Three brothers return with new music
“Our mom thought we looked like monkeys, so she called us Wonggoys since we were kids,” Kyle Wong, one-third of the Wonggoys, explains. He and his brothers Gabe and Billy have been interested in music since they were children, and in 2010, they released their first album “I’m Not Sure What To Say But I’ll Say It Anyway.” Six years later, the Wonggoys returns with their new album “High Hello.”
“We draw our inspirations from life experiences but not much from pains or heartaches,” Gabe says. With lyrics mostly accompanied by guitar, the Wonggoys tackles themes ranging from anticipation of the weekend in Weekend (which was written on a Monday) to homosexuality in Gay is Okay.
We visited the Wonggoys at their home on a cloudy day, but their jocular mood made up for the weather.
Who from your family really influenced your music?
Gabe: My maternal uncles play in a band. But for me, my dad, who doesn’t play any instruments, really influenced us. He doesn’t sing well but he has a collection of LPs, and we’ve been playing those since I was two years old. Is there any specific song that you remember him listening to? G: In the Air Tonight by Phil Collins. Billy: I’m a Michael Jackson baby. Kyle: Both. You are called Wonggoys because of your surname and your mom thought you looked like monkeys. Beyond that, how would you describe yourselves? B: Gabe is the artistic one. Hands down to
him when it comes to the art, not just in songwriting but also music itself. He is good at everything he does.
K: Billy Boy is the shy guy. He’s a shy guy who’s best in interviews. He’s the PR boy. He’s the cutie boy, parang puppy. He’s the most serious yet very approachable.
G: When we started the band, I knew that I couldn’t be the lone band leader; Kyle fits as one. For me, he’s the most responsible band member. He’s the pole that everyone is hanging on to.
What’s your songwriting process like?
G: I write the lyrics and Kyle does the riffs. When we’re on a rush, I ask him to play some riffs, then the riffs actually dictate what the song would be about.
Do each of you play any instrument?
K: Gabe was the one who played the guitar first. Then we got jealous of him, so we started learning it, too. After we got better than him, he just stopped (laughs).
There was a song about your late dad called Post No Bill from your first album. How did that song come about?
G: We were at our uncle’s wake, chilling at the lounge. That song suddenly came to me as we were mourning for our tito. I was thinking he was with Papa already. While I was writing it, my focus was on finishing the song. But now, whenever I sing it, I feel sad, because I’m there, [expressing what I feel] already; I’m no longer writing or creating it. There have been many times when we just cry in the middle of performing the song and have to stop.
B: I think the only time we got to finish that song was during the album launch.
It took you six years to come back with a new album. Why?
B: It took us six long years because Kyle and I had to finish studying. Then, we went to the States where we also started working.
G: It took us five years to decide [whether to continue].
K: We’re busy with other stuff. We’re busy with life.
How would you describe the process of making this album?
G: Truthfully, we thought it was time to make a new album because we felt stagnant. We kept playing the same songs, but I felt there was something new to write about since [we made] our last album. Sometimes, there are concepts that pop up while Billy Boy is playing with the PlayStation 4 and we’re just there. When we’re pressured, we go to the balcony to really write.
K: We got really focused six months ago, but there are two to three songs that we wrote just last year.
Why don’t you have any songs in Cebuano?
B: For us, it’s easier to express ourselves in English. Our dialect is different when it’s written.
But you have this song called Kalayaan?
K: Kalayaan was written one evening at 10 p.m. I was about to sleep when I remembered a song contest in school. I’m competitive, so I made my own song. I went to Gabe and asked him to write a song with me in Tagalog and mix in other languages. Our mom helped— B: With the translation. K: I wrote it in 30 minutes, and our teacher liked it. For some reason, even the other students liked it. We put it in the first album.
As musicians, what did you learn about Cebuanos? B: Cebuanos are hard to please.
Do you imagine doing music full-time? B: We can’t. K: I don’t think you can do that here. In the U.S., you can.
B: It would be hard to have a family and just do that.
All: We’re doing it for the love.
What’s your dream for Filipino music?
B: For me, it’s simple: I want the world to know how Filipino music is. I want the whole Philippines to share its music, to be world-known. We have good artists, so I guess there’s nothing to stop us in reaching that soon.
G: For me, it’s the end goal. I can’t say it’s [just] a dream because we’re really going to do it.
FROM LEFT: GABE, KYLE, AND BILLY
BEYOND MUSIC, GABE HANDLES THE BRANCH OPERATIONS OF THEIR FAMILY BUSINESS WHILE KYLE IS IN MARKETING. ON THE OTHER HAND, BILLY WORKS FOR THE SISTER COMPANY, BUT HE ALSO PLANS TO PUT UP A RESTAURANT SOON.