15 Minutes with Sandwich
On their new album, being someone’s Sonic "Tanders," and what they ate during recording.
(SPOT.ph) They don’t call themselves the "elderly statesmen of the scene" for nothing. Seventeen years and eight studio albums later, Sandwich is still at it. They sum up their newest album, Debris as an "updated Sandwich." It’s a record that’s as straightforward as they come, completed within a month but not lacking in raw depth and precise guitar riffs. Amid groovy arrangements, the album also features vocal performances from Jesse Grinter (Gaijin) and Rico Blanco.
After almost two decades in the business, a lot has changed for Sandwich. They’ve toured around the world, experimented with their sound-although sometimes not with the greatest results-and now, most of them have kids to think about. Their new album, however, is what they describe as a "return to the down-and-dirty basics," a nod to their quintessential sound that still manages to reflect who they are now.
In an interview at lead vocalist Raymund Marasigan’s home, the band tells us about their unique album title, today’s music scene, and the artists that inspired them to head back to the studio. (You’ll never guess who.)
On the album title, Debris
Myrene Academia (bass and vocals): Para maiba naman sa mga dati naming title na mahahaba o phrases. Kung gaanong ka-straightforward ’yong album, ganoon din siya.
Mong Alcaraz (guitars and vocals): What she said.
Myrene: Why Debris itself? Parang sira-sira na naiwan after the explosion. After the dust settles, that's what you [get].
On the time spent recording the album
Diego Castillo (guitars and vocals): [It was] very fast. Kasi ikakasal si Mong, tapos si Mike, aalis. Siguro seven days ’yong recording, another week ’yong mixing. Hindi consecutive. Staggered.
Myrene: All within a month. Kailangan by November matapos.
Diego: In one month, seven days of recording, seven days of mixing, few days of mastering siguro.
Mong: Writing staggered over...a little under the year?
Diego: Pero ’yung last five songs, siguro two weeks? One month?
On difficulties recording the album
Raymund: Minor scheduling lang, because Mong was getting married and Mike was going on a vacation. But we set the deadlines.
Mike Dizon (drums): Aside from that, meron din tayong side bands.
Diego: Tsaka iba na ’yong times. Sa first album, nobody had kids. No sense of responsibility noong araw.
Raymund: Dati, ang recording namin was 6 p.m. to 3 a.m. Ngayon 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Kasi susundo na ng bata eh.
On the difference between Debris and their previous album, Fat, Salt & Flame
Myrene: Feeling namin, mas raw ito eh. Kasi mas straightforward ito, ’yong isa, meandering. We really took our time to let the song sit. Parang over two years naming tinutugtog ’yong songs...which we also like. But ito, laser attack talaga. Ito ’yong gusto natin, ito ’yong gagawin natin.
Raymund: The secret is that we pre-prod a lot. Ni-rehearse na namin.
Diego: Isa pang secret. This year, natuto akong gumamit ng GarageBand [app]. Natuto na akong mag-lay in ng guitar tapos si Mike, magpapadala sa akin ng drums niya na ni-record niya sa bahay [gamit ng] iPhone. Real live beats, tapos ipapadala sa amin.
Mong: Minsan best pa nga ’yong spur of the moment. May isang time, nakalimutan ata ni Mike i-record ’yong drums so ni-record niya sa isang pasada.
Myrene: Dala ng album ’yong energy na 'yon. Spur of the moment, pero decisive rin.
Diego: Meron din parang magic feeling ’yong iba. Kaming dalawa ni Mike noong ginawa namin ’yong "Border Crossing," naglalaro lang ako. Wala nang second guessing. We never even went back. Within two minutes, ito na ’yong kanta.
Mong: Actually, baliktad. Marami kaming binawasan.
Raymund: Nagtanggal din kami ng member. [Everyone laughs]
On artists they listened to while making the album
Diego: ’Yong inspiration ng ibang guitar tones namin ni Mong, nakinig kami ng maraming ’60s garage-rock bands. Sonics, ’yong kumanta ng "Have Love Will Travel," Them-Van Morrison's band before he became solo-so a lot of them mga fuzzy, ’60s, riff-based single note. So wala masyadong mga modern.
