Folk pop band Ben&Ben is, undoubtedly, everyone’s current favorite band. Who wasn’t hooked when their hit single "Kathang Isip" rose up to the charts and, instantaneously, became the national heartbreak anthem? Listening to the band’s music is such a rich experience, with lyrics that hit home. For instance:
“All will be alright in time,” they sing in "Leaves," and these words, along with its enchanting melody, gives us comfort during a dark hour.
“I will love you 'til we're old,” they sing in "Maybe The Night," igniting the kind of affection that feels as infinite as anyone who's young and in love feels.
“Aminin ang mga lihim, sana ‘di magbago ang pagtingin,” they sing in "Pagtingin," inspiring us to be brave in the face of love.
The magic of the 9-piece group lies not just in inducing LSS (Last Song Syndrome) to their listeners. It’s also how they manage to be easily relatable, without losing touch of their style. Lead vocalists Miguel and Paolo Guico, who started as a duo, made the right choice in choosing the perfect ensemble to make up the band that we know today.
But this September, we’ll be seeing them in a new light. They’re still gigging, sure, but the band took on a new role (literally,) without putting their music aside. They're making their big screen debut co-starring real-life couple Khalil Ramos and Gabbi Garcia in the Pista Ng Pelikulang Pilipino entry film called—you guessed it—LSS under Globe Studios.
But before we head to the cinemas and catch Ben&Ben showcase their acting chops, Chalk.ph got to hangout with the musical bunch to talk about their creative process and inspirations, the changes and challenges along the way, and, of course, their experience in a movie set. Here’s what the twins, guitarist Poch Barretto, drummer Jam Villanueva, bassist Agnes Reoma, keyboardist Patricia Asaten, percussionists Toñi Munoz and Andrew de Pano, and violinist Keifer Cabugao have to share.
Before Ben&Ben, the local indie scene had The Benjamins, with Paolo and Miguel performing as a two-piece act in smaller gigs. In 2016, they entered their single "Tinatangi" for Philpop Music Festival, which eventually won second runner up. Later that year, the twins were set to release their self-titled EP, and decided to invite a few friends to play for them during the launch.
Despite coming from the twins’ different circles, the formation was kismet. “Only Poch and Jam, and Agnes and Pat, were friends before,” Andrew shares. Some of them grew up in musical families, most were gigging with other bands prior to joining Ben&Ben. Together on stage, however, the chemistry was undeniable. They’ve been together since.
Other bands are a showcase of four to six members at most, but being a nonet, the size of the band isn’t really an issue. Creatively, weaving one another’s sound stems from high introspection—it’s how they make it work. To make their music, they look inward deeply, so they can breathe outward fully, so to speak. Paolo describes it further, “We jam together as a band, but the dearth of our creative input stems from the years of musical exploration within, picking up from the nuances and stylings that we absorbed from the music we listen to and the wealth of painful and blissful experiences that we have gone through individually and as a group.”
Like other musicians, they also draw inspiration for their songs from anywhere. Miguel lists down "personal experiences, the experiences of people close to you, and even those who aren't" as sources. “The important thing is that you are able to channel those raw emotional experiences sa mga salita at musika na totoo,” he remarks.
That’s how they came up with their debut album. The road to Limasawa Street, though, was not without rough pavements. Since getting more traction in 2017, Ben&Ben found themselves getting more and more shows both in small and big venues. Their calendar was filled up fast, and mental and physical fatigue also caught up with their busy schedules. Soon, finding time for themselves and for family and friends became a challenge, too. But they know better than to stop the momentum.
“We overcome it by being open to each other about the importance of spending time for personal relationships, setting our priorities, and our family and friends' understanding,” Toni says, while Poch adds, “What we really made sure of with each other was na walang yayabang and everyone stays grounded.”
As Ben&Ben switched their gig spiels to script lines, the LSS movie set proved to be a space for more growth. The group, as lead star Gabbi describes, is very open and easy to work with. For the band, it was comfortably beautiful—the collaboration of talents, combined with shared passion, makes for an experience to remember. “Sobrang gaan ng feeling kahit pagod na kami, kasi you can feel na passionate lahat sa craft nila,” Agnes recalls.
The film isn’t just a story of romance that happened in the music scene, as any gig-goer may relate to. It’s a tale of chasing for one’s dream as an aspiring artist. As people who’ve been there, the members can connect to the message that the film wants to convey. One that stood out is the issue of discouragement and criticism that comes from the people who are closest to you, especially when you’re just starting out. “It's mostly fine when we start doing it as a hobby, but the moment it becomes a discussion of wanting to take it more seriously, that is usually met with a lot more hesitation and negativity,” Andrew explains. Raise your hand if you can relate!
We can’t spoil how LSS ends, but if there’s any takeaway from this conversation with Ben&Ben, it’s the importance of holding on to your dream as you wait patiently for your time to come. It’s going to be a long journey, but you’ll eventually catch a "Ride Home," en route to where you’re supposed to be.
Catch 'LSS' in cinemas this Sept. 13-19, 2019.
Photographed by Karlo Torio
Creative Direction by Madel Asuncion
Art Direction by Mikka Caronan
Styled by JM Gumatay
Assisted by Rouella Ann Garcia
Hair and Makeup by Muriel Vega Perez and Team
Video Produced by Deiniel Cuvin
Shot by Sam Aniciete
Edited by Play It Forward
ALSO READ: #ChalkChallenge: Gabbi Garcia & Khalil Ramos Share Their Favorite Songs For Each Other!