Home » Columns » My Ass Hurts: Francis Maria and his Year in Pinoy Hardcore Punk

My Ass Hurts: Francis Maria and his Year in Pinoy Hardcore Punk

December 29, 2014 11:08 am by: Category: Columns, Features Leave a comment

Continental Records

Ian asked me to compile a year-ender of sorts for Vandals on the Wall, so here goes. I’m not going to pretend I’m a counterculture pundit or have my ears to the ground when it comes to the incredibly convoluted piss-crossing world of Philippine “punk” or whatever it’s called now. This is about how this end of the cultural spectrum has been a pain in my ass for the past year. Nothing else. Prepare for a lot of rambling.

Disclaimer: My involvement in hardcore/punk started with the Davao City hardcore scene (also known as the City of Thorns Crew). I have since relocated to Manila in 2011.

LOCAL BANDS

I’m pretty sure you guys have the right to throw vitriol at me for not mentioning your favorites (there are lots of hard-working hardcore/punk locals out there), but I think these bands deserve a second look. You might not get another chance to appreciate them while they’re active.  These are some bands I’ve gotten into fairly recently.

Thieves
After months of hype surrounding the band, I finally got the chance to experience them for myself. I like that the band is a mix of DIY kids and people from outside the scene and the fact they went on to play a less-accessible form of hardcore deeply endears me to them (That, and having a soft spot for their singer, Darwin). Thieves tend to revolve around the whole Solid State Records school of chaotic hardcore.  All well and good, but as they currently stand, the band could really benefit from a lot more pop sensibility in their writing. Not saying they should go melodic, but there are ways to make particular brands of chaos memorable. The bits and pieces are there, but I’m not sure about the way they lay their songs out. I’m optimistic about them though, and I’m suspending judgment until they put a record out. It could really go either way. They’re lots of fun live, by the way.

Thieves

(c) Kena Peñalba


Lindenwood
I’ll say it straight up, they are an amazing band live and Jason’s voice is one of my favorites in local punk. Really strong gigging ethic with these guys (as with the rest of the Continent Records roster), and the songs are more on the punk end of the melodic hardcore spectrum. They have an EP out called This is Nothing. The songs themselves are nice, but I’m a bit iffy about the way they recorded this. I’m pretty sure they were going for a looser feel by tracking everything at once instead of one at a time. The sloppiness doesn’t really work as well as it should, and the vocals are a bit too high in the mix. Looking forward to their next record though. The songs themselves are worth it, picking up right where their previous band Import The World left off but just… better. If you’re into orgcore, or stuff like Hot Water Music, you might like these guys. Catch them live if you can.

Lindenwood



Small Hands
One of the more interesting acts of the year, Small Hands are equally lovable and polarizing. They straddle a line between being awkward punks and semi-famous alt darlings with Tani and Sep coming from relatively obscure emo-leaning punk bands like Neverdie and Walk Me Home respectively while Alva and Chi have pedigrees with Game Theory and Typecast. Their record Wet Dog is a mix of Midwest-style indiemo with dashes of driving (and at times abrasive) post-hardcore, something I didn’t think would garner any sort of mainstream attention.  Their record is still pretty young sounding, and I’d love to hear what they come up with next. I heard some of their new songs as they wrote them, and dabbling in grind/emoviolence could make them go from really good to pretty fucking great.

 Small Hands



Nonentities
Speaking of polarizing, if you dick around the hardcore/punk scene long enough, you WILL get into an argument with their frontman, Ron Schlander. Coming from likes of Tame The Tikbalang and Mindrape/The Beauty of Doubt, they’re a local supergroup in every sense of the word (whether they like it or not), and you can hear bits and pieces of all their previous bands come together in a literate, honest, and distinctly revolution summer-flavored package. Have you heard this sound before? I’m pretty sure you have. Will any other bands sound like Nonentities? Maybe. Is it easy to get this sound right? No, but Nonentities make it look easy.  They’re thought provoking on and off stage, and you will get plenty of material to chew on. Just don’t ask them to play for Pulp or on a bill with bands that already have mainstream support. It’s not going to happen.