Mong: Sino ba ’yong mga pinanood natin?
Raymund: Pumasok kami sa studio dahil sa Warpaint. Sa show ng Warpaint. "Tara, magsusulat na tayo bukas."
Myrene: Phoenix [and] The National.
On the food they ate during recording
Myrene: Ako nag-order ng lunch noong recording.
Myrene: Ah, nag-empanada pa kami. Merienda naman ’yon.
On the new songs they're most excited to play
Myrene: I like "Outlaw" [and] "Kagulo."
Raymund: I like "Amphibious."
Diego: Ako, "Border Crossing" [at] "Kagulo."
Mong: Ako, excited na akong tugtugin ’yong "Bato-bato Pik." That's one song na hindi pa namin nagagawa.
Diego: In short, it's a good sign if you're getting various answers. And it shifts ha, noong una, it was "Kagulo." and "Amphibious."
On being around for 17 years and creating the "Sandwich sound"
Raymund: We're more comfortable now. We own the gear. We now bring the amps and the mics. Now the sound travels with us.
Mike: Actually, parang mas na-master na namin.
Myrene: Nagdadala na talaga ng amps si Mong and Diego. Malaking bagay, kasi wala ka nang gine-guess.
Diego: We rehearse downstairs in the studio. So kung anong tunog doon, anywhere, kahit saan mo kaming dalhin, ’yon na 'yon. Kampante ka.
On continued creativity and developing a work ethic after 17 years
Raymund: We're big fans of music. So every time we hear something, we're inspired by something, it's like, "Let's start working again!" It's cyclical. Even if it's a piece of gear, like, "Wow, I'm going to write a song around this delay pedal." Parang ganoon. That's why half the album was already written before we even started real work on this one. But we're big [music] fans. Diego just got back from Singapore watching some unknown band. And we go out of our way trying to find new bands. We try not to be jaded, na parang, "Magaling lang noong ’90s."
Myrene: Shoot us now kapag sinabi namin ’yon.
Diego: Tsaka sa akin, ang gift talaga is performing. The gift that keeps on giving ’yon, eh.
Mong: I don't think you ever remember to do everything you plotted out to do in an album. So part ng work ethic, we all kind of make notes, "Ay, hindi natin nagawa sa album na ’to, next!"
Diego: Tsaka marami rin kaming mistakes ha. Tinry namin na parang Wilco na acoustic-y, pero hindi pala kami ’yon. Hindi rin directly proportional to the music that you like. I like a lot of the older stuff, but when we tried, hindi tayo ’yon eh. Also, the kids that come out, na-i-inspire ako tumugtog. All these young bands, natutuwa ako. I still want to be part of this scene.
Raymund: They all sound different and exciting. Nobody sounds the same. When the ’Heads were coming up, everybody sounded like everybody. Now nobody sounds the same.
On their dream tour
Raymund: We just wanna tour, period.
Diego: Wherever, we will go.
Mike: Actually, ang dream is maka-tour kami with the young bands sa labas ng Manila. Para makanood ’yong mga ibang region.
Diego: Trabaho namin as the elderly statesmen of the scene na kami na ’yong headliner doon, so gusto kong dalhin ’yong mga young bands na ’yan so other places can see na ang ganda ’yong eksena. Iba-iba ’yong tunog.
Myrene: The best thing they can take away is, "Ay, pwede pala ’yon." Ma-o-open up ’yong world sa kanila.
Mong: Naka-tour na kami ng various situations pero gusto talaga namin gawin is to bring this album around the country with young bands that we believe in.
Diego: Parang ginawa ng Sonic Youth sa Nirvana. What people forget is that Nirvana had two records before Smells Like Teen Spirit came out. Ang nagdala niyan talaga, Sonic Youth.
Mike: So tayo ang Sonic Youth?
Raymund: Hindi, Sonic Tanders.