Why Sandwich remains one of OPM's most exciting rock bands

Totel V. de Jesus

Posted at Jun 11 2022 12:06 PM | Updated as of Jun 11 2022 12:08 PM

 Sandwich releases ‘No Goodbyes’ EP

 Sandwich is cmposed of drummer Mike Dizon, guitarist Diego Castillo, bassist Myrene Academia, guitarist Mong Alcaraz and vocalist-keyboard player Raymund Marasigan. Handout
Sandwich is cmposed of drummer Mike Dizon, guitarist Diego Castillo, bassist Myrene Academia, guitarist Mong Alcaraz and vocalist-keyboard player Raymund Marasigan. Handout

MANILA -- Emerging from the pandemic, Sandwich, the band that gave us “Butterfly Carnival” “Two-Trick Pony,” “Betamax,” “Sugod” and “Selos,” among other hits that will surely be included in classic Pinoy rock history, is officially launching its long-delayed new EP titled “No Goodbyes” on June 17 at 123 Block at Mandala Park in Mandaluyong City.

The title track is a lively, danceable, groovy song that is vintage Sandwich, undeniably one of the more exciting rock bands that have emerged and survived from the 1990s.

“No Goodbyes” was their second single released online at the height of the pandemic. The first was “Buhol-Buhol” released in February 2020. 

Vocalist and keyboard player Raymund Marasigan, guitarist Diego Castillo, lead guitarist Mong Alcaraz, bassist Myrene Academia and drummer Mike Dizon recorded the EP in December 2019, or about three months before the COVID-19 pandemic stopped everything.

“Of course, hindi namin na promote. We weren’t able to tour. Na-stifle,” said Academia. 

Like other musicians, they continued to record and perform at the comfort of their homes. 

“We channel [our music momentum] through different ways. We did it online, passing files around, recording through Zoom,” she added. 

“The Earth was healing and the pandemic allowed us to listen. Suddenly, there were more time to work in our recording studios. Medyo magastos, test ka ng test. That’s the difference. But we kept on performing. That was our first project during the early days of the pandemic, to keep us performing,” Alcaraz said. 

From the comfort of his home, Alcaraz ran his own music engineering studio named Alcatracks and with other musician friends, he co-managed an audio production house named Manila Transient Studio.

“For the past two years, ang daming ad agencies na walang offices and kami lang available to make music for the commercials,” Alcaraz said. 

Next was taking care of his health. He biked a lot with Castillo, Marasigan and other friends. 

“Kasi nawala ang basketball. Before the pandemic, once or twice a week Diego and I played basketball. Our first love was skateboarding pero during pandemic, hindi enough. Noong na-discover ko ang bike, solved na 'yung exercise. Biking kept us healthy. There’s no fear of the virus kasi if you’re moving really fast, virtually there’s no chance na mahawa ka. So that’s how I did it, music engineering and outdoor activities,” Alcaraz said.

Dizon plunged into creating more contents for his online shows. He started vlogging not only about music but food. 

“Kumain ako, vinideo ko at nilabas ko sa You Tube (I ate a lot, took videos of me eating and put them all out on You Tube),” he said, laughing.

“Out of boredom na rin. Kasi nakakabaliw 'di ba na nasa loob ka lang. We have to create something. So, tinuloy ko na rin, I look forward that every week, or every two weeks, may ire-record kaming bagong video, either with the band or for my vlog. May purpose ka pa rin pag gising mo,” Dizon added, summarizing how he survived the two-year-long series of lockdowns.

Marasigan also did vlogging and hosted an online talk show on You Tube. “Same with Mike, out of necessity and boredom, I learned how to use the camera, how to edit videos and all that. We were always figuring out how to spend our days,” he said. 

Unlike his bandmates who were all parents, Castillo was thankful to be a first-time family man. 

“My wife and I had our first child. She was pregnant noong start ng pandemic,” said Castillo. 

He felt thankful and lucky because his wife was able to give birth safely in a private hospital during one of the stricter lockdowns. “She gave birth in October 2020. I think I was the first father who was allowed to be with his wife during childbirth kasi the day before, it’s prohibited. It was exciting but nakakatakot.”

