Lions and Acrobats Are Changing Manila’s Indie Rock Scene
Originally published on STATUS Magazine, August 2018
Spearheading the explosive boom of Manila’s indie rock scene, LIONS AND ACROBATS continue to be a staple within the community — and they’re having fun while doing it.
Headbanging on stage since before it was cool is the almost non-stop gig machine known as Lions and Acrobats. Vocalist Icoy Rapadas, guitarists Jim Lopez, Andrew Son, and Ling Lava, bassist Oteph Tumabing, and drummer Jiggy Ilagan’s dedication to live music is second to none, proving their expertise as a primetime band. With their electric stage presence, it’s unsurprising that even the most spiritless of audiences can be brought to life once they switch on their amps.
“When you’re sad, you have that need to express it [through writing]. When you’re happy, you don’t need to express it through song. You want to express it externally—you want to live.”
Juxtaposing their colorful dispositions on and off-stage are more somber and thoughtful lyrics, as provided by Icoy who doubles as the primary songwriter. “When you’re sad, you have that need to express it [through writing]. When you’re happy, you don’t need to express it through song. You want to express it externally—you want to live,” he clarifies.
Describing the music they make, the band unanimously agree that it’s rock. “A special kind of rock,” they add jokingly, but they aren’t wrong. Fusing together post-rock, alternative, math rock, and even a little jazz, their sound is a medley of genres we’re all familiar with, but have been weaved together to create a new and distinct harmonic blend. This uniqueness became most evident in their 2017 sophomore album, Mundane. Released three years after its predecessor Points & Perspectives, the follow-up record reveals just how much the band has grown in their sound and creative process. “On our first album, more is more. But for the process of Mundane, less is more,” they explain. Contributing to the more recognizable jazz influence is Jim’s debut of his newly acquired saxophone skills. “I’m not good at it, but I can play it!” he quips. “I started playing the sax because I wanted to learn the chords of baLAnce and the Traveling Sounds, and that’s how the instrument was added to the album.”
“I think our song topics have matured as well; from just college love sh*t, it transformed into work sh*t.”
Icoy’s exploration in the songwriting realm of Mundane allowed him to cover more ground as compared to their debut album. “When we would make music before, we would make instrumentals and Icoy would just put his words into it. But now, compared to the previous album, we made a more conscious effort to give Icoy space as a writer,” Jim expounds. Although Icoy found room to roam, he didn’t have to look too far for the album’s lyrical focus. Each song, as hinted by the album’s title, stems from everyday, mundane experiences. “I think our song topics have matured as well; from just college love sh*t, it transformed into work sh*t,” he shares, sparking a hearty round of laughter from the rest of the band.
Coming to terms with change is a double-edged sword for Lions and Acrobats. After founding member and drummer Pedro Tumibay’s departure post-Mundane, they’ve since introduced a new member to permanently take over: Rob and the Hitmen’s Jiggy Ilagan. Unphased by the band’s hyperactive demeanor, Jiggy’s acclimated quite well to the chemistry in his newfound brotherhood. “It’s fun to work with these guys.” He continues, “They’re very constructive with their criticism, and when we’re writing songs, I understand what exactly it is that they want. I cope up with my own practices; if they want to hear a particular beat, I’ll try to do it.”
“Currently, we’re just toying around and trying to mix different elements with our sound now.”
While materializing the band’s growth in their sound, topics, and even lineup is inevitable, Lions and Acrobats make it a point to preserve their collective humor and adrenaline-pumping shows. Plans of a new EP and a third album remain under wraps for now, but their zest for music continues to fuel their desire to elevate Manila’s independent music scene. “Currently, we’re just toying around and trying to mix different elements with our sound now,” they reveal. “We’ll just keep doing and doing, and exploring and exploring.”
Written by Sophie Caraan and Sophia Bonoan
Photographed by Miguel Alomajan
Makeup by Myrene Santos