For a little while, the prospect of seeing Ely Buendia, Raymund Marasigan, Buddy Zabala and Marcus Adoro play together again on one stage seemingly rested on Leni Robredo’s shoulders.
Last month, in a Twitter Q&A session to promote a digital concert, Ely Buendia was asked by an eager follower if there was any hope at all for an Eraserheads reunion. “‘Pag tumakbo si Leni,” he replied, referring to the Vice President.
Robredo did enter the presidential race in next year’s national elections, prompting fans to pull out their online “receipts” and bombard Buendia with wisecracks and “gentle reminders,” asking him to make good on his promise.
But as we now know, it was merely a case of maling akala. In a Zoom group interview with show biz reporters prior to Robredo’s announcement Ely clarified that his tweet about the Vice President was merely “an aside,” “kind of a joke” that simply blew up. He did say, though, that he “admires and respects” Robredo, and that “she’s my top candidate right now … out of all the candidates.”
Regarded as one of the country’s most influential groups, the Eraserheads ruled the 1990s, churning out one pop-rock anthem after another, before disbanding in 2002. While the band has played sporadically—mostly overseas tour and the rare corporate gigs—in the past 10 years, the last time it staged something major was in 2009.
Another reunion remains to be seen, diehards hankering for a new live Eraserheads set got their fix—and then some—with “Superproxies” Ely’s recently concluded virtual show on the streaming platform KTX.
This time, backed by Pat Sarabia on drums, Audrey Dionisio on acoustic guitar, Carissa Ramos on bass and Nitoy Adriano on lead guitar, Ely dished out a number of Eraserheads classics, like “Spoliarium,” “Alapaap,” “Pare Ko,” “Ligaya,” “With a Smile,” “Superproxy,” “Pop Machine” and “Ang Huling El Bimbo.”
He also played some of his work as a solo artist and with other groups, including “Higante,” “Metro” and “Plunder My Heart”—songs that he felt “also deserve the spotlight.”
Ely has lost count how many times he has performed those songs in his career—“probably thousands.” But what’s important, he said, is to make the experience enjoyable. “Otherwise, it will reflect on your performance,” he pointed out.
One way he keeps things new is through improvisation. “Even if we had rehearsals and everyone knows what’s coming, I like to keep the band on their toes. I like improvising lyrics and arrangements, and keep it interesting for me, the band and the audience, too,” he told the Inquirer.
Now some listeners might prefer the artist stick to the original arrangements or get a performance that’s “plakado.” But playing around sounds is simply something inherent in him as an artist. “I try to put myself in the audience’s perspective when making something new and hope that they like the new versions,” he said.
Because live musical events are still prohibited because of COVID-19, a lot of artists have to make do with online gigs, with no actual audience to draw energy from. It’s a challenge for some. But not for Ely. After all, it’s not exactly new to him.
“There was a time back in the day—when Eheads was still a struggling band playing at Club Dredd and other places—when there were only two people watching us. That’s not a new thing for me,” Ely said, adding that one has to be able to enjoy music “for yourself.”
“Sometimes, you can just get lost in the music regardless if there’s anyone listening to you. I practice guitar at home and sing in the show. Enjoy it,” Ely pointed out. “I can do it without anyone looking and I can do it with thousands of people watching. It doesn’t make a difference to me.”
Amid the pandemic the 50-year-old singer-songwriter has been busying himself with different creative and learning pursuits—Japanese language lessons, filmmaking and scriptwriting and martial arts. He’s even taking up guitar lessons and delving deeper into it, despite having played the instrument for four decades.
“There’s always room for improvement in whatever you do,” said Ely, who also cofounded Offshore Music, an independent record label that allows him to “guide new artists who I believe have the potential and whose music I can relate to emotionally and musically.”
While recording new music is on the plate, Ely said he has no plans of releasing an album in the near future. The ideas are there but he wants to take it slow. “I don’t want to rush things. I want the music to grow organically. But I do have ideas, melodies, lyrics and sounds in my head. I’m still at a planning stage,” he said.
There comes a point in many artists’ careers where they find themselves in a creative rut. And it can be a tricky place to navigate.
“It’s hard when you experience something like that because you have to know that you’re in a rut. Sometimes, you think you’re doing OK. And that’s hard to deal with because you don’t even know there’s something wrong,” Ely said. “That has happened to me before with Eheads. There was a time when I thought I was writing good songs, but after a few years, you think, ‘What was I thinking,’” he related.
But as he grew and matured as an artist, Ely learned how to better deal with situations like those. “I continue to educate myself. I try to find out how good music is supposed to sound right now, what are the good films, what are the good books. You always have to keep up with the times,” he said.
“And I’m no longer in that place where I regret some things I did musically,” Ely said. “That had a lot to do with me taking my time and not forcing myself to do something I don’t want to do in the first place.”
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