At home, he started hosting his own online show titled “Foaming At The Mouth” via Podcast. He talked about fatherhood, playing guitar and anything about music. “And that’s the story of my life during the pandemic, a full-time dad.”

Academia said finally she learned how to ride a bike. She also spent her days hanging out with her female friends who were also musicians or wives of his bandmates. 

“Hanging around with Maysh Baay [singer of Moonstar 88], the ladies from Soupstar [management], the wife of Mong. And then there were the little things we did with Sandwich and Imago. These activities kept me afloat, made me feel really well,” she said. Academia also plays bass for Imago. 

Being K-pop fans, she and her friends were also able to go to Las Vegas to watch a BTS concert. “That was one of the highlights in my pandemic years,” she said. 

When bars like 19 East in Paranaque City, The 70s Bistro in Quezon City, Saguijo in Makati City and other live show venues catering mostly to rock bands opened, Sandwich was among the first to perform. 

“We’ve been playing every week since November of 2021. Slowly we played longer sets. Recently, for the first time, we did 20 songs in 19 East,” said Marasigan.

“We’re excited to play in bars we used to play before the pandemic now matter how small or big they are. Bars like Saguijo for example is very intimate but we’ve been playing there for decades and we missed it a lot,” said Castillo. 

Summing all up what had just happened in the past two years, Marasigan said, “We are better musicians, artists because of the pandemic. Everybody started to play better, listened to more music, watched more films, read more books. Para kang huminto at nag-college ulit. Our creative impulses are what get us through for days that never seem to end.”

 Silver anniversary

Because of the two-year-long series of lockdowns, Castillo almost forgot how old Sandwich is. Formed in 1998, Sandwich will be celebrating its 25th year in 2023. 

“I thought we’re on our 25th year na, 24 lang pala,” Castillo said, laughing, after being corrected by his band mates. 

“Wow, 25 years, that’s more than we achieve in our whole lives. It’s longer than our [romantic] relationships,” Marasigan said. 

Someone actually asked how Sandwich is able to survive longer than his first band, the now-inactive Eraserheads, where he played drums. 

“After 25 years, we established that we’re more than a band but a family,” said Marasigan, with a smile. 

For example, he explained how they would rehearse as a band, even before the pandemic. “We would start with a good meal or we go swimming then after rehearsal, may inuman (drinking). Parang (weekend or monthly) family reunion,” Marasigan said. 

“If 25th year is silver anniversary, parang renewal of marriage vows. Seriously, only handful of bands ang umaabot sa 25 years,” said Dizon, who used to be the drummer of the now-inactive Teeth. 

“Pare-pareho kami ng trip sa music, wala kaming pag-aawayan. Kahit sa movies, sa porma. Mga pinagtatawan, pare-pareho kami,” Dizon added. 

There was a suggestion they should come up with a “greatest hits” anniversary album with 25 songs.

The phrase “greatest hits” had Academia laughing. She said their latest EP has become just like that because of the pandemic. It has five songs that they kept on practicing via Zoom and when the bars opened, naturally they started playing the five songs live. Indeed, they have mastered all five songs. 

Handout
Handout

In agreement, Alcaraz said, “Kaya kahit 20 years from now, maalala ko tugtugin 'yung five songs. Kasi isa isa namin nilabas, isa isa namin na practice.”

He compared the difference when it comes to doing a full album with 10 or more songs. “Since single sila lahat versus naglabas ka ng 10-song album, marami ma-skip. Siguro may four songs in an album na 'di matutugtog sa live or during practice. That’s one major difference.”

Academia further explained, “There have been instances in the past if we recorded 10 songs, we would just play all of them in the recording studio and live before an audience during the album launch. But after that, more or less we would play only six songs from that album in the next shows,” Academia said. 

That’s why in the case of “No Goodbyes,” since their fans have become familiar with all five songs and the band members have gotten used to playing them live, they have become like singles compiled in a “best of Sandwich” album.

Dizon revealed they were the best because they were chosen from about 20 songs. “Kaya hindi sya ‘EP’ lang. I remember we trimmed the 20 to 10, then we came out with the five. Parang when we’re rehearsing, ‘yun ang tutugtugin naming lima. So they are really greatest hits agad.”

