Thirty years ago, Rivermaya was asked to open for the Eraserheads.
“Rivermaya? Rivermaya? No objection. We’re gonna play already,” reminisced vocalist, guitarist, and drummer Mark Escueta, one of two remaining original members of the line-up alongside bassist, Nathan Azarcon.
Mike Elgar is the band’s longest-serving guitar player.
Today, Rivermaya is known as the “Banda ng Bayan;” an accolade born from constantly putting out music three decades after their debut and their incessant gigging and touring.
When asked about how Rivermaya remains one of the top 25 best-selling Filipino artists of all time despite various line-up changes, Escueta attributes it to his love of music and being part of a band.
“Music is what brought us together,” he explained. “And it is what keeps me doing this.
“When one member gets a musical tug, everyone would build on it to jam, rehearse and see where the tune would take them.”
Admittedly though, Escueta went through a musical depression in the first year of the pandemic.
With the absence of live shows, as well as interaction with fellow musicians and fans, he would feel sad seeing his drum set and other musical instruments.
Yet, it was music that healed him.
During this dark time, he learned to play the piano, an instrument he avoided after a traumatic experience during his youthful days.
And this led to the birth of Rivermaya’s single since 2019, “Casino”.
It is an evolutionary song for Escueta and the band. Not only did it bring healing to him personally, but it also provided Rivermaya with their first upbeat song since blending their post-punk and alternative rock influences with a 1980s New Wave vibe.
This is their first animated video and it features 300 hand-drawn frames.
The first song produced outside of a traditional recording studio.
Plus, it is the first song Escueta wrote on a piano.
Throughout the years, he credits his continuity in music with the motivation or drive to keep producing, writing, or making music.
“It’s making art,” he simply said.
With 2023 Rivermaya’s 30th year, the band still has to plan for what they wish to do. And it is possible they could see a reunion of all members past and present.
“Walang pilitan,” he added as a caveat.
Ask him to play the drums, the guitar or be a vocalist – Mark Escueta is ready to be that man for Rivermaya. “My essence is found in music – playing, writing, producing, and thriving. And when the day comes that I stop making music, it’s the day I stop living.”