Stepping inside the set of the IV OF SPADES shoot with Chalk.ph, the energy is spread out, at first–the second layout has just finished and the boys and the crew are bustling around–the photography team and the editors checking out spots to shoot around the area, the styling and grooming team preparing the band’s next looks, the band’s crew working on their phones.
Blaster Silonga is lying flat on the floor, chilling. Zild Benitez is snacking on Oreos and milk. Badjao de Castro is sitting on the makeup chair for his face art. Despite the lack of interaction at the moment, the silence is quite comforting. A little while after, chatter ensues but the atmosphere stays the same, only warmer. Zild, who takes his turn to get his temporary tattoo on, asks his bandmates to come over to help him with choosing his look. The quiet turns to bursts of laughter and jests as the trio gets final preps for the next setup. As Zild, Blaster, and Badjao come together to pose for the camera, one can’t deny the group’s chemistry. It’s like they’re each other’s puzzle pieces, completing one with all the others.
This statement truly describes the band. Even Zild admits, “I’m insecure. Parang kailangan ng dalawang kasama para ma-define ‘yung individuality [ko].” On their own, each member has a distinct flavor. But together, they create a rich potion that truly captures what they want to express as artists. Whether you see their authentic aesthetics or get a closer, more personal look at them, their solid identity hits you in an instant. Plain and simple–just as how they always introduce themselves on their shows–this is IV OF SPADES.
A Fresh Beginning
The band caused quite a stir in the previous year–they’re the biggest breakout stars of 2018. After releasing their hit "Mundo" on Valentine’s Day, IV OF SPADES only got bigger. More shows, more fans, more everything– including all the love and hate that inevitably comes with the popularity. Twitter was abuzz with freshly created fan accounts, and Facebook became a treasure trove of memes. People’s response to their music is dazing, with packed gig venues, tens of millions of streams on Spotify, countless YouTube gig videos and Instagram stories, and frequent song requests on radio stations and music channels.
But just months of riding along with this success, the music world is shaken when the band’s former frontman, Unique Salonga, departed the group.
“It was tragic at first,” Zild narrates. The other two agree, describing that time as a "desert base" and "dry". Masking the heartbreak is the hardest part of putting on a show, literally. “Lalo na kapag tutugtog ka du’n sa stage, tapos hindi mo pa nahi-heal yung sarili mo. Pero kailangan mong gawin ‘yun, syempre ayaw mo namang ma-disappoint ‘yung fans,” Blaster shares. It’s when they decided to take a break.
They used this time to think and–of course–make more music. With the new division of roles, everyone sought to step up their game. It was good pressure though, so to speak, resulting to make the big move and finally create an album. Badjao says, “Hindi kami nagpapakain sa pressure ng iba. Tuloy lang.” Fast forward to present– ClapClapClap! is now out for everyone to listen to.
“Hindi na kami ‘yung ‘It’s a 70’s band.’ Tapos na kami sa character na ‘yun. Here we go–to another character, to tell a different story,” the 21-year-old bassist declares.
Behind the Scenes
Celebrity glorification has become a part of our modern culture, and IV OF SPADES obviously wasn’t exempted to this. But at the end of the day, they’re still kids who love music, just like anyone their age. “Normal people lang naman kami, eh. Gusto lang namin gumawa ng music. Parang pare-pareho lang kami ng direction,” Blaster says.
But still, the boys constantly aim to be the best versions of themselves. Not just for them, but for other people as well. While they do keep their feet planted on the ground, the band has also recognized their position as public figures, thus the sense of responsibility they carry. Zild shares a story, “Minsan, may mae-encounter kang fan na bigla na lang ie-explain, ‘Your music saved my life.’ At first, mabigat siya na parang gano’n ka-big deal ‘yung ginagawa namin para sa kanya. Doon mo mare-realize na you have to fix your ass to do the right things and do proper music.”
“We are blessed na makatulong sa mga taong nangangailangan with our music. And to encourage people to be themselves. Na it’s okay to be yourself, to be different,” Badjao adds.
Their down-to-earth approach can also be credited to the huge support system they have, people who’ve been there from the very beginning. There’s Blaster’s father, Allan “Daddy A” Silonga, who founded the group, Gelo Esperon, their first road manager, Rommel Alipio, their first tech person (“Dati wala kaming budget pang-gas. Nakikisakay pa kami sa car niya noon”), Shaira Luna, the band’s dream collaborator (“Para kaming Arnel Pineda tapos siya ‘yung Journey, ‘yung pine-peg mo tapos bigla mong nakasama”), Daniel Aguilar, IVOS’s official photographer, and of course, their families and closest friends.
“Naalala ko pa, ‘yung nanay ko naghahatak pa sa church, may manood lang sa gig namin dati,” Zild reminisces. Now, the whole music community is willingly watching and even clamoring to be in the front row.
Friendship and Beyond
Their years together brought them closer not just as a band, but as real friends. You can see it in the way that they can finish each other’s sentences, as if they can read their minds. It’s also in those moments, whether they’re teasing or on serious mode, that you know they feel at home in this group.
It’s what happens when you’ve been there for the ups and downs. As devastated as they are during the rough times, the 3-piece was also together in all the memorable affairs, like performing in Wanderland, nabbing well-deserved recognition at the MYX Music Awards, and taking on an international stage at the recent Clockenflap Music Festival in Hongkong.
Now, with the release of their latest record, the IV OF SPADES members can say that their understanding of one another is a focal point of producing the album. “Para sa akin, pinaka-okay na may honest sa’yo,” Blaster shares. “Kunwari, gagawa ako ng something tapos sasabihin nilang pangit, tatangapin ko yun.”
With a bond this strong, who can tear this trio apart now? Certainly, we can say–no one. Because, whether you believe in them or not, this is IV OF SPADES. And it looks like they're here to stay for a longer while.
Photographed by Shaira Luna
Creative Direction by Madel Asuncion
Art Direction by Mikka Caronan
Styled by Team Ryuji Shiomitsu
Grooming by Janell Capuchino
CLAPCLAPCLAP! is now out on major streaming platforms.
ALSO READ: #ChalkLovesIVofSpades: IV OF SPADES On Their Journey To Producing 'CLAPCLAPCLAP!'