The EP was initially titled “Fuego” because it was recorded at Alcaraz’s family vacation house in 2019 at Club Punta Fuego in Nasugbu, Batangas, that simple. But because of the pandemic, they thought of changing the name to “No Goodbyes.”

Besides the title track and the first single “Buhol-Buhol,” it has the heavier guitar-driven “Curtains,” “Negatives” and “You Don’t Know What You Have.” 

“Buhol-Buhol” is a song about Metro Manila traffic, released about two weeks before the government-imposed Enhanced Community Quarantine, the strictest lockdown classification. 

The entire music video, in fact, has Marasigan riding a bike in what looked like Aurora Boulevard in Quezon City. 

WATCH:

Watch more News on iWantTFC

“Since we released it before the pandemic was full-blown, we had no idea the pandemic will stop everything, especially vehicular traffic in Metro Manila,” said Marasigan. 

Alcaraz shared his guitar riffs were influenced by Tito, Vic and Joey’s “Iskul Bukol” theme song. Ergo, “Buhol-Buhol” became Sandwich tribute to Pinoy rock.

The other four songs were influenced by the music of Michael Jackson, Tame Impala, Iggy Pop and locally, Tarsius, among others.

Alcaraz pointed out “Curtains” is particularly influenced by, believe it or not, Hall & Oates “Making My Dreams Come True.”

“Oo nga no? Now ko lang rin na-realize. 'Yun pala 'yun,” Castillo said, picking up an acoustic guitar and playing the chords.

Alcaraz said, “Like a premonition, ‘Curtains’ was about the end of the world.” 

WATCH:

Watch more News on iWantTFC

Show them the money

Someone asked how they write the lyrics since they all have similar influences when it comes to music. 

Marasigan didn’t mention it but the process they did was something like Renga, the centuries-old collaborative way of writing poems that started in Japan. It’s an age-old past time done around bonfires wherein one will write the first line or stanza and pass on to the next person to write the next line and so on until the poem is finished. 

“We would intentionally make blanks [in the lyric sheet], and give to other members and find meaning in those blanks. For example in ‘Buhol-Buhol,’ I would hand to the next guy to finish the song. I’d say, ‘tapusin mo nga ‘to, kulang ako ng one line’. It could be very, very random.”

Since Sandwich is a band with a distinct sound and has one of the most diverse music influences, someone asked if they would ever venture into the K-pop genre. For one, Academia is a K-pop fan, a member of the BTS “Army.”

Marasigan answered for the group: “Yes, Myrene is a big K-pop fan but Sandwich was never ‘bagay na umuuso’. We are always on the other side. Hindi bagay ‘pag pinilit mo lang for everything. As a band, we have to love it so much to try. A few years ago, we actually dabbled with folk and country music, [which is not even the trend]. So you see, if we’re not into it, we’re not going to do it just because it’s the next biggest thing.”

“To our disadvantage, if something already works, we’re going to do the opposite. If we make ‘Sugod,’ we’re not going to make five other ‘Sugod’ para lang to make a hit out of it. That’s not our style,” added Marasigan. 

On the longevity of Sandwich, Academia said, “We believe that our music is honest and something written from the heart. ‘Pag honest 'yung music, may makaka-intindi dun sa song. Maybe not a lot but meron. That’s where we jump off from. ‘Yun yung formula.”

They all love playing live and traveling to perform. It’s from those encounters with fans that kept their creative juices flowing. 

“Sobrang saya. Parang ‘workation’. If we travel ang daming nakikitang perspectives. Siyempre, may bago ka na namang pagkukunan ng ideas. Parang infinite loop, sobrang thankful ako for that,” Alcaraz said.

“Being able to go on stage with this band, to travel, explore, meet the locals, then tugtog for them. That’s the best part. When we make our songs, that’s what we want to play on stage. We don’t second guess ourselves,” Academia said. 

The rest of the year, Sandwich is hellbent in touring again to promote “No Goodbyes.” 

There was a suggestion for them to have a series of shows with younger alternative rock group Mayonnaise and 1970s Manila Sound pioneer Hotdog. 

“That’s the perfect combination. Sandwich with Mayonnaise and Hotdog,” Castillo quipped. 

“That’s the tour, man!” said Marasigan. Everyone agreed, laughing. 

Marasigan said, “But first, show us the money!”

WATCH:

Watch more News on iWantTFC