MANILA -- “Fifty-fifty. Hating-kapatid.”
That is the equal division between concert producers, multi-level marketing company Frontrow, and popular hip-hop group Ex Battalion for the concert “Evoluxion” on December 11 at the Araneta Coliseum.
The deal to split the profit is rather unusual between a producer and a music artist. Yet for Frontrow, represented by its president RS Francisco and CEO Sam Verzosa, doing business with the 14-member Ex Battalion, is a no-brainer.
“We will split the proceeds with them,” Francisco told ABS-CBN News. “We are giving Ex Battalion 50 percent of proceeds. Ang turing namin sa kanila, pamilya, kapatid. So lahat ng gagawin namin, kasama sila.
“From this concert or later the world tour, kasama sila. The bigger the world tour, the bigger the profit will be for the boys.”
Mounting “Evoluxion” in the middle of this pandemic wasn’t a tough decision for Frontrow and Ex Battalion, colloquially known as ExB.
“Alam natin sa gitna ng pandemic na ‘to, maraming nalulungkot or naapektuhan,” Francisco said. “In fact, isa na ako doon dahil nagkaroon din ako ng anxiety. Kung anu-ano ang naiisip ko at night with all these COVID problems.
“Every time nararamdaman ko ang ganu’n, I simply turn on my speaker and play ‘Need You’ and other songs of ExB like ‘Yearly,’ which lighten up my mood.
“Sa panahong ito, music ng ExB ang mag-liven up sa atin. Kapag mapanood nila itong concert na ‘to, kahit papaano, makakatulong kami to liven up their spirits at mapasaya sila.”
The moment the producers gave the green light for “Evoluxion,” the best people in the entertainment industry were tapped to work with Ex Battalion for the concert. Jon Corpus is the concert director, with Raul Mitra as musical director.
“We didn’t leave stones unturned,” Francisco said. “Whether ExB fan ka or not, you will be after this concert. We do not want to shortchange the viewers.”
Ex Battalion members are JRoa, Flow-G, Skusta Clee, Honcho, Brando, Emcee Rhen, King Badger, Huddass, Jekkpot, Yuri Dope, Jnskie, Cent, Bullet-D and Eijhayy.
“Nasanay kami talaga na mag-perform na may crowd,” JRoa said. “So this time, kailangan maintain ang energy namin, para mabigay ang best performance sa namin.”
Although “Evoluxion” is a major production in every way, Ex Battalion will not have guests in the concert that will be staged for two-and-a-half hours. The show will be streamed on KTX.ph
“Ang pinaka-aabangan dito, sa Araneta kami magpe-perform at paano namin execute ng tama kahit walang crowd,” Flow-G said. “Wala kaming guests. Ginawa naming sobrang special para sa amin. Para sa amin, talagang bago ito.”
Brando added: “First time namin gagawin ang concert na complete kami at sobrang happy namin at nabigyan kami ng chance na magawa itong concert with the help of Frontrow.”
Admirably, Frontrow mounted “Evoluxion” with Ex Battalion “not for profit,” but to support the local entertainment industry.
“Para marami rin gumaya at hopefully tumulong din sa local artists natin,” Verzosa explained. “Not just for hip-hop artists, but for the whole, local industry, our performers.
“Ang pagtulong ng Frontrow hindi lang sa company, charity, hospitals or schools, pati ang artists tulad ng ExB, nandoon ang advocacy ng Frontrow. Ang pagtulong para sa lahat.
“Since matagal na naming kapamilya ang ExB, sinimulan namin ang pagtulong sa kanila. Susundan pa namin ito ng mas marami, ‘pag naging successful at mas marami pa kaming matutulungan.”
Surprisingly, Ex Battalion never had any major disagreement when it comes to their musical differences and styles. They easily resolve anything. From the time they started performing in 2012, they’ve had an unbroken chain of support from one another.
“Walang away sa amin,” insisted King Badger. “Once may nag-agree na isa, dalawa, tatlo, susunod na ang lahat. So in terms of disagreement, music-wise, we never had any.”
JRoa added: “Isa sa strengths ng grupo namin, nagko-connect kami agad. We set aside our differences para sa grupo. We don’t prioritize ‘yung mga sariling gusto namin para din sa grupo.”
Brando added: “Siguro para sa amin, kaya hanggang ngayon, okay kami, nakikinig kami sa bawat isa. Kung meron problema or kailangan ayusin, napapag-usapan agad.
“Hindi naman maiiwasan ‘yun sa isang grupo, lalo na kapag family kayo, meron talagang ganu’n. Madali namin siyang nagagawan ng paraan. Kasi alam na rin naming kung paano i-approach ang bawat isa.”
