The Fresh New Sound of INTRoVOYS; Album Launch at Knitting Factory on January 19
Photo: The all new INTRoVOYS -- (L-R) Steve Guadiz (guitar), JJ Buencamino (keyboardist), Chot Ulep (bass player), Jonathan Buencamino (vocals), and Paco Arespacochaga (drummer) -- and their all-new re-recorded greatest hits sounds, will be heard at a major album launch and "LIVE" concert entitled "New Beginnings" at the Knitting Factory on January 19.
By Oliver Carnay
INTRoVOYS, the boy band who captured the hearts of many and became an icon in the 90’s Philippine mainstream music scene gained their popularity, not by being the so-called “good-looking” group-band, as what mostly rock-band is popular about. Theirs were original compositions and genuine talents. With classified standard hits on the charts to reckon with, the group catapulted into fame as a pioneering boy-band in the nation.
INTRoVOYS built their fan base from being able to relate to their listeners and being proud to be able to flaunt the OPM standards. Such certified No. 1 hits came up the billboard --“ However Whichway,” “Calling All Nations,” “Maynila,” “Lullabye,” “Will I Survive,” “Di Na Ko Aasa Pa,” “ Binibini,” “and “Are You Happy,” among others, earned them the title as “the No. 1 Band in the Land!”
With more hit songs after another --“Line to Heaven”, “Kailanman,” “My Girl,” “Kapayapaan,” “Tell Me Why,” “More Than A Friend,” “Magkaisa Tayong Lahat,” and “Living My Life,” and more, INTRoVOYS was the No. 1 band in the nation at the time solo artists were dominating the music industry.
For a while, INTRoVOYS enjoyed their “super-band status.” But like any other group band, fate took its toll with major changes. In 1996, notable members of the group, Paco Arespacochaga left the band, while another original member, Jonathan Buencamino, was forced to take an indefinite leave of absence because of health reasons.
Fast forward to 2006, the INTRoVOYS band is taking a fresh big comeback – with a new album aptly titled “New Beginnings,” consist of their greatest hits – re-recorded with a new fresh sound and rythm. And what a way to kick-off the Filipino concert scene in 2007 but to jumpstart as the first Filipino gig-concert on January 19, 2007, at the Knitting Factory, a watering hole of some of the upcoming most celebrated artists in Hollywood.
The concert, aptly titled “New Beginnings,” is an introduction of the “changes” the group has stored to regain their No. 1 status, and to commit once again to the legion of fans eagerly waiting for their “rising” Hollywood mainstream career.
I caught up one afternoon with one of the founders of INTRoVOYS - Paco Arespacochaga, who has provided me some revealing notes. He answered the rest of my queries candidly. 2007 seems to be a good year for him, and he was all excited about the new gig at the Knitting Factory. Here’s an in-depth interview with him:
OC: When you moved to L.A. from Manila, was reviving INTRoVOYS and playing in Hollywood mainstream venues, one of your future plans? What was the main reason of leaving your career in the Philippines and moving to Hollywood?
PA: “When I left Manila for Los Angeles in July of 2001, we were already playing together as INTRoVOYS. My departure was not to bring the band to the United States. My intention to leave was due to the fact that I had hit rock bottom in Manila. I was at a lost with family, friends and my career. No, it wasn’t drug or alcohol related. It was more of wanting to start all over again.
I heard from artists who have gone to the United States that there was a program that can get me a Green Card. I thought that it just might be the opportunity which can help secure my future and the future of my wife, Tiny and son, Heaven. I remember telling the guys from INTRoVOYS that I’d have to leave them for two years but I was going to come back and we would continue what we started. T
he United States opened my eyes to a lot of opportunities. These are opportunities I would have never grasped had I stayed in Manila. From personal to professional opportunities, I sharpened my skills and contributed to society. I paid off all my debt in Manila, saved money, secured a stable job, auditioned and played for different rock bands on the side and still had enough time to enjoy peace and serenity with my wife. Life had become good! Two and a half years had gone by and I was ready to wake up the band.”