Yomi No Kuni
These guys aren’t from the hardcore/punk scene, but I’d really love to see more shows with these guys on the bill. I first heard of Kenneth via Slickfinger and from his session work with Game Theory. The dude’s an insane guitar player who also does some hilarious guitar faces. Anyway, as a huge sludge/doom fan, I lost my shit when he told me he was working on a post-metal band. I asked these guys to play for a show my collective put up when one of the bands backed out, and thankfully Yomi No Kuni made it on ultra-short notice. As expected, the band was slow, brooding, and heavy. What I didn’t see coming though was how well placed their parts were, and how the heaviness was interspersed with smoky jazz sections; really tasteful, immersive, and intelligent music. Looking forward to booking more shows with them. I think they have a record coming up? Not sure, but I’d love to hear it as soon as it’s out.

 Yomi No Kuni



Joop
I had the pleasure of meeting these guys while Enzo and Jason doubled as the rhythm section of alt-prog unit, Game Theory. Again, these guys aren’t from the hardcore/punk scene either but I’d love to see them more often. Their earlier stuff had more of an alt-indie feel with math-rock undertones. Based on the last time I saw them, they’ve been going deeper into math-rock territory, which I think just might be the band’s strong suit. If you’re into Topshelf Records-sounding stuff and stuff like Prawn or Tubelord, you’ll like these guys.

joop

Molar
These guys are another part of the Continent Records roster. It’s more Midwest-sounding stuff, but with the added bonus of having really good vocal harmonies. Not too big on this sound myself, but they really sound sincere, have good lyrics, and those fucking harmonies are killer. It’s like the Beach Boys filtered through the Kinsella lens. They recently did a record, but I don’t know when it’s dropping. Watch out for the three-part harmonies on their song, Shoe Gazing.



Red John
Not sure what other bands they’re in (Blanix? Jahannam? Feel free to correct me), but I mostly know Red John for having former members of Bulacan-based screamo band, Shirley Steinberg. They picked up right where they left off, still leaning towards the American side of the screamo sound with post-rock-influenced guitar parts in between the skrammy bits. I don’t think they’ve recorded yet, but let’s see where 2015 takes them.

Red John



Cadenzabler
Now this is a band to watch. Cadenzabler are a metalcore band from Cainta with clear roots in both Trustkill Records hardcore, and the American screamo sound. I’m not a big fan of their clean vocal parts, but their singer has a great set of pipes for screaming; as in the guy’s really good. In terms of writing and arrangement, I’m glad they took a page from the mid-00s metalcore playbook and laid their songs out in ways that accentuate what each part is doing. The breakdowns in particular are well placed. For a subgenre where overdoing things is the norm, you’ll come to appreciate the many turns Cadenzabler take throughout each song. They’re also really good live. It’s funny seeing their guitar player Brucher look tough/aggressive too. Dude’s too adorable to look hardcore.

Cadenzabler


Exconfig
The band features a rhythm section with members of Utterdismay and Jahannam along with Archie of No Peace in Silence and Francis from Utterdismay and a whole host of goth/industrial bands. I initially thought they were going to be a pop-punk outfit. At least that’s what Francis told me early on. When I finally got around to seeing them, I was pleasantly surprised to find they took a more interesting turn by throwing synthesizers and new wave flair over their Replacements-tinged alt-punk core.


Conformist
Haven’t seen them live yet save for a couple of videos, but I’ve heard good things about them. The country hasn’t seen much in terms of Converge-flavored metallic hardcore since Sauna called it quits about 4-5 years ago, so you couldn’t really blame me for jumping on this. It’s looking like the more chaotic end of the hardcore spectrum will swallow the east end of the metro in 2015.

Conformist

THE VACUUM

Despite my optimism in the future of hardcore/punk, I do have my apparent gripes. I was supposed to write a whole fuckload of paragraphs for this one, but I’ll just do this list in bullets because I’m tired and the holidays are cramping my style. These points are spoken out of my gaping ass and not to be taken at full face value.

