OUR­SELVES THE ELVES

How does a band with se en years un­der their belt an­age to stay a oat a id the tor­ren­tial wa es of the industry We as ed garage fol band Oursel es he El es.

Scout - - CONTENTS - y Is­abella D. Ar­gosino ho­tog­ra­phy y ac Jayson il­laluna

The year was 2011. Be­fore the ad­vent of the K-pop in­va­sion and reign of the prime­time TV kings, the lo­cal mu­sic industry seemed to be tak­ing its last breaths. Bam­boo had just con­cluded their nine-year jour­ney. Su­gar­free held a grand farewell con­cert. Other big names, such as Hale and River­maya, were also slowly fad­ing into the back­ground. Even NU107, the lead­ing rock mu­sic sta­tion in its hey­day, ap­peared that many of the main movers of OPM were hang­ing up their boots. And why wouldn’t they, when ma­jor labels only cared about com­mer­cial vi­a­bil­ity, mass ap­peal, and if your name was Daniel Padilla?

The ir­cum­stances weren’t ex­actly ideal if you were an as­pir­ing artist mourn­ing your forlorn idols. But for Our­selves the Elves, it couldn’t have been a bet­ter time for them to break into the mu­sic scene. “When we started out, we had no idea how to do it,” ad­mits front­woman Aly Cabral. “We were kind of just wing­ing it as we went along—play­ing gigs for free be­cause we had no idea we were even sup­posed to be paid.” If that isn’t telling of how pas­sion­ate they are as mu­si­cians, maybe their solid seven-year streak as a band is.

When they met in 2011 at the Uni­ver­sity of the Philip­pines, where Aly and fel­low found­ing mem­bers Ponch Sal­vador and Aki Me­d­ina were stu­dents, the trio hit it off and de­cided to form a band. “We re­ally just wanted to cover songs from Scott Pilgrim,” Hc novel in­spired their name: Her­self the Elf is the ti­tle omb. It was only a mat­ter of time be­fore they brought their tal­ent out­side of their cir­cles and onto the stage. Soon, they be­gan play­ing small gigs here and there at Route 196 and Saguijo. “We had to do ev­ery­thing on our own—book­ing shows, pro­mot­ing, record­ing. Dur­ing the time we came out, there was a lot of re­spect for new artists. I guess be­cause there was no tem­plate for us young, in­de­pen­dent bands to fol­low,” Aly re­veals. “New artists nowa­days have it much eas­ier, es­pe­cially with so­cial me­dia. Any­one can put them­selves out there and be dis­cov­ered.”

And true enough, it was through the in­ter­net in 2015 that they met their bassist, Paula Castillo. “We didn’t have a per­ma­nent bassist. We were think­ing of ei­ther con­tin­u­ing as a three-piece or look­ing for some­one who we found her.” “I posted a cover of Beach Fos­sils,” Paula quips. From there, the rest was his­tory.

Our­selves the Elves’ sound has been dubbed many things—garage folk, in­die, coun­try rock, mu­sic more. The four mem­bers have a pal­pa­ble mu­si­cal chem­istry that trans­lates son­i­cally in their fa­vor. Their stripped down style their 2013 EP “It’ll Be Al­right”—and also com­ple­ments their use of re­verb and play­ful synths. But all things con­sid­ered, emo­tion is the band’s smok­ing gun.

Take their 2015 EP “Geog­ra­phy Lessons.” The four­track re­lease, which served as the sound­track for Petersen Var­gas’s , trans­ports lis­ten­ers to a more tran­quil space, but only un­til it pro­ceeds to shat­ter your heart. In the open­ing song, Baby, I Love You So, Aly sings about sur­ren­der­ing your soul to a per­son, while the apolo­getic Long­ing For laments over a re­la­tion­ship lost.

car­ried over to Uncer­tainly Cincinnati Clocks draws back the cur­tains on your men­tal land­scape to re­veal a pic­ture of sprawl­ing free­ways, stars, and stop­ping time with your lover. “Geog­ra­phy Lessons” is a pil­grim­age of love, mapped out in four songs that build up and blos­som as you lis­ten.

