UDD's self-titled album pays tribute to their biggest influences, friends, loved ones, and everyone who's been there from the very beginning.
The 11-track record comprises of stories that go all the way back to the yesteryears of UDD. Through joy and heartbreak, the 'Sigurado' act pieced together a whole new collaboration they'd never attempted before. It's packed with different sounds, including strings and horns, and a maturity that shines through despite all the struggles they'd faced over the past seven years.
UDD's fourth studio album: a track-by-track guide by Emil Dela Rosa
Bandwagon sat down with UDD's Armi Millare, Ean Mayor, and Carlos Tañada to run through each track off their fourth studio album under Terno Recordings.
Ean: Galing siya kay Paul. Merong cute na demo si Paul, kasi falsetto yung singing. Minimal synths. Yung beats, minimal din. Nagustuhan namin yung song tapos nagkataon, meron akong demo na gusto ko kasi ng AOR, na parang mga Eagles, LA sound. Tin-ry namin i-combine; it worked naman.
Ni-rent namin ang 15D Studios, kay Cholo [Hermosa], bago naging 15D 'yun. Ni-rent namin yung house for songwriting, kasi wala kaming lugar. Kahit malayo siya, mas secluded siya sa city. Pero bad idea pala, kasi sobrang traffic. Nasa Marikina eh. Pagdating mo doon, hulas ka na. Pwede ka naman doon matulog, pero siyempre, you'd still want to go home to your own bed.
When was it written?
Ean: Almost lahat ng songs, galing sa session na iyon. Doon kami nakapagawa ng demo.
Armi: We did demos there and then yung refurbishing of everything, sa studio na niya (gestures to Ean). Sakto tapos na, kasi it took that long to finish everything (laughs). He got to finish a studio! How long did that? Mga three years?
Ean: Actually, after 15D, nag-rent pa kami ng isa sa Bicutan, sa Studio 222. Doon ako nag-record ng drums.
Ean: Yun yung pinaka-first na single.
Armi: We did that in Paul's house.
Ean: Until now yan ang favorite song ko.
Carlos: I like the bass line (sings the bass line).
Ean: Ano ang inspiration doon sa bass?
Carlos: Actually, may pinarinig sila sa akin na inspiration and then I was trying to mimic it sa guitar, pero parang kulang. So I picked up the bass—I bought a second-hand guitar in Japan, eh. I played it sa bass and was like, "Oh, mas bagay 'to." And then si Paul, 'di pa siya nagsa-slap at all, so medyo nainis siya. Because of that naman, nagsa-slap na siya.
Sorry, the song inspiration that Ean let me listen to was Boz Scaggs. Ean told me na "do something like this," but I made it bass na lang.
Ean: Actually, yun pala ang first na song na nagawa.
Armi: I wrote that for another film in 2015. Just like a short part of the culminating part. The film involves the moon and the two lovers, hence the lyrics. That song from that arrangement, which had strings and everything, completely changed. Carlos was the one who did a lot of the arranging.
Carlos: Yung inspiration ko muna doon was Field Music. Pero, we made it electronic.
Ean: Yeah, yung first version.
Carlos: Pero parang, we weren't so comfortable.
Ean: At least na-perform pa natin yun eh.
Carlos: Actually, yung song na yun, sobra naging happy ako nun nung si Ean started listening to The Police.
Ean: Late bloomer ako sa Police eh.
Carlos: Ean would always listen to electronic stuff, stuff I hadn't heard of, but I'd listen to it naman. Pero yung sabi niya nakikinig na siya ng The Police tapos idol niya si Stewart Copeland, parang, "Aw shit!" Sound trip ko yan when I was a kid eh! So game, gumawa ako ng riff inspired by The Police. Approved naman sa lahat, and that's 'Tambalan.'
The singing is exactly the same from all three versions. If you hear all the three versions, the vocal melody is exactly the same. Talaga yung instruments lang ang nag-iba.
Armi: We did this at home, pero the demo was yours (gestures to Carlos).
Carlos: This was around the time that Prince passed away. I made a riff na feeling kong pwede kay Prince.
Armi: It's a tribute song to Prince. Originally we wanted to call it 'Minneapolis,' where he's from.
Armi: 'Anino' is a song that is so old.
Ean: Kasabay niya 'Oo' and 'Maybe.'
