(Answers by Mark Escueta, Mike Elgar and Jayson Fernandez)
Who are Rivermaya and how was it formed?
Rivermaya is Mark Escueta (drums, vocals), Mike Elgar (guitars, vocals), Japs Sergio (bass, vocals) and Jayson Fernandez (vocals, guitars).
Mark: In 1993, our original manager wanted to form a show band but that didn’t work because we had written original songs so the direction of the band changed because of that. When we open for The Eraserheads, the band mates and I chose the name Rivermaya for that gig and it stuck.
Who are the influences for Rivermaya?
Mark: Collectively, Radiohead, The Beatles and U2 influence us. Personally, when I was starting out, I listened to a lot of the music from The Police, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Smashing Pumpkins and Toto.
Jayson: Pop-rock music, Linkin Park and Queen.
Mike: When I was much younger, I listened to Incubus, Van Halen, Led Zepplin, Deep Purple and a lot of guitar-based music.
What’s the dynamics of the band?
Mark: The decisions we make as a band have to be unanimous. The team makes decisions for everything, like how songs would sound like. Anyone can do anything but our decision-making is always unanimous. Most of us are multi-taskers who are open to opinions and inputs from the others. We value the opinions of each other and try and come to a compromise if needed. I also do the graphic designs for the band.
Mike: We’re all team players.
Jayson: I do the t-shirt designs.
Why do you create music?
Mark: We love to play own musical instruments (Mark started playing the drums at 11 years old and Jayson singing in public at 6 or 7 years old). We enjoy what we do and love performing live and doing music. As a band, we have great chemistry, which makes it easy to create music. We always try to create something new every time, and it keeps it fresh and always exciting. Music is our personal expressions about life and experiences we’ve faced.
Jayson: I can’t live without it.
Mike: I discovered music at 6 years old and started playing the guitar at 10. We’ve sacrificed a lot to live our dream.
Are there themes for each album that’s released and how do you decide what goes into a new album?
Mark: There are no central themes which each album we release; the theme usually comes as the songs come together. Each person comes up with songs that are based on a certain mood and our releases are also dependent on what came out previously. We try and make albums that are different from the previous ones.
An example would be when we released a tribute album of ’80s Filipino bands that were very talented but overlooked during their time. We rerecorded their songs as a way to share our rich musical history with the current generation. Technology is better now and has helped played a big part in helping us to stay true to the ’80s vibe. We also split the vocals duties between the members for our last album, which is not a common occurrence.
How long does it take to produce an album?
Mark: A lot of it depends on how quickly the individual sounds are done. The fastest time we’ve taken to record and rehearse and album has been 2 months. The songs are roughly written before hand but sometimes, it can take you 2 years to record an album.
Mike: It can take 5 months just to record the album alone!
Why release a free album online?
Mark: For our 6th album, we released it online for free. It was something we’ve always wanted to do and a lot of musicians think it’s the way it’s supposed to be, music being heard by a large group of people. The biggest challenge was not earning so there wasn’t a marketing budget and there were problems along the way. Technology was a big help and it was a great feeling throwing albums into the crowd.
Did you start out expecting to be big?
Mark: Nope, we started out as a college studio for a hobby. It’s still a hobby that we enjoy with all the performances in small clubs and playing during the Formula 1 Singapore Grand Prix. Our music enables people to enjoy themselves and at the end of the day, work ends up being play.
How does it feel playing regionally for festivals?
Mark: it’s an honour to be invited to perform there. It’s different from the usual gigs because we get to meet other artists and learn from them. Sharing cultural differences has also been fulfilling when meeting other people from other regions. Music is a universal message and it’s worth what one went through. Because of that, it inspires us to write new songs and create new albums.
Your music has been featured on Star World for Heroes. Are you fans of the show and how did it happen?
Mark: We were surprised and we didn’t know it had been chosen to be the on TV until people started texting and we saw it for ourselves. It coincided with promotional activities for our song, ‘You’ll Be Safe Here’ with Warner Asia Pacific. During that time, it took several English songs to come up with an Asian Compilation album. The music video for that song was shot in Jakarta and it received a lot of airplay in Indonesia, Singapore and Thailand. That song started it off when it was performed during the MTV Asia Awards 2006, where Kelly Rowlands introduced us! We did rounds promoting album in Indonesia, Singapore and Thailand, and had TV guestings as well, which was great!
How different is it playing here and back home?
Jayson: Different preparations are needed whenever we play in a different country.
Mark: We have to prepare more English songs because of the audience here but we still play Filipino songs and there’s still the element of fun.
Mike: There are lots of similarities between playing here and back home, be it the similarities in performances or the way we do things. A major difference is the people who don’t speak Tagalog. We worked hard and people have noticed us because of the effort we’ve put in. Performing overseas feels special, it’s something that’s unattainable back home and there is more appreciation for Tagalog songs. Overseas, we perform songs that are not usually played back home.
What are the future plans of Rivermaya?
Mike: We recently just released an album and we’ll be doing album promotions and a video over the next few months. We have plans for a Philippine tour & a few other places. We want to continue making music as a band.
Mark: We’re thinking of ways to make it available elsewhere.
Jayson: We’re in the midst of promoting the new album.
(Rebecca Lincoln with Ranne Sanedrin)