  • The punk ethic found in our organic scene is still arguably alive, but most local hardcore/punk bands lack a sense of musical adventure and/or vision.
  • The old guard of established hardcore/punk kids is generally split into camps that are either exclusive and elitist, or jaded and seemingly detached.
  • Although I harbor no ill will towards people who catch whiff of hardcore through music alone, people whose understanding of hardcore/punk stops at aping the tropes found in their favorite hardcore bands alarm me. Sadly, entire scenes of people are built around this form of enculturation. If hardcore and punk are supposed to be more than music, your experience of the hardcore/punk narrative lacks qualifying context.
  • You’re seriously no different from jocks and playground bullies in that case. Difference here is you listen to too much Madball or (insert meat-headed hardcore band here)
  • The face of Philippine hardcore/punk is at its worst with the elitist iconoclasm found in the organic scene and the willful ignorance of outsiders who are introduced to the notion of hardcore/punk by way of its cultural by-products (records, music videos etc.).
  • At this point, I feel that the best orientation our organic scene could have is with different clusters of out-group hardcore/punk kids generating cultural texts in spite of the current hegemonies found in the organic scene. As outliers, these groups are often more inclusive of new ideas in music, art, and theory. This orientation will ideally preserve a healthy circulation of cultural texts.

EMERGENT SPACES

Since I touched on the topic of emergent/outsider spaces that may potentially envigorate certain facets of the hardcore/punk scene. Not going to save punk rock, but it’ll be interesting seeing them try.

The Sleeping Boy Collective
Full disclosure, I’m technically self-promoting since I’m a part of this collective but we’re really just a bunch of assholes who don’t listen to shit music. We also put up shows apart from non-musical endeavors like talks and FGDs. Fledgling, but with members of Limp Cat and the Asterisk Collective, shouldn’t take too long to pick up.

Continent Records
In case some of you remember some annoying quip my friends and I did about punks from Sucat smelling good, it was about these guys. At heart, Continent is a group of friends doubling as an online distribution channel for its affiliated bands. I’m pretty sure it isn’t intentional, but most of their roster leans toward pop-punk, melodic hardcore, and Midwest emo. These kids also happen to gig aggressively, so you WILL see them sometime in the future.

Left-of-center hardcore from Pasig/Rizal
To be frank, the enthusiasm I found in this bunch of former nu-metal and/or scene kids who happened to also be into hardcore and punk rock surprised me. There’s a lot of love for screamo, mid-00s metalcore, noise, and even sludge/doom metal over there, and you could see it in the types of bands coming out of there. It’s not just that though, there seems to be an apparent thirst for the DIY ethic, and bands like Cadenzabler are finding their way into the hardcore scene’s periphery. I’ll be pointing my ears east this year.

Uncharted territory and the Visayas
Luzon has typically had the lion’s share of coverage when it comes to the whole hardcore/punk thing but with the rise of Mindanao’s newer hardcore/punk scenes, I’d like to look at what’s going on in the Visayas. Cebu is an institution, and between SRA (well, if they’re still active) and the provocateurs over at Bomba churning out acts like Tiger Pussy and Bombo Pluto Ova (Note: Who’s that stoner band on their roster? I loved those guys?) the Queen City has nothing to worry about. I’ve heard some stuff from Bacolod, and some Manila-based punk bands do have Waray roots but I know close to nothing about Visayan hardcore outside of Cebu. What’s going on in places like Samar/Leyte? Is there anything in Bohol or Iloilo? Did the student community in Dumaguete ever churn out angry fucks of the punk rock persuasion? If you have any leads, feel free to comment. I can’t see everything from the ivory towers of Imperial Manila, but maybe you can. People need to know this.

BANDS THAT NEED TO REUNITE

I’m a nostalgic asshole, and I’d like to see some old favorites back together for my own selfish satisfaction. Well that, and I honestly feel like these bands need a second chance since people missed out the first time around.

Legarda
While everyone was jocking on Earthmover and Tide/Edit (because post-rock was suddenly a thing in the local indie scene), Legarda literally bled for their music while they were active, often times to half-empty rooms. Whether it has something to do with their strong punk ethic or just a matter of personal circumstance keeping them from breaking through to a larger audience, it still saddens me knowing they were an amazing band that just happened to be ahead of the curve. Their sound was at once urgent and yearningly crystalline, wrapping their washes of sound around an emotive hardcore center. If enough of you ask for it, maybe Keith’ll come back from the dead.



Ginseng Luzon
Ginseng are probably my favorite local band, like ever. It’s one thing having the testicular fortitude to even attempt this particular mix of noise rock and post-hardcore but Ginseng just happened to tap into a well that was scathing and primal apart from being terrifyingly precise. The claustrophobic songwriting was an experience in itself, but seeing them live was a jarring and transcendent experience for me. I really hope they could set their creative differences aside and get back together. Philippine music is way too safe, hardcore/punk included. Ginseng make it shockingly clear.



