Southeast Asian Rock: Your Imaginary Friends

Growing up in Manila in the late 90s and going to international school (long before MP3 file-sharing became the norm), I had an opportunity to hear a wide variety of music most people stateside had never heard of from around the world, a statement that indie music hipster snobs often flaunt to annoy others. Whether it was my Scandinavian friends introducing me to The Shermans and Eggstone, or discovering the Manila underground thanks to news from the now-defunct radio station NU107 and its legion of music lovers who rebelled through rock, it was a great place to grow up for art.

There were many times I would be rocking out late at night to some of the American classics and currents that ruled the airwaves, and songs would catch my attention before completely surprising me to find that they were local Philippine bands. They had a sound that continued that high-energy octane that you could hear in early 90s grunge in some, or that natural progression from the sounds people are going nostalgic over and bringing in the retro fad of the lost time that people who reminisce want to return to, and people who are new are enthralled by. And most of the time, they sang in English, too, a result of being an American possession for many years before independence.

Whenever I want to imagine what music today would sound like instead of that horrible decade where the pop rock of the 2000s was nails on a chalkboard due to high-pitched vocals versus the gruff and rugged laments of the early 90s, I hop on a plane to Manila and check out some of my old haunts and discover new ones. Every time, I am always happy to find new groups and new venues where the spirit of rock and roll’s rebellion lives on with people who go out of love for the music and to support one another, instead of just downloading a song and bragging about what new band increases one’s indie credibility on Twitter or Facebook.

Recently during a jaunt to Manila, I dropped by a location around Katipunan, near the University of the Philippines and Ateneo de Manila campuses. It was there that I found out that the sound I miss that everyone wishes never died out when the 2000s came was still there–in Philippine rock. Amongst the bands I encountered and befriended, one of them gave me a run-down on some of the interesting characteristics of being a rock band in the Philippines. This is from Your Imaginary Friends. It would be a shame to deprive the world of some talented artists because of geography, so check out the album version and jeepney session of their single, “Your Silence is the Villain” embedded in the videos above before hearing some words from AhmaDylan.

1) How long has the band been around?

We have been together for almost 5 years. Eric (drums), Khalid (Guitars) and I have been schoolmates back in college and we were fans of each other’s art. It was just a matter of fate before I find myself looking for a job in Manila and planning a project with them — which turned out to be Your Imaginary Friends. Emerald (Bass) joined 2 years ago to complete the line-up.

2) Who are your musical influences as a band and as an individual?

I started out with the 90’s explosion. I was very much intro grunge scene that my dream was to move to Seattle. Discovering The Beatles Anthology was a huge turning point, but what made me write the way I do today is when I was introduced to the underground indie pop scene in Manila. It was like finding your own personal epiphany. The Smiths and Death Cab for Cutie are tossed around a lot as main influences of the band but we love listening to popular acts of our time too like The Pains of Being Pure at Hearts, Bloc Party, Phoenix and Shout out Louds. We are music fans, first and foremost.

3) What is unique about the situation for Philippine indie rock bands compared to America, such as how you all have day jobs and even those who “break out” don’t have more than an okay apartment and a lot more time to tour and focus on music, but never be wealthy like those rock stars who lived it large before?

Well, music isn’t really a profitable career in the Philippines; unless of course, if you go with the trends and write the formulaic pop singles that the masses are used to. So, there’s not much of a comparison when it comes to the monetary future of our endeavours. But with that sense of alienation and minimal push for moneymaking-deals, indie bands here are content to write about the real stuffs – since that’s what we got, and there’s nothing to lose. But in respect to all musicians there, I am sure all indie bands in the US go through the same hardship as we do.

4) What was the inspiration for your band’s name?

We were suggesting a lot of names and voting off mediocre ones. It was supposed to be The Imaginary Friends, but replacing “The” with “Your” to mess with the audience through our opening introduction, “Good evening, we are Your Imaginary Friends” is genius. We love being smart-asses.

5) What do you hope to do with your music?

To be able to produce more albums and reach more ears as possible. I think every Asian band’s dream is to cross over and be heard from the other parts of the world. Maybe get invited to some great festivals like SXSW and NYC pop fest.

6) Where can non-Filipinos get information about your band, buy your music online, and anything else they want?

Visit our website to get to know all about the band. Like our Facebook page too and follow us on Twitter: @YIFMusic

You can PM us for orders of our 2 EPs and some merchandise.

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About JohnnyC

Johnny C is a self-described Accidental Asian American: born in California and raised in Hong Kong and Manila, he spends his days traveling as a freelancer for various NGOs in development and human rights. An idealist and adventurer, his travels are both for work and fun, while sharing stories through his pictures, videos, and writing. When he's not dance-walking to indie rock songs on his iPod in cities around the world, he's usually got himself engrossed in a science fiction novel traversing the portals of reality.
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