Music review: Pinoy rock 'superband' Franco

Posted at 01/04/2010 4:51 PM | Updated as of 01/04/2010 10:28 PM
abs-cbnNEWS.com/Newsbreak talks to Franco band on the set of their music video "Cast Away" about their thoughts on piracy, going mainstream and their favorite videoke song.

MANILA, Philippines - Barely months after they broke into the local music scene, rock band Franco was already heralded as a "superband."

Though still on their way to national fame, the fact that they have impressed select audiences and critics with their fresh sound (a blend of reggae, alternative rock and metal) and that they are composed of rock icons from well-established Pinoy bands may be why they are described as "super."

Lead singer Franco Reyes is considered one of the best singers and songwriters to ever come out of Cebu.

By the time he joined Franco, he already had 18 years of musical experience with bands like Frank!, Sheila and the Insects and InYo (his band in the United States).

His poetic lyricism and velvet voice shines in the band's hit track "Cast Away", a reggae-flavored song about Reyes's feelings of isolation and homesickness after migrating to the US.

"It's like how Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) long for home," Reyes said. "Cast Away", originally performed by InYo, ranked high in radio charts like those of rock station NU 107.

The track will be included in their new album under MCA Records, reportedly set for release this month.

The rest of the band's members will be familiar to music lovers. On guitars are Gabby Alipe of Urbandub and Paolo "Ocho" Toleran of Queso (formerly named Cheese).

Completing the 5-piece band are Buhawi "Buwi" Meneses of the seminal 90s band Parokya ni Edgar on bass and JanJan Mendoza of Urbandub on drums.

Beginnings

Franco reportedly started as a side project by Toleran, Meneses and Mendoza, who would jam together when they had time. After a while, they decided to look for a front man to help their project band take off.

"JanJan suggested Franco (Reyes). He let them listen to Franco's demo, because he was based in the States, and they liked it," Alipe said in a MYX Setlist interview.

Reyes's band InYo (reportedly named after yin and yang), formed in 2006 and based in Florida, had already recorded an 11-track album with Big3 Records.

InYo had also been composed of experienced musicians like Mike Sylvia, Tommy Jamin and Cebu-born Anton Cortes.

"Then we tried to convince Franco to come back here in the Philippines. Thank God it happened," Alipe added.

Though Reyes thought it was egotistic to name the band after him, the members took a vote and decided to name their band Franco.

While balancing their schedules between Franco and their other bands can be tough, Menseses said it isn't hard to priotize if they are "really into this."

The band members have been busy with gigs and sometimes have to do back-to-back performances with both Franco and their respective bands.

The band had also been busy finalizing the tracks for their album, which is much-anticipated by many fans who have heard and loved their music. They also filmed for the music video of "Cast Away" last December.

'Mere musicians'

Music from www.odysseylive.net

Most of Franco's members--including Reyes, Alipe and Mendoza--thrived and emerged from the vibrant Cebu rock scene.

Reyes said musicians coming from the area produce particularly "clear-minded" music because Cebu is less of a concrete jungle than other big cities.

"Cebu is close to the sea and close to the mountains too. So if you're angry or you just want to relax, you can go to the beach or the mountains 10 minutes away," he said in an interview with abs-cbnNEWS.com/Newsbreak.

Though transplanted elsewhere in the world, the band reportedly manages to keep its brand of "clear-mindedness" that is translated in Franco's music as poignant lyrics and soothing rhythms that are easy and inspiring to listen to.

Reyes said their songs even have an environmental message. "Our music can be relevant to the youth if they listen to the music and the lyrics and understand that it's about good vibes, positive vibrations," he said.

"And how the songs are about our environment, the climate, and how everyone should do their part. How they can have an effect on global warming that we have because mahirap na (it's hard now)," Reyes added.

Despite all the acclaim, the band shies away from being called a "superband" out of humility.

"It's really flattering. But we try not to think too much about it. Ano lang kami eh, we're just mere musicians. We're just fortunate enough to be part of this project," Reyes told MYX.

From the time of its formation, Franco the band claims to stand for simple and Bob Marley-esque ideals: "Good Vibes. One Love. Good Music." In months or years to come, the band's current and future fans can expect just that. Report and video by Kristine Servando, abs-cbnNEWS.com/Newsbreak.