Mano A Mano with Orange & Lemons

(L-R) Ace del Mundo, JM del Mundo, Clementine Castro, and Jared Nerona. This quartet is more known as the pop band Orange & Lemons

Just like any other month in the calendar, June 2019 had its fair share of new music. Of course, Filipinos are never left behind especially with the new breed of bands hitting the mainstream’s consciousness and the second wind of some notable acts from the past, which Orange & Lemons is part of.

On the first Friday of the said month, the New Wave-flavored pop band from Bulacan launched its first Tagalog song in 12 years – thus, completing a big new phase since reforming in late September 2017. The experimental bossa nova-driven Pag-Ibig Sa Tabing Dagat marked their first Filipino song since Ang Katulad Mo Na Walang Katulad off the Universal Records-distributed Moonlane Gardens in 2007, and has since amassed thousands of streams on Spotify.

However, the song was almost overshadowed by the skyrocketing numbers of its earliest English hit Just Like A Splendid Love Song. Still, it can’t deny the fact that O&L is indeed on the roll with five bar tours headlining the new single.

Prior to the launch, it was a long Thursday for the quartet of Clementine Castro, brothers Ace and JM del Mundo, and new member Jared Nerona. Orange & Lemons teamed up with the PitchPlay Media group, making the latter as the band’s publicity arm. Since then, the band has had its first major press conference after a very long time, then followed by a radio guesting in the afternoon, and jammed two sets in the evening.

Orange & Lemons in a 2-set gig during their Pag-Ibig Sa Tabing-Dagat single launching party held June 7, 2019 at Main Street Kapitolyo in Pasig City

It was a scorching hot Thursday at Main Street Kapitolyo in Pasig City when O&L faced the press and answered their questions ranging from the unveiling of new songs to their present status, the long winding road from the first disbandment to its resurrection, making a hard-pressed stomp to the said monumental day. Here are some that went down during this tell-all mano-y-mano forum between Orange & Lemons and members of the media.

(All statements below are in non-verbatim.)

THE REUNION

What made you decide to reform the band?

Clem: Actually, reformation isn’t part of the plan. Initially, I contacted Ace and JM with the intention of re-recording the first album which isn’t available on Spotify since Terno Recordings owns the master recording rights and has no plans to put it out. That said, since we don’t want to make a dispute on this issue, we rerecorded the entire thing.

But you guys are still on good terms with Terno?

Clem: Yes. We’re still friends with Toti (Dalmacion).

After that, what made you decide to continue as a band?

Clem: JM once asked me, “’Di ba tayo magi-gig?” (Don’t we have plans to play for gigs?), and that has been the game-changer. That time, their other band Kenyo was somewhat inactive.

Ace: We don’t play much there.

Like his brother, O&L bassist JM del Mundo played for Kenyo, another band with Ace and their old vocalist.

Clem: I think the offer clicked perfectly with timing that they liked my proposal. It was Pandora’s box from there. However, we pushed the reformation without the other original member because creative-wise speaking, our directions were different from his.

RESOLVING CONFLICTS

Are there any initial worries or misgivings when you reformed the band without the original member?

Clem: Yes, because even if Orange & Lemons have two vocalists – McCoy is still known as its voice. It’s definitely hard because most people will ask about him.

Ace: In spite of that, we still felt the acceptance from the crowd when we reunited last September 2017 at 70’s Bistro.

Clem: Besides, we’re still original.

Ace: Yes, same sound since the three of us basically conceptualized everything

Clem: And McCoy’s role as a crooner suited him perfectly. Even on all the hits singles that we performed, I let McCoy do the interpreting, and we appreciate his contributions to the band that sometimes, I tapped him to contribute some of the lyrics.

Was there any dispute regarding the name Orange & Lemons? Why neither you nor McCoy decided to go on with the name when you formed your own respective groups?

Clem: The disbanding was my idea. In the past, they wanted to let Orange & Lemons run without me and I disagreed on doing so. So to resolve this issue, we had a meeting and we all agreed to go on our separate ways without the need to incorporate ourselves as O&L. I even remembered McCoy saying “Sa iyo na lang yung band name.” (The band name is all yours.) It was somewhat out of spite, but I didn’t use it. I never even performed my own O&L songs when I’m with either Camerawalls or Dragonfly Collector, essentially to prove myself that I don’t need that to further my career in the music industry.

In the future, do you see yourself reuniting with McCoy Fundales?

Clem: We are open to sit down with him and talk about it if he is willing to do the same. The thing is, even before we decided to perform, there’s a process we have to undergo.

Ace: With him making his name as a solo artist, it is inevitable that we may cross paths soon since we are both promoting music.

Clem: I’ll say “Hi” if ever we bump on each other.

I hope McCoy realizes that we aren’t kids anymore and if magkaayos kami personally kahit hindi na magkasama pa sa banda (if we bury the hatchet – we could get together not as bandmates) – I think that would be a good thing.

Apart from playing drums, Ace del Mundo owns and operates Darkus Studio and its label counterpart Darkus Music, that also manages other music bands such as Blind Stereo Moon and Them Bloody Royals

And what process did you have to undergo before reuniting with each other?

Ace: The three of us had to drink first. Joke!

Clem: Actually, that’s true.

