happy mayhem brought about by a growing family. Follow her on Twitter @candicequimpo