1 on 1: Kean Cipriano explains why Callalily is finished, opens up about new chapter

Miguel Dumaual, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jun 29 2022 09:54 PM

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Kean Cipriano had been contemplating on “disengaging” from Callalily for two years, before he candidly announced this month that the rock band, known for the hits “Magbalik” and “Stars,” is “done” after 17 years. 

Cipriano surprised the group’s fans with his statement of having “moved on” from Callalily early this month, but opted to keep vague the reasons for the decision.

Speaking with ABS-CBN News, Cipriano now opened up about the process that led him to “retire” Callalily, pointing out the band’s lack of output in the past couple of years, as well as the “atmosphere” that was no longer conducive to collaborating.

“It’s hard to stay in a place where you’re not happy anymore, where you’re uninspired, and where you don’t feel valued and respected,” Cipriano said. “Hindi mo kasi matatago ‘yung pakiramdam na wala na ‘yung spark, ‘yung magic. Hindi na siya masaya.”

“I loved Callalily with all my heart. Seventeen years kong karera ‘yung banda na ‘yun. Pero kung hindi na masaya, at hindi ko napi-feel ‘yung magic, ‘yung spark, ‘yung respect, ‘yung value, ‘yung appreciation, there’s no point [in continuing].”

Cipriano, who currently heads O/C Records with his wife and co-founder Chynna Ortaleza, also mentioned his pursuit of “growth” as a factor in discontinuing the band.

“Na-feel ko na hindi na ako naggo-grow sa banda. ‘Ano bang pupuntahan nito?’ For quite some time din, hindi na rin kami nagkikita eye-to-eye ng grupo. Noong pandemic, we never even got together to play or to create. We never even talked about creating something. I’m the type of musician na I don’t just play music, I create music,” he explained.

Cipriano shared details of the e-mail he had sent his former band mates to inform them of his decision. “Callalily definitely changed my life, so I’m forever grateful,” he recalled telling them in his letter, while also acknowledging the “turmoil” that have resulted from their personal differences.

“‘I think it’s time to hang the jersey,’ that what I told them. I-preserve natin ‘yung legacy. Llet’s all start anew kung anuman ang gusto nating gawin,” he said.

While Cipriano sought to retire the band name, his band mates wanted to carry on with Callalily, as it had been what they were known for nearly two decades.

Cipriano said that while he was willing for the remaining members to keep using Callalily, there was the issue of the trademarked name to settle.

“You have to understand also that I came up with the name ‘Callalily’ and it’s under my intellectual property,” he recounted having told them in their group chat. “‘You can use the name,’ kasi lahat kami magkakasama sa journey. I was actually licensing the name to them. Sabi ko, ‘If you want to continue ‘yung Callalily, i-license ko sa inyo.’”

The conversation progressed to the possibility of licensing the name “Callalily” for a fee, according to Cipriano. He, however, no longer got a response after sending his former band mates the “figures” they had requested.

“I sent them a licensing agreement. When they asked for the figures, naglagay ako ng figures and all. After nu’n, hindi na nila ako kinausap. Sabi ko, ‘Mag-usap-usap tayo.’ I actually reached out to them a couple of times, sa group namin, sa dati naming road manager, sa miyembro mismo. ‘I hope we can talk, kasi ang dami nating kailangan i-iron out.’ Seventeen years ‘yun ng banda, from the finances, the legalities. Kasi nga, sabi ko sa kanila, ‘Gusto ko makapag-move forward tayong lahat nang maayos.’ And then, hindi na nila ako kinausap,” he said.

Callalily was formed in 2005 with Cipriano as frontman and lead vocalist, Lem Belaro on drums, Aaron Ricafrente on bass guitar, Alden Acosta on lead guitar, and Tatsi Jamnague on rhythm guitar.

Belaro and Ricafrente, along with guitarist Nathan Reyes, who joined the band in 2018, as well as a returning, have since re-introduced their band as simply LILY, following Cipriano’s announcement. The group has also scheduled auditions for a new vocalist.

“They can do whatever they want with their life. Much like ako, kahit ano’ng gawin ko sa buhay ko, okay lang naman,” Cipriano said, referring to the new band. “Pero, ‘yun nga, I was waiting for that conversation kung paano aayusin ‘yung pages, contracts with this and that.”

The last iteration of Callalily which included Cipriano remain signed with O/C Records. Cipriano said he is still hoping to speak with LILY to iron out legal matters, having gone their separate ways.

Ideally, for Cipriano, the online presence and music catalog of the band would remain accessible as “Callalily,” as a memorial of sorts of the band’s 17-year run.

“‘Callalily’ really for me is a brand. I really wanted to keep ‘yung legacy ng banda. That’s what I wanted to retire the group, hang the jersey. Lagay mo na diyan, titingnan natin ‘yan, ‘Ang galing ng ginawa natin.’ Para makapagsimula tayo ng bago,” he said.

He, however, lamented that that may be difficult to achieve now, following what he described as the “social media frenzy” over his pronouncement of ending Callalily.

“Iyon ‘yung unfortunate for me. It saddens me na, bakit niyo pinagmumukha sa public o sa social media?… Hindi kasi ako fan ng ganu’n, na ilagay mo lahat ng rant mo sa social media. Mag-iiba narrative. For what? For sympathy? To character-assassinate? That’s not how I roll,” he said.

“Ngayon, baka highly emotional ang mga tao. Pero a few years down the line, I think magi-gets namin lahat na [for] growth siya. Wala namang ibang pupuntahan kundi ‘yun.”

Asked if he has any message for LILY, Cipriano answered: “I wish them all the best, really. Iyon lang naman ‘yun. I respect kung ano ‘yung pinagsamahan, ‘yung nagawa ng banda. Kung meron kaming tatahakin na bago sa mga buhay namin... I have no time for the unnecessary drama. I’ve got lots of things to do, I got a family to take care of. I just hope they find their peace.”

On Cipriano’s end, he now juggles duties not just as a music artist and record label head, but also as a producer, director, talent manager, and a family man.

Cipriano also talked about the four-year milestone of O/C Records, which recorded over 300 songs in that period. In discussing the company’s expansion to include writers, actors, and directors in its roster, he circled back to his reason for ending Callalily — “growth,” he emphasized, which translates to his “bigger purpose” of bringing new talents to the limelight.