In a time where "indie" has become the mainstream, a small independent label from South Manila is keeping their feet firmly planted in the scene's DIY roots.
Headed by Tani Cariño (Neverdie, Lindenwood, Small Hands) and Jaime Abellar, Continent Records came to life in 2012, as an answer to the challenges many underground bands from the South have faced in terms of representation. What began as a small collective of bands based in Sucat, Las Piñas and Laguna, had soon grown to bring similar opportunities to emerging bands from other parts of Metro Manila, the Philippines, and even the world, who want their voices to be heard by a wider audience.
Locally, Continent acts such as Neverdie and Happy Monday People have been gaining their own niche throughout the years, while two of their alumni — Tom's Story and Fools and Foes — have gone on to enjoy very positive welcome in the growing indie scene. Even the immensely popular Sud, during their early days, had been briefly associated with the label.
Needless to say, Continent Records takes their DIY ethic very seriously. From their work conduct to the ideals they uphold, the label stays true to everything punk and DIY culture have stood for throughout history: standing up for yourself on your own two feet and sticking it to the man. Preferably with a kickass pedalboard and lots and lots of pizza.
We had a chat with Tani and Jaime to learn more about how they employ these ethics in running Continent Records, and how these influence their hopes for local music culture.
This label is a home for bands that seem to have no place to go to, but have something meaningful to say." — Tani Cariño
What drew you guys to the underground punk scene and what does DIY culture mean to you?
JAIME: I was immersed in the scene early on, as my close friends from high school were in bands. After going to their gigs a number of times, I realized there were other bands that played a similar style or played music in the area in general. I was inspired to create Continent Records by labels I have followed and supported all these years, which were Metal and Hardcore/Punk labels. I see the good they do by promoting lesser known bands to people that followed them, and I wanted to do something similar. Continent was a vessel that I could use to do this, and, not gonna lie, having your own label really seemed sick to me at that time.
To me, DIY culture means standing up for yourself, not relying on others to do work for you, but not in the sense that you don't accept help; you do, but from people you really know personally and not some nameless entity whose main goal is to profit.
TANI: Growing up skateboarding and riding BMX, I was desperate to find spots and sometimes we had to improvise. Using planks of wood as landing or as ramps, moving rocks, branches, etc. to create new obstacles. That extended to the Punk scene. I always understood that a lot of the things I wanted to do wasn’t gonna be handed down to me, so I might as well do it myself.
When Neverdie was starting out, no one wanted to book us for gigs except for a few prods, and it was difficult. That’s when I decided that putting up our own shows and getting bands to play was the way to go. I also didn’t want other new bands to have a super difficult time in booking shows just because the music they play wasn’t trendy, so I tried my best to book bands that had a hard time getting shows. This was pre-Continent Records. When I met Jaime, that’s when we started talking about doing Continent primarily as an online thing. Eventually, it became natural for us to start putting up shows.
I was motivated to do all this because I had been frustrated with everything. The scene was (and still is) pretty exclusive. I wanted to help create a community of outsiders that understood that uncompromising music has a place in the local scene.
Why 'Continent Records'?
JAIME: We named it Continent Records because we felt like there were segments of scenes in the South, so we were planning to somehow get those segments to form one scene to promote the bands in the area as a whole. Thus, we came up with “Continent” – one big body of land instead of an archipelago composed of groups of islands. Bit cheesy but that's how it came about, lol.
Speaking of standing up for yourself, DIY culture has also been closely linked to fighting for social justice issues throughout history. And this week, Continent is co-hosting an event in celebration of LGBT Pride. Can you tell us more about how you came to plan this gig and how you think local DIY bands can help social issues such as this?
TANI: Yna of Gateway Gigs offered me the opportunity to do this show and I couldn’t pass it up. I believe that people should be accepted for who they are regardless of their preferences or what they look and act like. I have friends from the LGBT community who helped me get through the toughest of times. It’s become a personal thing for me because I wanted to do something for them as well.
I’ve recently noticed that there're more DIY and mainstream artists supporting the cause. Being outspoken about it is great as well as educating people, and I can see it slowly converting people. As a straight dude, though, I may be wrong in some aspects, but this is how I feel I could help. I’m also always open to criticism so I would love it if my mistakes could be pointed out to me so that I may be able to help become better. Aside from participating in pro-LGBT events, it helps that you treat everyone as equals in your everyday life.
