Punk’s not dead. What happened was, it gained superpowers and fought monsters and evildoers, then got sucked into a time-space portal and wound up in our dimension.
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Comprised of Darnuh Vergara and Pol “Flash Bombas” Sison on guitars and vocals, Hilario “Last Stick Man” Aliwan on bass, and Enteng “Kapitan Barbel” on drums, The Ravelos are a punk outfit that have been rocking out all over our dimension of Manila’s gig circuit, in an attempt to raise funds to build a time machine. Before that, they were playing gigs and fighting crime on the side in their dimension of 80s Manila, where lizard people walk among the populace. And if you think they resemble Mars Ravelo’s superhero characters, well, the coincidence of likeness doesn’t escape them.
“He’s actually how we got the name for the band,” Deeng Vergara, the band’s manager and Darnuh’s kuya states. “I’d bring my little sister Narda to shows because I couldn’t afford a babysitter, and she would watch the bands with me. She’d read those komiks all the time. We were at my house when Last Stick Man picked up one of her komiks when he thought The Ravelos sounded like a good band name.”
“It is a weird coincidence how we ourselves seem like alternate versions that got inspired by the work of those komiks properties,” Flash Bombas considers. But yeah. They’re real. Honest to God, they’re real. I had the chance to encounter them at their Route 196 show. The band was wildly electric—Darnuh buzzsaw strumming at steel strings with super strength, the whole crimefighting cabal bulldozing through their set with more brawn and braggadocio than the Justice League. Thankfully no monsters or aliens interfered with our heroes’ night out, though I venture to guess they’d have a hard time villaining in our moshpit.
In a Q&A with the superpowered rakistas and their manager, we talk about how they’re holding up in their corner of the multiverse, the creative and crime-fighting process, and who’d win in a battle royale.
From what I understand, you guys were originally from 80s Manila, before you guys came here via time vortex. What was the music scene like in your dimension?
Last Stick Man: We grew up in the 70s. The biggest things at that time were Manila Sound, disco, sentimental love songs by love teams, and pop music from child stars. It was what was “allowed” and deemed “radio-friendly” by the government. I hated a lot of it. At the time, I didn’t want to be a musician. I didn’t know what to do with my life. I was a kid with no direction. But then things changed for us when rock music started becoming popular. It was this new and different sound we couldn’t get enough of. Me and Kap started going to clubs and watch shows.
Kapitan Barbel: Me, Last Stick Man, and our friend Teeny Tony got together one day and said we should start a band. My dad thought it was better that I was in a “combo” instead of a gang so he actually bought me a drumset. That’s when we started the Ravelos. We knew Deeng from going to shows, and got him as our manager.
Last Stick Man: What really changed things for us as a band was when Tony was telling us to check out this radio show called Pinoy Rock and Rhythmn’ on DZRJ. Howlin’ Dave’s show was how we learned about punk, new-wave, rock and roll, all this cool new music. Some rich kids also started bringing over all these cassettes and records of these bands, too. More people started listening to other music. People started dressing the part. Clubs started popping up. Bands changed their sounds. New bands started. Suddenly there was this movement.
We started playing shows. We’d have to play covers of whatever was popular that week just to get paid. It was either you play the popular stuff or you just don’t play. We wanted to cover these punk songs, you know, but people looked down on punks back then. They think we’re satanic ’coz we wear black.
Flash Bombas: I don’t even believe in a god, how can I be satanic?
Deeng: Don’t say that. We’ll get in trouble like those other people.
Kapitan Barbel: We we went to watch this show put together by Howlin’ Dave called Brave New World. We didn’t try applying to the show because one of the organizer’s said that bands had to submit and play original music. Some of the bands then wrote their own songs. We saw all of them play live, and we liked a lot of what they came up with. We thought, we could do that, too.
Last Stick Man: We tried making our own songs a few weeks after that, then we kicked Tony out of the band. He wasn’t punk enough. His writing had no passion. I took over. We had to look around for different singers to replace Tony. Deeng’s other sister Darnuh showed up one day at a show. Deeng says she disappeared when they were younger and this was something out of a telenovela. We found out that she could play guitar and sing and asked her to join the Ravelos.
Darnuh: I’m more punk!
Kapitan Barbel: We didn’t know how to finish the songs so we asked our roadie Flash for help. We found out that he’s a good songwriter, and he can sing, so we asked him to join the band, too.
Deeng: Hence the current line up of The Ravelos.
You played your first gig in 2019 Manila not too long ago, at Mow's. What was like playing for our crowd?
Darnuh: We’re still trying to get used to all the new changes. People using phones as cameras, small computers, computer cigarettes, invisible wires, flat televisions, old harmless entertainers becoming dirty politicians, clouds made of data, wokeness. So many things. We do like your hip-hop.
Deeng: We were playing a gig at this bar, Jewel’s, in 1981 when a time vortex appeared. We do not know if this is a natural occurring phenomena, or the work of a wizard. We‘re currently debating it. So we were thrown into the portal and landed somewhere in today, 2019. We were really confused. We thought the future was hell, you know? We thought that we had died and gone to hell. Thank goodness, we’re not in hell.
Flash Bombas: I was disappointed that this wasn’t hell. To find out that this was the future. Is this really how things are meant to be? Is this our fate? You know what I mean?