Armi: I wrote it in my bedroom. I think it's older than Up Dharma Down, the four of us, kasi that was one of our first three songs. And we only had three songs. And we had to play covers, like two covers, so we could play a gig.
Every year, we tried to fix that song to fit the upcoming album. It just never worked. It's an interesting journey. I think Ean can put out an entire album of the different versions of it.
Carlos: Yung mahirap sa song na yun, acoustic guitar and then the goal was not to make it sound folky.
Ean: Or like a ballad.
Carlos: Change the chords behind it, but retain melody, then add what we like.
Ean: Pero until now, ayaw ko na siya. Yung song talaga, pero gusto ko na lang ilabas. Alam ko kasi hindi siya matapos kung hindi siya ginawa. And nakakatuwa, kasi every gig doon nagre-react ang tao. Pero ayun si Armi, si Carlos ayaw nila tugtugin ang 'Anino.'
Armi: I feel like it's a song that's not made for live consumption. People react to it live. As the person who's been performing it, the people who made it, it's time to put it to rest. We've gone past that stage ten times over, but we can't help it because people know it, people like it. And in a way this is an ode to the listeners and the fans.
Whenever somebody congratulates me now with the album, I always say, "it's for you guys". We already have had our own self-indulgent moment creating this album. That's seven years of self-indulgence. We enjoyed making it. It was our goal. It was painful, but then we wouldn't come into the studio if we didn't enjoy working with each other in the music sense. Pero it's really for the listeners. It's really a tribute to a lot of things and people.
Ean: Tribute ko rin yan sa Gloria Estefan and Miami Sound Machine. Nung narinig ko ulit yung 'Sana Dalawa Ang Puso Ko,' doon ko narinig ulit ang tambourine sound, yung clap sound. Parang yung elements galing doon lang.
Naghihintay nga ako ng mag-compare. Kasi lahat na ginawa namin sa album, inspired by other musicians and periods in music. Lahat ng ginawa ko doon, based lahat sa favorite songs ko. Even yung 'Unti-Unti,' galing siya sa 'Baby Come Back.' Until now wala pang nakaka-decode doon. So I guess okay na hindi siya ganun ka obvious.
Carlos: Paul made this riff, pero iba pa yung patch and then Ean changed the patch. Mas hip-hop yun eh.
Ean: Early '90s R&B-inspired.
Armi: I wanted something Aaliyah or Janet Jackson, and then I told Ean, "Let's do something '90s, 'cause that's around the time we were born (laughs)."
I mean, our cognizance in music happened at that time. A big part of our musicality is in the '90s. A tribute—I think this like is a tribute album. At this point, we already know what we enjoyed listening to growing up. That's different from the artists that inspired us to start Up Dharma Down. Those are two entirely different things.
Armi: 'Say Nothing' was a song I did for UDD way back in 2009, I think? 2010? I did that for the third album, but it didn't make the cut. So I did a few arrangements of it on my own, but they had a change of heart and accepted my child.
Ean: Kino-connect yun sa 'Sana' sa gig.
Armi: Yeah, because it's in the same key.
Ean: Parang naging familiar na sa mga madalas manuod ng gig. Alam na nila yung lyrics eh.
So was that like your evil scheme to add the song to the album?
Armi: Perhaps! Subconsciously, it was there. I was happy my child was accepted into the fold by these snobs (laughs).
Moving on (All the Good Things)
Armi: That's originally the lyrics actually of 'All the Good Things,' but we were doing the song for a client and it had to reflect everything absolutely positive on all angles. From "moving on to new things" to "I'm new to all the good things," kasi parang "moving on" is like you're leaving something behind, but that's not a bad thing. So now, we wanna use that version.
And it does sound different from the original version.
Armi: Yes, with the acoustic guitar. This was Pointbee [Multimedia].
Ean: Actually favorite ko rin siya, kasi gustung-gusto ko yung tunog ng acoustic guitar ni Carlos. Parang first time kong nagustuhan yung acoustic guitar niya, actually (laughs), doon sa song. Yung tunog, eh! Siguro yung recording, tunog na tunog.
Armi: Bagay sa feel, kasi if use acoustic with the dynamics of UDD, you won't hear it so much. But with that, it's so soft.
Ean: Lagi akong napapa-reminiscence ng shoot namin sa Singapore every time na naririnig ko. Actually sobrang nakakapagod yung shoot nun eh.
Armi: It was supposed to be a six-day shoot, then compressed into three days. But it was memorable for us. I remember we were looking up the [Supertrees]. We were near that, and I was like, "When we're old and wrinkled, we'll remember this shoot."