OC: How did you go about reviving Introvoys? Was there any setback? Is this the original group? What were the changes? Who are the new members and can you give me each of their backgrounds? How did you meet them?
PA: “I called Jonathan Buencamino (vocalist) in the Philippines and told him that it was time to get everyone together. I told him about all the things I had gone through and had wanted him and the rest of the boys to fly to the US and so, we all agreed that we were going to start our reunion it the United States. This was the start of our setbacks. Without much clout or songs on the radio or TV appearances, no producer wanted to play with the idea of bringing INTRoVOYS to America! For another year and a half, I had to sell the idea of an Introvoys reunion to various local producers.
It was in January of 2005 when Jackie Regala and Gerry Katigbak of KATz Entertainment both finally agreed to produce the concert! It was during this time that we decided to record our 7th studio album, A Brighter Day, which was to be released as an indie in time for the reunion concert set for July 20, 2005.
The album got done and pressed and was on schedule. The rest of the band didn’t make it on the date we were scheduled to perform at the Alex Theatre in Glendale. The US Embassy in Manila didn’t allow the rest of the boys to fly until a week later. I ended up dong the show by myself with the help of some musician friends. It was a nightmare worth experiencing!!! The boys flew in just in time for the San Francisco show which was scheduled a week later.
It felt weird to finally be reunited with the people I grew up with, musically, in a foreign land… after experiencing all the objections. It was the start of “victory.” The band members that flew in were Jonathan and JJ Buencamino, who are both original members. Also parts of the unit were Jonathan Manuel and Henry Abesamis, who were part of the 2nd Generation line-up.
Of course, every a band member was replaced, the sound of the band (in general) tends to change too, unless the member leaving is replaced with another member who has the same style. But why do that?”
“INTRoVOYS did successful shows in New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles, San Diego and Burbank before taking a hiatus for the holidays. It was during this time that Henry Abesamis decided to go back to Manila. Jonathan Manuel decided that he wouldn’t pursue future projects with the band. Despite these drawbacks, the band was still able to generate massive album sales via the Internet. This inspired me, and the rest of the guys to look for new members that will “localize” INTRoVOYS.”
“I met Steve Guadiz (guitar player) while doing a show for MiG Ayesa. I played drums and he played guitars for MiG. After the show, I invited him to audition for INTRoVOYS. He blew everyone away! Steve is Filipino but was born and raised here. He’s never been to Manila but would love to do shows there in the future. I admire the guy a lot. With regard to music, Steve is both analytical and critical. Yet this doesn’t take away from his effectiveness. A true showman, Steve will do what a real rock-star guitar player will do on stage! No shame there!”
“I met Chot Ulep (bass player) while I was doing some live session work with guitar virtuoso, Perf de Castro. We somehow clicked on and off stage. Of course, I took the opportunity to invite him to audition for the band too. Chot is very funny. And because he is also much disciplined, he can clown around and get away with it! Chot is very creative. He can write songs, great songs, in less than an hour. He is a vegetarian which can be a pain sometimes. But that is a whole ‘nother story.”
“Jonathan Buencamino (vocals) is more on the shy side. He isn’t like your typical extrovert-ish vocalist who can get real “loud” offstage. Jonathan is quite the opposite. When you meet this guy backstage, you will notice how reserve and polite he is.”
“On the other hand, Jonathan’s brother, JJ Buencamino (keyboardist) is kinda… eccentric. He is in his own world. We only talk to JJ when we need to! Hahahaha! But seriously, as weird as he seems to be, JJ is one of the most caring members of the band.”
“Of course, there’s me (Paco)! I should have been the vocalist of this band since I talk a lot! Unfortunately, I can’t sing as good as the rest of my band-mates, so I play the drums. Fortunately, I play them well… well enough to earn their respect.”
OC: When did you start the idea of re-recording your hit songs?
PA: “The idea of doing a re-recording of our greatest hits came when the current line-up of the band fell into place. We wanted to put a stamp on this part of the band’s history. We were trying to figure out what would be significant enough for us and our fans to make this “2nd coming” memorable and noticeable. Then it dawned on us that most of the fans have been emailing us about a greatest hits album. Now, we didn’t really want to just compile all the hits and put it out on one album.
