Friday, August 5, 2011


The purpose of this blog entry is to introduce Fully Booked music ambassador, muscian Ely Buendia.

I am enormous fan of Ely Buendia and his music, from the Eraserheads to The Mongols to Pupil. I must admit that I am particularly fond of Pupil and have a deep admiration for the other band members, including Wendell Garcia, who I believe to be one of the best drummers in Manila.

It was only natural for Fully Booked to approach Ely to be their music ambassador. He is a familiar figure in the store, and can often be found prowling the graphic novels section, the architecture section, and of course, the music section.

His upcoming workshop for Fully Booked entitled Aural X (click on the link for details) is original and unique, just like the musician who conceptualized it. Ten individuals will be selected to participate in a workshop and be closely guided by Ely Buendia into creating their own musical masterpieces with an iPad and the GarageBand application, and will involve everything from creating beats to recording and engineering the music to the lyrics of the song!  

This blog entry features the article of guest blogger and Fully Booked Zine contributor, Yvette U. Tan, a Manila-based award-winning writer. Her works have been published in The Philippines Free Press, the Philippine Daily InquirerUNO MagazineStory Magazine, and Philippine Genre Stories, among others. She released Waking the Dead, her first collection of short stories in 2010. Here, her article in the June-July 2011 issue of the Fully Booked Zine, is republished with express permission from the editorial staff.


Music, Love
How does Ely Buendia come up with ultra catchy songs? What made him want to make music—and
stick with it? Fully Booked sits down with one of the country’s biggest rock stars, and find out what
makes him tick

By Yvette U.  Tan 
Photos courtesy of Ely Buendia

“My biggest challenge was overcoming biases. Every artist’s innate fear of being typecast is both a gift and a curse”

Ely Buendia’s love for music started out, like most of us, in childhood. “I started learning how to write songs very early on when I was still in grade school,” the musician says. “My hobby was to invent verses and melodies for songs I only knew a couple of lines from and sing them in front of class.” It is from this semi-composing, this amateur inventing of words and tunes that one of the country’s most respected musicians found his voice, his niche. He took inspiration in pop culture, first mimicking bands that he looked up to, later moving on to make music that was wholly his own. “When I became a teenager I mimicked the songs of bands like the Cure, (David Bowie) and the Smiths,” he says. “I credit my penchant for unpredictability to those artists.”

These two bands, along with The Beatles, were what pushed him to make music then. Now, he says that his influences have changed to bands “whose works aren’t that popular” but have “lasting power.”

Media exposure—TV, magazines, radio made him see that it was possible to live a life dedicated to his passion of making music. “Watching bands on MTV made me want to be in a band,” he says. You can imagine this being at the back of his mind when he entered college and began forming bands, though the one that would make his name a by-word in Philippine music was his third outfit, making true rock stars out of him and the rest of the Eraserheads. Buendia began making music at a time just before Pinoy rock was about to rise once again. He had no way of knowing that his band would be instrumental in the country’s embracing of original Filipino rock music, nor that he would be at the forefront of the movement until today. Back then he was just a kid who loved music enough to want to make some himself. He says that it was “sheer ignorance” that pushed him to form a band and play at clubs and school programs instead of doing something more sensible like, say, studying.

“My biggest challenge was overcoming biases. Every artist’s innate fear of being typecast is both a gift and a curse,” he says. Buendia has defied the preconceptions that have formed around him by always doing his own thing. The only true constant in his life is his freedom to make music.

Buendia has always had a knack for writing music that speaks directly to the Filipino experience, and has done so without being self-conscious. When asked about this, he demurs, “I come from a provincial background where everything is still steeped in tradition, and there’s a strong communal identity, but I’m a city boy at heart. I only write about the things I’ve done and seen in the streets. I don’t know if that has anything to do with the Filipino psyche.”

Here we come to the crux of the matter. To paraphrase a well-known saying, there is no I in band. Everything, from the name to the finished songs on an award-winning album, is the product of different minds at work together. At times, it can get tough. “Usually writing a song with a partner yields awesome results. See Lennon/McCartney, Morrisey/Marr. But it’s a double-edged sword. Sometimes it’s just more practical and liberating to do things on your own. I still can’t make up my mind about it. This has given me more than my own share of headaches.”

But find the right people, like Buendia has in his band Pupil, and working together can be the sweetest thing in the world. As Buendia puts it, “The best part is the collaborative process. The worst part is the collaborative process.”

Buendia’s songwriting process is deceptively simple, yet you wouldn’t think so to hear his compositions. They’re ingeniously complex, yet catchy enough to be radio-friendly and perfect for a drunken sing along. “There are several possible catalysts: a good song I want to emulate or top, an awesome title, a phrase I pick up from reading, a genre I want to dabble in or adopt, a strong guitar riff, a melody I suddenly hear in my head. Once I have that, the biggest obstacle for me is the lyrics. When all else fails I use the loop trick where I record a rough demo of the music without lyrics and play it over and over. Your mind will eventually fill in the blanks. I use this trick as a last resort, though,” he says. “Usually an idea arrives in my head when I’m driving or on a long trip. Almost all my songs started out this way.”

Has he ever suffered from writer’s block? “I don’t believe I have ever experienced mental block, just bouts of depression, in which case your work is greatly affected. How do you get past depression? Eat! Kidding. I believe that is for a different workshop altogether.” Two things that genuinely put him in a good mood are “perusing modern architecture wherever I can find it and watching comedies withmy kids.”

All this, one imagines, feeds into his songwriting process and his performances. It is interesting to note that until now, going onstage is still a magical experience for Buendia in which he carefully grants a reveal of his soul. “It’s a combination of nerves and anticipation and adrenaline. I guess going onstage is like bungee jumping or confession (both of which I have not tried) where you ego splits in two and only the strongest triumphs,” he says, adding that what he loves about it is, “The immediacy, the sense that everything can fall apart any second, the ultimate high when everything goes right.”

Songwriting, he believes, is both a product of talent and perseverance. “I believe we are born with a set of specific talents but I also believe things can be learned, as long as one is passionate enough about them,” he says. “There’s so much talent out there it’s astonishing.”

Between the digital tools that are at the disposal of the current generation and the digital distribution technologies of the Internet, it’s a lot easier to get a band started. However, that doesn’t mean it’s any easier to get to the top, let alone stay there. Among the many things that Buendia aims to impart in his upcoming workshop for Fully Booked is to guide students through the songwriting process from genesis to completion, and most importantly, to help them acquire the ability to work under pressure. “The chance to challenge myself and others,” is what excites Buendia the most about helming this first-ofits-kind workshop in Fully Booked. “[Students] will learn that making music has nothing to do with real life. This will benefit them immensely.”

Music is still very much a part of Buendia’s life, both professionally and personally. You cannot separate the music from the man. “We [Pupil] just did a an Eheads themed show in the States, and we’re gearing up for the release of the second single from the Limiters of the Infinity Pool album, “20/20” the music video for which we shot in the middle of EDSA. I’m also pretty excited about the vinyl version of Limiters,” he says. And for a man who loves music so much he figured out a way to spend his lifetime playing it, teaching others to do so is but the next logical step in his life’s ode.