MANILA -- With more than 2 million monthly listeners on Spotify alone, Ben&Ben is easily one of the hottest OPM acts in the country today.
The indie folk-pop band, which started as a duo called The Benjamins composed of the Guico twins, Paolo Benjamin and Miguel Benjamin (hence the name Ben&Ben), has since expanded into a nine-piece ensemble following the breakout success of their debut EP in 2017 that netted the monster hits, “Ride Home,” “Kathang Isip,” “Leaves” and Maybe The Night.”
Early this year, the band also composed of Poch Barretto, Jam Villanueva, Agnes Reoma, Patricia Lasaten, Toni Muñoz, Andrew de Pano, and Keifer Cabugao released their much-awaited full-length studio album, "Limasawa Street," under Sony Music Philippines. So far, the album has produced three hit singles in “Mitsa (Salamat),” “Pagtingin” and “Araw-Araw.”
"Limasawa Street" also afforded Ben&Ben with the privilege to work with legendary producer, Steve Lillywhite, best known for his work with U2. Lillywhite is credited with mixing the album’s title track, which while popular with fans, has yet to be officially released as a single.
During the recent “Limasawa Street Meet” event at Glorietta 2 where the band headlined a well-received exclusive acoustic performance and subsequent meet-and-greet open panel session, the band talked to ABS-CBN News to discuss their remarkable success.
Paolo Guico said they were just as surprised as everyone else when their sound, which is considered old school compared to current genres like hip-hop and K-Pop, was something young audiences were able to identify with.
“At the same time, we didn’t think much about it. We were never really worried if our music is not a popular genre, we just kept doing our thing and we’re very thankful that people gave our sound a chance,” Guico added.
De Pano further noted that they were never really bothered with disgruntled fans and even some fellow musicians who not too long ago declared that “OPM is dead.”
“We never believed that. To us, OPM never really died so we just focused on our passion for music,” he said.
In a separate interview, legendary musician and National Artist Ryan Cayabyab explains the Ben&Ben phenomenon. “They’re part of a new generation of original Filipino artists that’s doing everything right. And their genre is something that’s always there. It’s authentic. I’m so happy with this batch of emerging OPM artists,” Cayabyab pointed out.
So why has the music of Ben&Ben — which hammers home the message of hope — resonated with so many people, many of which consider songs like “Kathang Isip” and “Pagtingin” as the soundtrack of their lives?
“We get that a lot. People have told us that this song or that song was written specifically for them. Because although our songs are very personal and mostly based on our own experiences, I think there are a lot of people who have gone through the same things, who had been in similar situations at some point in their lives. That’s why they were able to identify with our songs,” Miguel Guico noted.
“It also became a mantra of sorts to us that ‘if it’s personal to you, then there’s a good chance that it’s also personal to many other people,’” De Pano added.
Of course, it also doesn’t hurt to have a strong presence on social media. On YouTube alone, Ben&Ben has garnered millions of views for their music videos, with “Kathang Isip” leading the way with a combined 98 million views (67 million for the official music video and 31 million for the lyric video) followed by “Maybe The Night” with 21 million views, and “Leaves” with 10 million views.
“Social media has allowed us to get our music across and reach as many people as possible. It’s easy but at the same time challenging. Easy because anyone can upload their music and challenging because anyone can do it so we’re not the only artists trying to get people’s attention,” Paolo Guico further pointed out.
“And because not everyone who puts their music out there gets the kind of response that we did so we also want to send a message to our fellow artists to not be discouraged and just keep putting their music out there.”
Talking about "Limasawa Street," the band said that outside of the songs that have already become hits, there are also plenty of tracks that fans should take note of.
“One of them is ‘Sampaguita.’ It’s a song that isn’t as talked about as the others but its message is about love for country. Another song, ‘War,’ presents the other side of ‘Sampaguita,’ those two songs are related. ‘War’ was written by Kiefer Cabugao who also sings lead on the track. And then there’s also ‘Godsent’ and ‘Lucena’ which was, well, written in Lucena,” Guico shared.
With "Limasawa Street," Ben&Ben has also earned the distinction of being one of the few OPM artists to release a full-length album in recent years. Because of the song-oriented streaming model, local releases are mostly limited to singles and extended plays (EPs).