MANILA -- There are second acts as well in Filipino lives.
A decade ago, Mike Constantino formed the neo-soul band Mike’s Apartment, which released "Lovers/Quarrel," an album that quietly helped jumpstart a Pinoy soul movement and created a stir with its packaging.
Mike’s Apartment was one of the few bands aside from Sinosikat that performed soul music. "Lovers/Quarrel" (yes, it is bridged by a slash mark) was released as a compact disc but was packaged in a jacket more accustomed to 7-inch vinyl. The fetching cover featured a strikingly pretty lady looking calm under the noontime sun and surrounded by blades of grass.
It is a perfect metaphor for a band that during that time sounded so different among the local releases such as Rico Blanco’s solo debut "Your Universe"; Itchyworms’ second offering "Self-titled"; Pedicab’s sophomore outing "Shinji Ilabas Mo Na Ang Helicopter"; and the Camerawalls’ powerful debut "Pocket Guide to the Otherworld", to name but a few.
"Lovers/Quarrel" clocked in at close to an hour and 30 minutes and “Ambitious” was how Constantino succinctly described the album.
“As for the packaging, we had to really look for someone to create the vinyl size as it wasn’t being done anymore. Even the plastic that came with the album we had to source,” he added.
When Constantino revisits the album nowadays, he wishes he could re-record his vocals. “We didn’t know what we were doing back then,” he explained but with the benefit of hindsight. “So it is a surprise to see and hear when people walk up to you and tell you that they listened to and liked the album. When I ask how old were they when they listened to 'Lovers/Quarrel' and they say they were around 11 years old at the time, I go, ‘whoa!’”
If it inspired people, great, but I cannot reconcile it. Constantino does vividly remember that album gaining only one album review that was scathing in its criticism. “The album review on Pulp said, ‘I love this band but what they do live was not captured in this recording. Best to watch them live na lang.’ Aww, man. I felt so bad. And it stuck with me.”
Ten years can do a lot to people.
Mike’s Apartment has since been abandoned. Over time, the band saw some members leave and it eventually morphed into the new band, Conscious and the Goodness, that is quietly gaining a following.
“You can say that we’re a jazz hop soul band,” said Constantino over a beer before his new crew was to take the stage at the jazz bar Dulo in Makati. He is joined by another Mike’s Apartment alumna, bassist Yuna Reguerra. Also in the band is Sponge Cola drummer Ted Cruz and keyboardist Jesser Sison.
“We really work on our songs. Lessons learned,” Constantino said with a bit of humor and sarcasm at the memory of a terrible album review.
Apparently, Conscious and the Goodness is doing well. They are a word of mouth band. And that night, Constantino, who worked with Studio 23 a long time ago during its infancy, couldn’t help but marvel how Dulo was packed on a Monday night which is usually slow.
The crowd which includes Apartel and Brat Pack’s talented keyboardist RJ Pineda, as well as a few foreigners, weren’t there to drink on a Monday night. They were there to see Conscious and the Goodness. Incredibly, many in the audience know the words to the songs. Constantino is pleased and he engages a couple that is seated directly across the band. They giggle and laugh and single along to the band’s frontman.
It has been 10 years since Mike’s Apartment released its one and only album. “Because you messaged me about 'Lovers/Quarrel,'” Constantino tells this writer who was his colleague in Studio 23 a long time ago, “I listened to it over the weekend. And I said to the band (Conscious and the Goodness), ‘let’s play ‘Mabuhay’ and they were like, ‘really?’ I want to also play ‘See You’ for my father-in-law passed away two weeks ago. I wrote that more than 10 years ago for my best friend who passed away when we were 27.”
His bandmates? There’s that smile in their eyes. Nothing like a burst of sentiment and inspiration to fire up a band.
Make no mistake, as much as Constantino dreams of re-recording the record the way it should be to his mind, he is moving forward. His new band is working on an album of their own. “We are talking about releasing the new album – what, my first in 10 years and a first for this band – by September? We’re on a timetable and we want to get it done.”
If you saw at the Dulo crowd that Monday night, I’ll bet they can’t wait either.