at­tach­ment and ap­proach to their art. “With most of our songs, we let them ma­ture and ripen for a few years,” says Aki. While most artists would pre­fer their own hands at the helm of their cre­ation, the band al­lows their art to lead them. “We let the songs ma­ture, not just in terms of tech­ni­cal struc­ture but also the con­text sur­round­ing it. Some­times, we play some­thing and it feels dif­fer­ent when you per­form it an­other time. We learn the song in dif­fer­ent ways and in dif­fer­ent per­spec­tives,” Aly ex­plains. “De­pend­ing on where we are in life, we’ll give it a few months or years and later be like, ‘Oh, I get what the song is try­ing to say now.’”

For a band that has been to­gether al­most a decade, con­stant rein­ven­tion seems to be key. But how does one give in to evo­lu­tion while keep­ing your feet on the ground? “We’ve been play­ing for a while now, and I guess we just kept go­ing,” re­calls Aly. “We never set­tled for less and made sure we re­mained hon­est with our­selves. Au­then­tic­ity is a strug­gle many artists go through, but we were lucky enough that peo­ple re­spected and con­nected with that.” When trends come and go in a New York minute, in­deed, plant­ing your feet on the ground be­comes an act of re­bel­lion in it­self.

Hav­ing a solid re­la­tion­ship out­side of the band room cer­tainly helps, too. “It’s im­por­tant to un­der­stand that skill isn’t enough to be in a band. You have to work with the right peo­ple that you ac­tu­ally like, or else it will be hard to jive to­gether and come up with any­thing good,” ex­claims drum­mer Ponch. “It’s like a mar­riage, re­ally. I mean, like we men­tioned, we grow with our songs, but we also grow with each other.” In turn, this col­lec­tive char­ac­ter de­vel­op­ment plays a part in the grander scheme of com­mu­nity. “When we live in har­mony as a band, we can ap­ply that en­ergy to the peo­ple around us and live har­mo­niously within the en­tire mu­sic com­mu­nity,” Aly em­pha­sizes.

This abil­ity to make a pos­i­tive con­tri­bu­tion is just one of their mea­sures for suc­cess. While the band has earned mul­ti­ple plays of its songs on­line, nu­mer­ous head­lin­ing gigs around the Metro, and pro­lif­er­at­ing recog­ni­tion, it all comes sec­ond to be­ing able to con­nect with lis­ten­ers.

“Some artists equate suc­cess to pop­u­lar­ity, but to us, it mat­ters more when our au­di­ence can re­late to our songs,” ‘likes’ but how many of those are from peo­ple who even truly care about your mu­sic?”

That said, it’s clear that the band doesn’t aim to please— but that is im­plied in the best way pos­si­ble. In­ci­den­tally, the band’s ethos is rooted in a quote from fel­low artist and Pak­ing­gan ang sar­ili

mong duwende,” which trans­lates to “Lis­ten to your in­ner elf,” urges one to honor your unique way of see­ing the world. This time, their own “elves” are lead­ing them to a new path on their mu­si­cal jour­ney.

While most of their ma­te­rial has been cen­tered on themes of up­com­ing de­but al­bum—will take a slightly dif­fer­ent di­rec­tion. “Right now, we’re work­ing to get out of our com­fort zones. It’s a free­dom in our al­bum,” Paula adds. “We recorded ‘Geog­ra­phy picked up along the way. We’re cer­tainly not the same peo­ple we were seven years ago.”

And to end with an an­swer to the most im­por­tant ques­tion you might still be ask­ing: no, Our­selves the Elves aren’t ac­tual elves. How­ever, what they lack in the mag­i­cal crea­ture depart­ment they com­pletely make up for with their awein­spir­ing tal­ent and unique sound that have pro­pelled them to be­come one of the most loved lo­cal bands of to­day. That is its own kind of magic.

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