MANILA -- Naming their group turned out to be a no-brainer for the five-man musical newcomer, Bandang Lapis. For them, it always pays to go back to the basics, which is what they use to write their songs. No wonder, the particular association with a pencil for a singing group.
“Lapis ang gamit namin sa pagsulat ng kanta,” Bandang Lapis lead John vocalist Lester Abaño told ABS-CBN News. “Isa na rin sa dahilan ay dahil mabilis matandaan ng mga tao ang pangalangang Bandang Lapis.”
Turning philosophical, Abaño explained the other more important use of a pencil. “Ang lapis ay may kakayanang magbura kung meron man tayong pagkakamali sa buhay. Kaya nitong burahin at itama ang pagkakamaling ‘yun.”
Bandang Lapis is composed of seven long-time friends, all from Montalban, Rizal. Lead vocalist John Lester Abaño, lead guitarist Mark Jay Nievas, guitarist Lyn Rey Beltran, bassist Ryanpaul Marangga, drummer Leandro Repuno, keyboardist Jomari Gabriel Luna and spoken word specialist-cum-rapper and acoustic guitarist Ivan Arcena Morallos.
Initially, only Nievas, fondly called “Mac Mac,” and Beltran were merely jamming. “Nagsimula lang sa jamming ang lahat,” Abaño offered. “Si Mac Mac hilig niya talaga ang pagsusulat at naisipan nilang gumawa ng banda. Naghanap ng mga miyembro at hindi naman sila nahirapan sa paghahanap, dahil sa lugar nila ay marami ding musikero. Hanggang sa nabuo na ang Bandang Lapis.”
The group started joining band competitions, where they performed their original compositions, which did not escape the musical taste of the judges.
“Sa una naming pagsali ay hindi namin inakala na kami ang mag-champion agad, dahil sa aming mga orihinal na kanta,” Abaño said. “Dahil dito, nagsimulang makilala ang aming banda.”
The group started getting noticed when their song, "Kabilang Buhay,” climbed the streaming charts and became one of the top songs on YouTube Philippines, hitting the number 15 spot last August. It continues to perform well on the free streaming platform. As of this writing, is has been viewed 11 million times.
Meanwhile, the band broke into Spotify's Viral 50 (Philippines) chart, initially making their debut at No. 33 then making the big jump to No. 17 just inside a week.
The song nestled at No. 10 on Spotify and recently made another big jump and is now at No. 3. That may not look much compared to the songs by big-time acts, but for Bandang Lapis, that is undoubtedly a big deal.
“Hindi po namin expected na magiging hit ang ‘Kabilang Buhay,’” Repuno admitted. “Masaya na po kaming na-share namin sa mga tao ‘yung gusto namin iparating. Nagulat na lang kami na nag-number one at trending sa YouTube at sa iba pang social media platforms.”
“Kabilang Buhay” is composed by Nievas. The song was inspired by his friend whose girlfriend died. The guy in the song’s music video was the one who lost his girlfriend.
Bandang Lapis gained more attention for the relatable “hugot” themes of their original songs. “Masaya po kaming nagustuhan ng mga tao ‘yung music na gusto namin iparating sa kanila,” Repuno said. “At dahil dito, na-inspire pa po kaming sumulat pa ng iba pang mga kanta.”
This September, Bandang Lapis is slated to release a new single. "Kung Saan Ka Masaya,” about a guy who was forced to unselfishly let go of his lady love, just so she can achieve her dreams. "Susuportahan kita kung saan ka masaya," said the lyrics of the song.
The group, who looks up to the Eraserheads as their idol, admits they are not yet ready to come up with an album yet. “Hindi pa kami pwedeng mag-release ng album,” Marangga said. “Puro single muna. Isa lang po ang composer sa grupo, si Mark Jay Nievas.”
On YouTube, Bandang Lapis has uploaded their other singles – “Sanay ‘Di Na Lang" at “Pagsisisi.”
Aside from Nievas, Beltran and Marangga, the other members of Bandang Lapis are still in school and have yet to finish their studies.
Although Bandang Lapis has been slugging it out in the live performance circuit, they have nonetheless been charting big time with their social media presence. Since signing up with Viva Records, the band has been reaching new heights.
The attention that Bandang Lapis has been getting is all the more special as it is getting noticed during the time of COVID-19 pandemic, where virtually all live gigs have stopped. Admirably, Bandang Lapis has been finding ways to create a buzz with their music.
The band is now presently busy doing the rounds of promotions to further push their burgeoning hit song.