We thought it would be a better idea to have the 5 of us (Jonathan, JJ, steve, chot and me) re-record all the hits, arrange it a bit and incorporate 2007 technology and see what will happen. We were kinda blown away with the results. We named the album New Beginnings. So to sum up the album’s significance, it pays homage to what INTRoVOYS was while letting the listener know what INTRoVOYS is to become.”
OC: Any favorites in the album?
PA: “My fave song in the “New Beginnings” album is “More Than a Friend.” I like the way the song was rearranged. Did I like the original recording and arrangement? NO! I hated this song but now, I love it to death!”
OC: Songs brings memories, any memorable moments you remember in each songs whenever you play the songs in the album? What are these?
PA: “All the songs bring certain memories back to life. One song in the album, Stay, was written while my mom was cooking “Purefoods” corned beef for the band. Of course the corned beef had nothing to do with the song but just like “Pavlov’s dog”, every time I listen, play or rehearse this song… I crave for corned beef!!! Hahahaha! Then there’s the perpetual Line to Heaven ditty that will always remind me of how much my parents meant to me and of how much this song had been instrumental in who I’ve become. The album contains all 18 songs:
Just a Dream (10 of Another Kind) Maynila (Back to the Roots) However Whichway (Back to the Roots) Calling All Nations (Back to the Roots) Kaibigan (Back to the Roots) Lullabye (Back to the Roots)
Will I Survive (Breaking New Grounds) Di Na Ko Aasa Pa (Breaking New Grounds) Stay (Breaking New Grounds) Line to Heaven (Line to Heaven) Kailanman (Line to Heaven) Living My Life (Greatest Hits LIVE!) More Than a Friend (Introvoys – One) Tell Me Why (Introvoys – One) Eroplano (Eroplano) The Big Ride (Eroplano) In a Little While (A Brighter Day) Desire (A Brighter Day)
OC: What is expected on January 19? What happens after the concert? Do you plan to have a tour? Any months already set for the tour?
PA: “On January 19, 2007… we are going to have an album launch at the Knitting Factory. Doors will open at 9:30pm. People will be greeted with the DJ playing 80’s music such as songs from Tears for Fears, Thompson Twins, Duran Duran, Depeche Mode, etc. We hit the stage at 10:30pm picking whatever the DJ plays. So let’s say he’s spinning Bizarre Love Triangle by New Order, INTRoVOYS is going to pick up from that song seamlessly. Then we play some originals from the New Beginnings album.
We’ll be covering some OPM tunes. Then to bring it all up… we’ll be doing some covers that will make people dance. Since the event is up to 2am. The DJ will pick up from our last song and mix it up with more current music such as Hip Hop, RnB, Drum and Bass, etc. It’s really a party and that’s how we want it to be. This will be a time for mingling and socializing and whatever.”
OC: Who takes care of your bookings? How many will be in your entourage if you take a gig in the east coast or out of state booking?
PA: “At this point, all booking are now handled by Ootz Productions in which the band owns a majority of shares. Under this production outfit is the 2heaven Muzik, which is the band’s record label. Cristina, who is our manager, is also the “go to” person with regard to bookings. She can be reached at 310.623.0824. There are 8 people in the band’s entourage, 5 being the band plus our production manager, stage manager and manager. We never leave without them.
When we did our 20th Anniversary Concert Party, we rented the Knitting Factory’s Main Stage. At first, the venue’s management was skeptic about attendance. We had no front-acts then. We only had a good DJ and the band. We sold over capacity! They were impressed. We got a call from them before the holiday asking if we had an event happening in January. It coincided with the whole album launch so we came to an agreement.”
OC: What's your goal for the group?
PA: “I would like to see the band back in action. Nothing can be better than bringing INTRoVOYS to a whole new level that will help open the door to Fil-am bands that have been struggling longer than us. We’d like to do to Fil-am bands what Apl de Ap did to Fil-am solo artists! It just brings pride to the Filipino as a people! Thanks Oliver!!!!”