Yolanda to Abbey Road: REO Brothers gain new fans with classic oldies

Leah C. Salterio

Posted at Jun 28 2020 06:02 AM

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MANILA -- Not one among the REO Brothers was even a speck on his mother’s womb when the popular songs that the group has been singing soared on the charts. Yet, the quartet has been unerringly rendering these tunes in perfect quality.

From the songs of The Beatles to the Bee Gees and even the ‘70s Pinoy pop group, VST and Company, REO Brothers can amazingly perform the hits in faultless timber – plakadong plakado. You’ll undoubtedly get goose bumps and admire them when you hear their versions.

After only seven years in the professional music scene, REO Brothers has carved a niche for their group. Proudly. They have performed in the United Kingdom five times. They walked on Abbey Road, tracing the same steps their idols, The Beatles.

Their latest feat has made the REO Brothers even prouder. They recently merited the Silver Play Button Award from YouTube for having gained 100,000 subscribers.

“It was really a great accomplishment for us,” said Raymart Otic about the YouTube award. “We are so happy that we gained an audience in the online world. We have started to upload quality videos last year 2019 and now, we’ve passed the 100,000 subscribers in YouTube. It’s overwhelming. Receiving the award from YouTube inspired us more to create great content.”

TACLOBAN BOYS

The REO Brothers is the quartet of RJ (Ronjoseph), Reno, Ralph and Raymart Otic. The boys trace their humble beginnings in Tacloban, where they were born and raised.

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“We are nine siblings,” Otic said. “We’re the last four, plus the youngest. The older siblings have their own family already."

“RJ is the designated leader of the group, since he is also the musical arranger,” Otic continued. “He has wide knowledge in music. Ralph got some ears on voicing. He’s the one assigning our voices, like which one does this part. Reno has good vocal abilities, too, like Barry Gibb of the Bee Gees. I’m the spokesperson of the group.”

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Back in 2005, RJ made drums from tin cans covered with chips packaging bags. “He fixed it up and started learning to play the drums on his own,” Otic said.

After learning how to play the drums, RJ mastered playing the guitar and subsequently passed on the skills to his three other siblings – Ralph, Reno and Raymart. They started playing songs and rendered the hits of other prominent bands in that era.

It was in October 2008 when Roger David Gabero Bichachi, an employee of the City Mayor's Office of Tacloban and a member of PGBI (Philippine Guardians Brotherhood, Inc.) Tacloban Chapter, saw the brothers jam with their friends, singing and playing their improvised instruments.

Bichachi then invited the boys to his birthday party to sing songs of The Beatles, with RJ as lead vocalist and acoustic guitar player. Bichachi was so impressed with the Otic siblings, he then pledged to help the formation of the band.

Bichachi financed the musical instruments of the brothers and requested them to play for his other parties and events. The band mastered some songs until they created their playlist for gigs, events and competitions. They were later discovered by Bia Ong, a friend and previous employer of Bichachi.

Ong is a retired musician, a member of the Biatles band that did renditions of The Beatles songs and other prominent bands of that era in Tacloban during the 1970s through the 1990s. He mentored and trained the Otic siblings and gave them support.

The boys were originally called PGBI-RDGB (Philippine Guardians Brotherhood Inc. – Roger David Gabero Bichachi). The first line-up consisted of RJ on vocals, Ralph on bass guitar, Raymart on rhythm guitar and Reno on drums.

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They started singing through competitions and events in 2009 to earn a living, since their father, Reynaldo, did not have a stable job. Performing in events was a big help in sending the brothers to school and for their family's financial needs.

Eventually, the boys changed the name of the band to REO Brothers, derived from the first letters of their first name, middle name and surname. “R” for Reno, Ronjoseph (RJ), Raymart and Ralph, “E” for Evasco, their mother's maiden name and “O” for Otic, their surname.

The brothers did not get their musical inclination from anyone in their family as no member is a professional musician. Admittedly, they merely listened to the songs carefully before doing covers.

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TYPHOON YOLANDA

In 2013, the unexpected happened when the Otic family was uprooted from Tacloban because of Typhoon Yolanda. Against all odds, they moved to Manila.

“It was so devastating,” recalled Otic. “We didn’t know where to go to at that time, until we had communication with our elder siblings here in Manila. They planned to bring us here with our brother-in-law who’s a driver in a bus company transiting from Surigao to Manila.”

The family traveled for two days. They reached Manila and stayed in the cramped apartment of their sister Regina. “Nagsiksikan na lang kami doon,” Otic said. “Buti pinayagan kami ng may-ari.”

After a week, the brothers remembered that back in 2012, during their gig in Tacloban, they met Reynaldo Fuentes, who handed them a business card. “Mr. Fuentes said that if ever we’ll be in Manila, we should call him up,” Otic said. “When Papa checked his wallet, the business card was still there. That was the start of our gigs in Manila.”

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Since then, the Otic siblings have been based in Manila. Life took a totally different turn for the brothers when they launched their professional singing career. Not only did they gain a growing following, they also went to places they never imagined they would reach one day.

To date, the REO Brothers has toured the US, the UK and even performed in Tokyo, Japan.

“We would love to go to some other places in Europe like Spain, Germany, France etc.,” Otic expressed. “The most memorable one is the UK tour. Like we’ve been there five times.

BEATLES FANS

“Highlighting our visit to the homeland of The Beatles was really a dream come true for us. Performing at the Cavern Club, where the Beatles had their early gigs in the '60s, was really memorable for all of us.”

Among the bands that REO Brothers does covers of old songs for, it is The Beatles that had a big impact on the young group.

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“We do love music,” Otic said. “Our parents love to sing in karaoke, like every Sunday, we have this karaoke sessions. [Laughs] We really love listening to great music and old songs. 

When asked why the group singled out The Beatles as their strongest musical influence, Otic explained: “During the formation of the band in 2009, it was really messy. We would sing anything. Then, Papa saw a CD of The Beatles. That was the time he thought we could do The Beatles, because there were also four of us.”

Initially, the REO Brothers found the music of The Fab Four really different. “Of course, we were not really used to hearing the music of The Beatles before, but eventually, we got used to it because their songs are jolly and you’ll get amazed with their harmonies.

“That was when we started to love the '60’s and '70s music and played them. Before, we really didn’t know The Beatles. We only heard the name of the band, but in 2008, we discovered their great music.”

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Otic, who finished BS Marketing at the Eastern Visayas State University, admitted it was not always smooth sailing with him and his brothers constantly. They had common misunderstandings, especially when they performed. Yet, they easily ironed out their differences.

At present, the all-male quartet is being managed by their dad, who also lines up the schedule of their performances and handles all their bookings.

In 2015, the REO Brothers released their debut album, “Reo Brothers of Tacloban” under Star Music. The CD is composed of six songs, with two originals written by Vehnee Saturno and four OPM tracks.