“Sa music, nakikinig kami sa suggestion ng bawat isa. Kung hindi kami sang-ayon, hindi sarado ang tenga namin sa suggestions.”
King Badger pointed out: “Lahat kami equal. Isa siguro ‘yun sa mga sikreto kung bakit matibay kami. Matibay ang pinag-samahan namin.
“It doesn’t matter kung may hit ka ngayon or ako ang may hit ngayon, we still still treat you the same duon sa mga walang hit. Everybody is equal when it comes to ExB.”
Ex Battalion cannot be thankful enough that their producers made everything possible to push through with the digital concert. “They gave everything that we needed from rehearsals pa lang, so ma-feel namin na nasa live concert kami,’ JRoa shared.
With 14 guys in the group, Ex Battalion members have forged their respective career paths. “Hindi naman palaging pwede magkakasama kaming lahat at group project ang ihahain namin ng sunod-sunod,’ Flow G said.
“Parang hindi siya magwo-work. Kailangan din each member may gagawin. Ang kakalabasan naman nu’n, magre-reflect sa grupo. So kahit solo, nangyayari, parang group project rin. Bago ma-execute ng tama, grupo ang nasa likod. Hindi namin ginagawa ng solo.”
At the helm of “Evoluxion” is director Jon Corpus. “We got this amazing band with mainstream musical director [Raul Mitra],” he said. “That made their songs more pop and sound so different by using real instruments. It sounded better.
“Of course, this is the biggest online concert of the year because of how we created the stage, with the lights. It’s got a huge stage with six cars and motorcycles onstage.”
It took Ex Battalion the whole day to record the Big Dome concert with their production staff and crew. “But the preparation, it took us two and a half months.,” Corpus disclosed. “That’s a normal pre-production for a huge Araneta show.
“The boys really poured their hearts into the concert. They rehearsed. Napagod din sila. The task of singing in front of the cameras only with no audience, that’s the task. They were able to maintain their energy. It’s a very, very successful concert.”
When the Ex Battalion members were simply rehearsing, the producers were understandably so concerned from the onset.
“We were so laser-focused on the rehearsals,” Francisco said. “Pinanood talaga namin. There’s nothing like watching them up close and you hear your favorite ExB song at talagang sinasayaw pa naming kahit walang audience. Grabe ang euphoria na na-feel ko when they sang ‘Need You’.”
Francisco and Verzosa first heard about Ex Battalion when a video was shown to the latter by his brother. “We saw the ‘Need You’ music video,” Verzosa recalled. “I said, ‘Okay ‘tong grupo na ‘to. Solid. Very talented at very young. May kanya-kanya silang skills at personality.
“In the office, I showed the video to RS. I told him how very promising the group was. I’m sure magiging sobrang sikat at number one sa buong Pilipinas. We started collaborating with them for a song.
“After a few years, they are the hitmakers now. They’re number one on YouTube, with 50 millions views. I hope ma-translate natin ang views na ‘yan sa sales ng tickets.”
Francisco admitted what they did for Ex Battalion was no joke. “When we were conceptualizing this show, I had to continuously tell myself that these boys, these rap artists na sanay mag-perform sa libu-libong tao, ay magpe-perform sa Araneta Coliseum na walang laman.
“We did a Frontrow concert in November 2019 with 55,000 people at the Philippine Arena, with Gary Valenciano, Catriona Gray, Vice Ganda, Sharon [Cuneta], Regine [Velasquez], Anne Curtis.
“‘Yun ang pinaggalingan namin. So I had to repeatedly tell myself and the ExB, ‘Kaya natin ‘to.’ Ito ang kailangan natin malampasan’.”
“Being a theater actor myself, I feed on the audience energy. I’m sure ganu’n din ang ExB. I remember watching their concert in Antipolo before, ‘pag labas pa lang nila. Isa pa lang ‘Yeah, yeah, yeah.’ Sigawan na ang mga tao. That was when they felt energetic at ibibigay nila lahat.”
Ex Battalion will sing all their hit songs at the Big Dome in a two-and-a-half hour concert.
“We wanted a lot of guests,” Francisco said. “But as it is, with all the ExB hits, more than three hours na ang concert. We needed to shorten, so fans can expect more than two hours of hit songs and jamming with ExB.”
Since the guys have been together for close to a decade now, they have managed to help each other consciously.
“Lagi kaming positive kahit anong klase ng pangyayari,” Skusta Clee said. “Hindi kami pinang-hihinaan ng loob. Sama-sama kami. Hindi namin hinahayaan malugmok ang isa.”
Jeppot added: “Kami magkakapatid, mahal namin ang isa’t isa. Hindi namin pinababayaan na kung may problema, may isang mawalan. May maghirap, tutulungan namin ang isa’t isa. Hindi kami madamot.”