Last Stick Man: This is a dystopia to us, this situation we find ourselves in, all this technological advancement, all our friends, gone, the ones remaining becoming these strangers to us, our families gone, and how there’s another dictatorship seems to be on the rise in our country. Your present, our future, it’s freaking us out, man.
Kapitan Barbel: Okay lang yan. We’ll go back and stop this future from happening!
Deeng: Ah, right. We feel that at this juncture, we will never really adjust to all the changes, and we don’t plan to. We are raising funds through our 2019 Comeback tour. We hope to come back to the past, change the outcome of this, and you can help! You can help us by going to our shows, buying our merch, and listening to our music on the internet. I am told by my nephew Jiggerr that this will give us some money.
You guys are currently raising funds for a time machine to go back to the 80s. Do you think time travel is possible? Have you guys seen Avengers: Endgame? Are you guys like Samurai Jack, seeking to return to the past to undo the future?
Last Stick Man: Who’s Samurai Jack?
Deeng: When we first got here, I looked up if I had any relatives that were still alive. I found my nephew Jiggerr and he helped explain time travel to us. He showed us these three possibilities if we go back in time. One, we find a DeLorean and travel back to the past by going 88mph. Two, find a phone booth owned by these two people named Bill and Ted. Three, we wait ’til 2023 for the Avengers to figure out time travel. We then found out these were just fiction, so that was no good. We don’t know the rules of how time travel works yet, but we’re going to find out. We are currently raising funds and paying this dude named Doktor Kwago to try and build it for us. We only just started so we don’t know when we’ll be able to time travel back.
Avengers: Endgame suggests that when you do go back in time, this future will be set and you’d be creating two different timelines and dimensions. You wouldn’t be able to alter this future because it’s become your past, and when you go back to the past, that would be your future and a whole new set of possibilities occur.
Last Stick Man: What the [expletive] are you talking about?
Flash Bombas: We consulted with other scientists and our other option is to find another time vortex and see where we end up.
How do you guys play music while fighting crime at the same time?
Last Stick Man: I got my powers to stretch any part of my body because of a carton of radioactive cigarettes. I just thought that with this great power, if I didn’t help people, what good am I? I started doing vigilante justice on the side on the way to gigs and on the way home. Kap always would try and help out, he doesn’t have any powers. We then started doing patrols.
Kapitan Barbel: There were a lot of other superheroes from our time. All the way back from the 60s. So a lot of crime was being fought already in the local superhero scene, we joined it kind of late. We did have a lot of gigs where bad guys would show up so sometimes our crimefighting was convenient. The bad guys would come to us.
Flash Bombas: That’s how I first got involved with the band. I was their bodyguard and roadie. I would moonlight as a superhero before joining, but that didn’t really pay the bills.
Darnuh: Our sets are short. Twenty minutes usually. After playing, we can just go fight crime.
Can you describe your creative process?
Kapitan Barbel: Usually me and Last Stick Man figure out the beat and the guitars. We’d hear some new cassettes of these bootleg shows of bands we liked and would get all sorts of ideas.
Last Stick Man: I try to just play different riffs on different instruments at the same time. I’d try and figure out the chorus first, after that I’d ask Flash to fill in the blanks. I’m the loud yelling angry parts and he’s the brainy parts of our songs.
Flash Bombas: I’d ask Last Stick Man what the idea of the chorus is and just write around it. Darnuh and I go back and forth on the guitar parts after.
Craziest fan experience?
Last Stick Man: We were stopping a robbery when the people robbing this woman recognized us. These B-list villains named Banal na Aso, at Santong Kabayo, religious imagery in villainy was hip at the time. They were fans pala! They recognized us and started asking for an autograph.
Kapitan Barbel: They came with us to the police station to turn themselves in.
Who are your biggest influences?
Last Stick Man: I love the Sex Pistols The Ramones, Queen, The Jerks, Chaos, Styx, and the Dead Kennedys. My favorite all time band would have to be Pink Floyd.
Darnuh: There’s this pop idol back in the 70s named Valentina, she was this snake person who won Bb. Pilipinas and got record deals and movies and endorsements. I really like her voice and her performance abilities. She’s a big influence. I also like Sampaguita, the Juan De La Cruz Band, Blondie, and the Clash.
Kapitan Barbel: The Specials, The Runaways, ACDC, The Doors, Kiss, Judas Priest, and Rush.
Flash Bombas: Joy Division. King Crimson. The Clash. The Police. Sonic Youth. Fleetwood Mac. Bowie.
Who among you would win in a fight? Like, if you guys fought each other. Be honest.
Deeng: I would rather not encourage this behavior.
Kapitan Barbel: Not me. I know I look tough, but I don’t have superpowers. This figure is a product of my enthusiasm and commitment to physical fitness. It’s how I got my nickname, actually. They’d always see me carrying my weights around after the gym.
Flash Bombas: My mom says my dad was a Tikbalang. I think that’s how I got my powers.I can grow my hands and feet to large sizes and hit people really hard. I can also summon demon horses.
Darnuh: I don’t know how I got my powers. I just have super strength, flight, and invulnerability. I might have other powers, but uh, I am not sure. I have… amnesia! Yeah!
Last Stick Man: I can stretch. I can turn into anything. I can make multiple copies of myself. I would win.
The last question is for Last Stick Man. What's your opinion on vapes and juuls?
Last Stick Man: Give me a good old cigarette any day. I don’t trust your technology. Nor do I have the money or the time.
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ART BY ROB CHAM