You guys always seem to have something interesting up your sleeves. Just last April, you released a compilation album of members of your roster covering each others' songs – that was such a fun and cool concept. What inspired you guys to create this compilation with that gimmick in mind?
TANI: It was Rhys (The Mind is a Terrible Thing, Molar) who thought of it. He has always wanted to push the solo/acoustic artists in the label and this was one of his ideas. He also puts up acoustic shows in unconventional places and, if time permits him to, he’ll be doing more shows with that kind of vibe.
LISTEN: Continent Cover Compilation
That release came as a surprise for a lot of people. Continent has a bit of habit of dropping releases out of the blue. Why the knack for surprises? Doesn’t it pose more challenges when it comes to promoting the releases?
TANI: Every band/artist has their own schedule, to which we prefer to adapt. Aside from that, Jaime also has his own way of doing things, and I love how sometimes even I don’t know that he’ll be releasing something on a certain day. I only found out he released the covers compilation minutes before it was put up. We also leave it up to the band if they want to just surprise people or start teasing them about something.
JAIME: I think the surprise tactic can both hurt and help the release. I admit that sometimes I just think of releasing something on the fly, but I always think about the time of day when I'll be doing it, in order to maximize the number of people online that can check the release out. For the cover compilation, releasing it suddenly actually helped it out; the reaction was great and it was shared by a lot of people in just a few hours.
For official releases of bands, however, like an EP or full-length album, I think ahead about which date to release it publicly, to give us and the band time to hype it up.
TANI: The ups are definitely interesting and worth exploring. People are quick to share something when it pops out of the blue, especially if it has something to do with their favorite artist. The sudden excitement is a nice reaction as well; I love seeing that.
Recently, the independent music scene has been really growing in terms of popularity, and you could even say that they're starting to pierce through the mainstream now. Do you guys ever feel the pressure of going after the same?
JAIME: I'm happy that the underground/indie scene is growing in popularity. I'm always happy to see some of the prods or bands I know gain success, and I do not feel pressure to match them too, as they do have a different sound from the bands I like who are in Continent; their music is honestly more accessible compared to some of the bands we have.
TANI: I personally have no interest in the mainstream, but if any of our artists reach that point without sacrificing the principles that got them into the label in the first place, then I will support them wherever they will end up. So yeah, I guess there’s no pressure. I just want the bands to be the best that they can be.
You guys have also expanded in a way, and have gone from being mostly in the South to having shows up North and signing new bands who are based up there as well. Can you tell us more about this?
TANI: IDB (a DIY venue in Sucat, Paranaque) closing down had a huge hit on us and we had to adapt. That’s why we have more shows up in the North now. We ended up turning a bad situation into a good one.
You've also released some records from bands in other parts of the Philippines and abroad. How did you guys come across these artists? And what do you think drew them to trust Continent Records with these projects?
TANI: Jaime and I love finding out about great new bands all the time. Jaime makes the international connection most of the time, while I make the local one. We usually just find them online and it’s as easy as sending them a message. In my case, when I watch new bands that I end up liking, I try to see if they’re interested in being part of the community.
JAIME: I came across some of the overseas bands from the net, as I'm active in posting and exploring some of the music sites and blogs I regularly visit.
TANI: I think bands trust us because we’re part of the punk / hardcore scene, and we’re active participants in the community. We’re not some faceless dude trying to sell you something. We’re just a bunch of dudes that became fans of these bands and would like to support them in any way we can. We’re also very transparent in what we can and can’t do.
What are your hopes for the future of Continent Records, the DIY scene, and local music scene?
JAIME: What I hope to happen is a more united music scene. We all have our own segments or groups, but we all do it for the love (hopefully first and foremost before the money). I love the variety of the scene currently; more and more unique sounds are being created and I can see the growth of the industry as a whole as compared to 4-6 years ago when we first started out.
TANI: Same. I wish the scene would be more united and be more open to collaborating with each other. I do agree there’s growth in the scene in general, but it also made it harder for other bands either newer or playing uncompromising music, to get shows because of the current trends. I want to try and bridge that gap at least.
Aside from that, for Continent, I want a more diverse roster. Hopefully we get more women and LGBTQ artists on board as well.
Catch some of the Continent Records bands tonight at PRIDE NIGHT. The label's releases are available for free download on their Bandcamp.