“It’s a great time to be a Narda fan,” says Ryan Villena, drummer, chief songwriter, and founder of the Filipino indie band Narda, a band that made waves in the early 2000s with their critically acclaimed EPs and albums, their NU107 In the Raw Award win in 2003, and their chart-topping single “Molotov” in 2006, which became a jingle for a beverage brand.
“The band is back again after fifteen years, and we have a lot of releases and projects in the pipeline,” says Villena, who by day, works as an educator at Inspire Sports Academy.
The much-awaited reunion happened last year at the height of the pandemic when all eight of the band members frequently met through weekly Zoom sessions. Through these meetings, they were able to digitally remaster and release their 50-plus song catalog under Island Records Philippines (including previously unreleased demos and remixes).
Aside from this, the band came up with a new song “Juskopo” in 2020, written by the band’s vocalist Katwo Puertollano, a song that had all past members of the band contributing a track or two.
Enzo Valdez, Managing Director at Universal Music Group’s Island Records Philippines says, “Narda has been one of the bands in the 2000s that’s very dear to me. I have a personal history with the band, as the first music video I ever directed was for their song ‘Gasolina’. Island Records is proud to have Narda in our roster of all-Filipino artists, and we’re all excited to release their new material.”
Although the members of the band are now working in various professions and living in different cities such as Manila, New York, Santa Clara, and Prince Edward Island, Narda has reinvented itself as a file-swapping studio band with a slate of new songs ready for release.
The band is now composed of Katwo Puertollano on vocals, Ryan Villena on drums, Wincy Ong on bass, Jep Cruz on synthesizers, and Tani Santos, Ed Ibarra, JV Javier, and Nico Africa on guitars.
Says Formika guitarist Nico Africa, “There are now eight of us in the band, and although we haven’t met each other in person in years, we’ve been setting up meetings and swapping audio files. We’ve all grown as musicians, and the sound that we have now is truly exciting.”
Jep Cruz, synth player and lawyer by day, adds, “Thanks to technology like Zoom, Google Drive, Monday.com and Garageband, it’s now easier for us to share each other’s musical ideas, compared to our early days, when the technology for these things wasn’t quite there yet.”
And now the band’s latest eight-man line-up has released their follow-up to last year’s politically charged punk song “Juskopo”, and this time around, they chose to return to their earlier sound– their strummy, nostalgia-tinged, dream-pop sound, inspired by artists such as Cinderella and The Cardigans.
Their latest single under Island Records Philippines is “Ang Buhay T’wing Wala Ka”, a hugot love song written by bassist Wincy Ong, a track that marries the chord progressions of ‘70s Manila Sound with the gritty textures of shoegaze bands.
In an Instagram post, Manhattan-based vocalist Katwo Puertollano says, “It’s the most dream-pop song Narda has ever made. This song captures longing and isolation in the catchiest, sweetest, and most Tagalog way possible. The song has the words gayuma, kamandag, and keber! Saan ka pa?”
To promote the single, Narda has partnered up with Brutalist Pilipinas, a non-profit Instagram collective that aims to curate and preserve iconic Brutalist buildings around the country. A music video-slash-mini-documentary is slated for release this November, one that will show the new line-up performing side by side archival photos of works by Roberto Novenario, Antonio Mercado, Froilan Hong, and National Artist Leandro Locsin.
“There could be no perfect partnership that I could think of,” says guitarist JV Javier, who works as an architect in eastern Canada and is also an advocate of historic preservation in the Philippines. “Narda is a band that’s heavy on Pinoy nostalgia and we all grew up in a time when all these beautiful buildings were constructed. It’s a good feeling, that in a small way, we’re able to contribute to this movement.”
And lastly, to celebrate the fifteenth anniversary of their critically acclaimed garage-rock album Discotillion, the band has re-recorded the entire album while adding previously unreleased tracks for a vinyl release under Backspacer Records. As of this writing, the Ryan Villena-produced tracks are being engineered by Ely Buendia’s Crow’s Nest mastering facility.
Says Discotillion guitarist Tani Santos, “Expect a new sound when the vinyl release comes out. The new eight-man line-up brings something fresh and indescribable to the old songs. Kakaiba siya.”
Indeed, it’s a great time to be a Narda fan, what with their entire catalog of digitally remastered songs out on streaming platforms, fresh new singles, a music video collaboration with Brutalist Pilipinas, and a vinyl pressing of Discotillion.
Says California-based guitarist Ed Ibarra, “I’m surprised by the output that we’ve come up with given the pandemic and our limited resources. But we’ve always been that kind of band—we find ways to continue making music that we love.”
“Ang Buhay T’wing Wala Ka” is now out on Spotify and all streaming platforms under Island Records Philippines. Follow @nardabanda on Facebook and Instagram.
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