Ace: Yeah. Inuman lang. Wala pang kibuan. (Yeah, we drank, we didn’t even talk to each other)

JM: Bote lang kaharap. (bottles were doing the talking)

Clem: It initially looked like an awkward meeting, but thanks to our two managers – Antonette (who represents Clem) and Lui (Ace’s wife who represents the Del Mundo brothers), everything went well. We felt like we had a ten-year glitch or we just went through the other dimension, and we got back, parang walang nangyari (it’s like nothing really happened).

PAST AND PRESENT: THE MUSIC

In terms of musical direction, would the current Orange & Lemons sound be similar to the sound before?

Clem: I don’t necessarily think so, because we try our best not to repeat ourselves with the sound we previously released. So most likely, we will do a lot of experimenting – something we had done with the current single (PSTD) which we are planning to do so in an upcoming all-Filipino album. Since most of our songs are in English, we challenged ourselves to create a record that has nothing but Filipino songs in it, of course, incorporating the classic, Kundiman-driven golden-era character of sound and lyrics.

As a band, it’s not about the trend. We do our own and everything comes from the heart.

But will you guys still sing the old songs?

Clem: Of course. There’s the one song that we will never play – and it’s explicitly written on our booking contract – that’s PINOY AKO.

Before landing his gig as the new member, keyboadist Jared Nerona played for The Spaceflower Show, a band that O&L collaborated for the hit APO track titled Salawikain.

Since the reformation, you guys presented yourselves as a trio. But in the recent turn of events, we saw an additional guy on your stage. Can you tell us how Mr. Jared Nerona entered into the picture?

Clem: I announced an ad on Facebook that we were looking for recommendations for a keyboardist since we were planning to expand our sound. Since having rhythm guitar has been the cliché, we decided to do something different. So when we were looking for a keyboardist, Jared approached us.

Ace: We knew him for a very long time.

Clem: The funny thing about Jared – who, by the way, is from The Spaceflower Show – is that he sent us an email with a resume on it (laughs).

Wow, very formal.

Clem: Napakaformal talaga. (It’s very formal)

Jared: Oo, may picture pa yun na 2×2. Parang trabaho yung applyan. (Yes, with a 2×2 picture, like it was a job application)

Clem: We turned out okay. At first, we were sounding like South Border. But eventually, Jared got the vibe and he’s a perfect addition to the band and our sound.

Can you tell us about incorporating Orange & Lemons as a brand?

Clem: It is an SEC-registered partnership that was made to protect each other, since we’re into the music business, and want to turn everything into a business.

Is social media making it hard or easy for music artists?

Clem: Easy

Ace: It definitely helps a lot, especially if the artist themselves do the promoting.

Clem: Though we only used our social media accounts lately. Had it us maintaining these profiles before, we would probably have millions of likers and followers. But we’re still grateful that some listeners found our songs relevant to them.

Ace: That’s one reason why kids today know our songs.

Clem: What’s more important to us as music-makers is that if our music can stand the test of time; then that’s good.

Apart from being a singer-songwriter for Orange & Lemons, vocalist Clem Castro also has a band called The Camerawalls, a solo act called The Dragonfly Collector, and manages Lilystar Records.

THE SINGLE AND UPCOMING PROJECTS

You mentioned Pag-Ibig Sa Tabing Dagat is actually an old song. Did the song change from its original arrangement?

Clem: Yes, it was originally a Bossa Nova track written in the mid-2000s and intended to be performed by a female Bossa Nova artist like Sitti Navarro. The key was in C. It would be a waste to keep this shelved.

How many songs will we be expecting from your upcoming all-Filipino album and when will it be released?

Clem: Minimum of 10 songs. Hopefully, by the first quarter of next year.

Are there any plans to go on vinyl?

Clem: Of course, we would love to put up our next album in vinyl. It’s just the rerecorded version of our first album that has been on pending for vinyl production. But they will eventually be released soon.

Can you tell us more regarding the plans for a tour?

Clem: So far, the upcoming Canada tour is in the works – around 80%. Hopefully, it will push through by around September.

Is the band planning to collaborate with any of the bands today?

Ace: Hirap naman mag-decide.(It’s too hard to decide)

Clem: It would be nice to collaborate with one of the old bands and the millennial ones as well. There are so many great bands today, and I am happy for them for giving life to the vibrant music scene today. For the young ones, I don’t know whom we should team up with… maybe She’s Only Sixteen, or Oh Flamingo! But also, and hopefully, I could collaborate with Ely Buendia sometime in the future.

Post-script notes:

Orange & Lemons released Pag-Ibig Sa Tabing Dagat last June 7, 2019. Since then, the band has worked on its music video featuring the tandem of Alessandra De Rossi, Empoy Marquez, and the beauty of Playa De Caleta in Bataan through the direction of Everywhere We Shoot. The band will also be roaming around Canada for their tour this September.

Stream the song now on Spotify or download via visiting Orange & Lemons website.

Orange & Lemons is Clem Castro (vocals, guitars), Ace Del Mundo (drums), JM Del Mundo (bass), and Jared Nerona (keyboards).

About the author:
Nestor M. Domingo Jr. is a 28-year old freelance writer. He is also a photographer, a gig poster-maker, and a self-proclaimed madman who makes sure that everyone pays the entrance fee at gigs. He has also contributed to online websites such as Definitely Filipino and Gigs Manila, as well as magazines such as PULP, Speed, and Philippine Panorama. This author also manages the blog called The SlickMaster’s Files. Visit theslickmastersfiles.blogspot.com