25 January 2017

Ben&Ben talks to us about their beginnings, first EP, collaborations, and Music

December promises to be a month of coming together, but usually brings forth all business, bustle, and traffic in its onslaught. Events abound during the month, promising to either cross off items in your shopping list, put you in the festive mood, or help you share the love this season. Ben&Ben’s promise, however, was much simpler – they were launching their EP, and they wanted to bring their tribe together for a night of good music. It was a premise so simple, but it was much-needed refuge amidst the rush of the busy month.

Entering the scene in 2015, Ben&Ben (then known as The Benjamins) rose to popularity with heartfelt songs infused with catchy hooks and ethnic roots. They became finalists of Philpop 2016, taking home the 2nd Runner Up and Best Music Video prizes, only cementing their cred as singer-songwriters and increasing their following. The tickets to their EP launch alone were sold out prior to the event, which meant that their followers were only happy to celebrate the milestone with them.

Michelle Manese opened the show with a spoken word piece about finding home, a perfect usher for the twins’ first song for the night (and incidentally the first song off their EP) "Ride Home". The show proceeded briskly but with much heart and laughter, mainly from the twins’ banter with each other and their guests. Noel Cabangon took the stage and preemptively proclaimed that “I am not going to sing what you think I will sing,” but nevertheless silenced the crowd with awe for his music. Bullet Dumas also shared the stage with the twins, performing fan favorite "Put To Waste" that featured a sample of Ben & Ben’s "Dahilan". He finished his set not with what was requested but what was needed – a rendition of "Usisa", his song about Noli Me Tangere’s Sisa but also a commentary on all the craziness happening in our country. Johnoy Danao made the audience swoon with "Ikaw at Ako". Like Clara Benin’s Coming Home concert, transitions to the next performers were made more seamless with the performances of spoken word poets like Dani Nakpil and dancer Bea Lorenzo.

Throughout the night, Ben&Ben performed songs from their EP and more. "Susi" was performed after an observation from Paolo that it’s the song more popular with hell week sufferers, with comforting lyrics like “Balikan kung bakit ka nagsimula bago mo sabihing ayaw mo na.” The twins donned Santa hats for their performance of "Bibingka", and finished on a high with a performance of "Tinatangi", accompanied with Cooky Chua and Coeli San Luis. Of course, the crowd craved for more, and Ben&Ben chose a poignant finish with a performance of "Dahilan".

The EP launch was a coming together and a coming full circle for the twins, and it was evident that the audience and the guests performers were only happy to brave the December traffic for these twins.

Photos by Karen Dela Fuente

We got the chance to catch up with Ben&Ben after the show. Here’s our quick Discussion with Paolo and Miguel:

We’ve seen you grow from The Benjamins to Ben&Ben. Why the name change?

Paolo: Initially it started as a conflict with Spotify kasi may parehong (because there was a similar) The Benjamins. Nag-start siya dun, pero (it started there, but) eventually we decided to rally rebrand because after Philpop we decided to take the music bigger, come up with an EP and everything. We felt that changing our name – actually hindi naman siya sobrang malayo sa (it’s not far from) The Benjamins – it represents the next step in our music.

Miguel: It was a joint decision between the both us and Tinee Cruz who is part of a branding firm. She suggested kasi nag-try siyang (because she tried) i-search kami online, ang daming (there were a lot of) Benjamins, so she suggested why not modify it a bit that is still related to The Benjamins and it became Ben&Ben.

You’ve mentioned before that all your songs are collaborative between you two. Can you tell us about your working process?

Paolo: In a nutshell, it works for us kasi yung idea, nagsa-start sa akin, and then si Miguel yung nagtatapos nung song (the idea starts with me and then Miguel finishes the song). I would say collaborative siya kasi hindi matatapos yung song kung wala si Migs and vice versa (It’s collaborative because the songs won’t be finished without Miguel and vice versa). Yung process ng pagbuo ng song (with our process), I think his contribution and my contribution are equally essential in ensuring the quality of every piece that we make.

Can you tell us about your process for creating your EP?

Paolo: Nung start pa lang na nakapasok kami as finalist sa Philpop (When we became finalists for Philpop), somehow we really decided that this could go somewhere kaya the EP really was in our sights but what we didn’t expect was we would pull off everything before 2016 ends. Yung process niya, it really involved maliban sa amin (our process involved a lot of people aside from the two of us), a lot of people really pushing us to finish it and release it like this. We’re grateful to Ms. Dina Remulacio, OPM, to Sindikato our management, and to all our family and friends. 

Miguel: The EP started with the songs, all the other people involved came after the songs. We write songs with the guitar-piano, or guitar-guitar and vocals, full song na yun. Arrangement kasi after na yan ng process (Arrangement comes after). Hindi namin sinadya yung process na siya yung nagsi-simula, ako yung nagtatapos ng songs sa EP na ‘to kasi etong songs na ‘to, eto yung nasulat namin simula nung nagsimula kami (We didn’t intend the process to be like this, where he starts the songs and I finish them, because the songs for this EP are the ones we wrote from back when we were beginning). Our process was developed throughout writing our songs. 

Now that you’ve worked with the greats like Cooky Chua, Bayang Barrios, and Johnoy Danao, who are your other dream collaborators?

Paolo: Ebe. Also Johnoy and Bullet. We want to record something with them. It’s exciting, I think 2017’s gonna be great.

Miguel: Kung papansinin mo lahat ng ka-collaborate namin medyo comfortable sa genre namin na folk (If you would notice, all our collaborators are comfortable with our genre, which is folk). It would be interesting to collaborate with people who aren’t from the same genre – for example CRWN, or even pop stars like Sarah Geronimo. Me, personally ang isa talaga na nag-inspire sa akin na ituloy ang music is Cynthia Alexander. In fact, nung nag-concert siya dito pumila ako nun para magpa-picture, ganun ako ka-fanboy. Sana, someday. Pero alam ko maraming nakapila sa kanya eh, tignan natin. (Personally, one of the people who really inspired me to pursue music is Cynthia Alexander. In fact, when she had a concert here I lined up for a picture, that’s how big of a fan I am. Hopefully, someday. But I know she has a lot of possible collaborators on her list.)

Some people say that your songs make Kundiman accessible to the younger market. Was this something you intended with your music?

Miguel: Not really. I think it was a product of being and accepting that we need to be genuine. Gusto namin ng folk, pero gusto rin namin ng ibang (We like folk, but we also like other) genres: alternative rock, some forms of pop and being true to songwriting is including all those influences. So we love folk, but we didn’t forget our other likes. Mahilig kami sa Paramore noon (We liked Paramore then), Urbandub, Franco. It’s really just being genuine, hindi naman namin sinadya na “ah, magsusulat tayo ng folk pop.” It’s more like, “sulat tayo ng kanta, kung ano lumabas, yun na yun.” (We didn’t intend it to be like, "ah we’ll write folk pop." It’s more like, “let’s write a song, and whatever comes out, that’s it.”)

What can we look forward to for Ben&Ben in the future?

Paolo: Maybe an album next year and if not all, most of the songs on our EP we plan on making singles with their own music videos. And we plan on getting in front of various audiences, getting our music out to more audiences. 

Miguel: More collaborations, definitely. Hopefully an album late next year.

Ben & Ben’s self-title EP is now available online here. Visit Ben&Ben on Facebook for more information.


Thank you for this article! I'm in love with Ben&Ben and this helped me know them more. All the love!

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