Ean: Yung team rin ng shoot, naging friends namin.
Armi: We got stuck together for three days. Early 'til late, so it's impossible not to be friends.
Armi: This was written for a telco, and we did that in 222 Studio.
Carlos: For Valentine's [Day].
Armi: For the ones who don't have dates or are about to lose their dates and they sort of know.
Ean: Nag-demo ulit si Paul, siya ulit kumanta.
Do you still have these demos?
Ean: Actually nasa akin lahat. As in from 'Layag.' Meron din akong 'Pag-agos' at saka 'Hiwaga.' Sa lahat ng mga songs niya, siya kumakanta. Ayun, 'Unti-unti,' naisip namin agad siya na parang VST & Co.'s 'Ipagpatawad Mo.' Parang ganun ang pagkanta ni Paul.
Armi: The way he did it was so poetic that the time wasn't even 4/4. Since it's for a client, we had to make a few adjustments. It could not have been the same form as it was and it had to be a full-blown song.
I think if we did a dissection of the song, it would be my stanza, Paul's stanza, my stanza, Paul's stanza. So there's one voice singing it, but there are two people singing there. It's an interesting songwriting process and a product.
For me, it's like an exercise in empathy. You exercise first with his line, you try to think in the same terms, you write something in that [mindset], and then his again, and then I try to relate to it again. I think this was the first song that we really collaborated on na switching stanzas. It's a different technique I'm happy to do.
I wish Paul were here to explain his side! But we should probably leak his demos.
Yeah, you should!
Armi: You know, even against his will.
Ean: Ilalagay namin sa box set.
Armi: 'Crying Season' is the last demo that I got to write for the album. It was written for Sherwin [de Guzman], our road manager who passed last year, July. Everything about the song, the music kasi, it started [with] piano when I wrote it. Parang everybody came together, putting in things that we all felt Sherwin would like.
Carlos: We were all so devastated. We were so sad talaga. I decided to arrange, put instruments sa song na yun. Nilagay ko yung what I felt playing, a little bit in the solo. They were telling me to change some parts, pero parang it was one take lang eh. I didn't want to change it. I mean, I re-recorded it cleaner, but the notes and melodies, I kept them at the moment that I made it. That's what I was playing when I was so sad. I didn't want to change it. If you listen to it, it's paulit-ulit, typical bluesy riff, pero for me it's deep, man.
So it really was what you were feeling at the time.
Armi: We wanted to preserve it.
Carlos: Yeah, so I just re-recorded it lang with a real amp so it sounded cleaner.
Ean: Yun din yung audition piece ni Emil [Dela Rosa]. May song kasi kaming gusto i-record and parang gusto namin i-try si Emil. First day pa lang ng recording sobrang okay na.
For me, yun yung parang closure eh sa nangyari sa friend namin, si Sherwin. So nung na-release yung song, medyo mas nakagaan ng loob. After ng recording session ng 'Crying Season,' dere-derecho na yung recording ng vocals. Mas bumilis yung process.
Yan din ang first song na ni-record namin doon sa studio.
Armi: 'Young Again,' I wrote this song for Apocalypse Child as part of the full-score. Actually wrote two songs for Apocalypse Child, but 'Young Again' was the one I think everybody collectively agreed on having on the album. It's for every kind of people—children, parents. It's an ode to my parents. Yeah, can't wait to be young again.
Ean: Yung strings and horn section, si Armi lahat nag-arrange. Siya lahat, from arrangement, ang nag-gather ng team.
Armi: We had Malek Lopez and Junji Lerma and some really talented musicians, kasi we didn't have enough time to spend in the studio. We were supposed to close the album na, so we really made sure we had the best people we could get in the same room.
It's interesting because we never thought we'd reach the point where we'd be using strings and horns. I remember Ean didn’t like it when we were younger.
Ean: After hearing George Martin and The Carpenters, the arrangement ng live instruments. Kasi nasanay ako na pagsinabi strings, synth eh. Parang rockestra. Or parang Metallica with the horns. Pero nung narinig ko yung mga early albums ng The Beatles na may strings, sabi ko ganun ang gusto kong strings. Hindi dark.
UDD are set to return to Singapore for a headlining show this August and are scheduled to tour the US this September with IV of Spades. They are slated to release their self-titled album on vinyl soon.