Juna
Fuck, I’m pretty sure I might have the only videos of this Davao-based hardcore band in existence (as in this particular iteration of the band). Okay fine, to my knowledge, they still exist in some form. Somewhere along the way, they transformed into this Christian band named Jonah. But this isn’t about that band. Juna had a cooler name, and were a lot more intimidating before they got a standing singer. The songwriting, a lot like today’s Thieves, drew heavily from Solid State Records. The difference there being they were a lot more tasteful with how the parts in their songs worked together. They also had a fair amount of screamo and post-hardcore influence. I really wish they stayed that way and will definitely bug Ron and Kristian until they change their name back.



Killratio
Again, I’m cheating. They’re not actually dead, but goddammit record some new shit already. We NEED your brand of apocalyptic d-beat back in our lives. Their work on the Deadly Rhythms From The Production Line split was headed somewhere interesting and I’d love to hear where they are now.



Nuclear Punishment
If I’m not mistaken, their singer Coni is overseas so I’m not counting on a reunion anytime soon. The band had a more chaotic take on thrash/grind with an intensity I often find lacking at most of the hardcore/punk shows I’ve been to as of late.



Religious Nightmare
Man, I REALLY missed RxNx. There was a lot of stale grindcore/death metal back in Davao, so when I first heard Manila’s Religious Nightmare, I knew I found a new local favorite. I actually reached out to the band to review The Junkyard of Infinity back in the day, and I still stand by my initial assessment. The songs still have a futuristic grindcore sheen not unlike Discordance Axis’ work, only this is less Evangelion and a lot more Tetsuo. I’m glad their members moved on to play in sludge metal power trio, Surrogate Prey. That way, I could still experience that anguished vocal delivery, albeit in a starkly contrasting musical context.



xHalf The Battlex
So I’m not as much of a punk snob as you thought I was. Despite apparent bias towards post-hardcore, I’m a sucker for hardcore punk and youth crew provided that shit is well written. Half The Battle is just that kind of band. They take that whole school of hardcore and own it like no one else’s business. The songs themselves are concise and really lean, but the lyrics are amazing. Easy is a fucking genius, and their gang vocal parts are some of the best I’ve heard in all of hardcore. Their singer’s back to being Maryland’s most hardcore again, so I’m not sure when we’ll ever get to catch HTB live.


RANTS

Okay, I don’t have much to rant about but let’s just bust out the bullet points again. These aren’t just about the organic hardcore scene, everything goes now so long as they’re considered “hardcore” by whatever standard.

  • If you could afford to spend money on guitars, pedals, amps, drum equipment, a producer to record your shit, and a video editor for your crappy lyric video, I don’t suppose it’d be a stretch for you to hire someone to actually fix your fucking lyrics. I mean Christ on a bike, you don’t have to sound like the lyrical equivalent of a Steve Vai solo but you could at least put some effort into using whatever language deemed necessary to not make you sound like an idiot. Lyrics, just like guitarwork, drum skill, and vocal prowess are an instrument.
  • If you release more shirts and lyric videos than you do albums, there is something wrong with your band.
  • Don’t EVER use hardcore/punk as an excuse to be sexist, classist, or whatever shade of bigot you prefer. Some people think countercultural affiliation is a form of social leverage to reinforce whatever cultural standards you find convenient. I couldn’t care less about your brotherhood/solidarity/man club bullshit. If you can’t justify your views, then just cut the shit.
  • Madball and 25 Ta Life aren’t the only bands in hardcore. There are so many sounds and messages for you to choose from.
  • It’s okay, man. Ray Cappo won’t shit on you for using a delay pedal.
  • If you threaten assholes like me on the internet with violence for not agreeing with your views, that doesn’t make you more hardcore.
  • If you take hardcore way too seriously, I doubt you have any joy left in life. Take those mesh shorts to the beach. Enjoy a holiday or something. Listen to some Braid. Relax, man.

Well, that’s it for my word vomit. I actively converse with people on the internet. Leave comments, let’s talk. The more voices, the better.

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