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How Carousel Casualties Transformed from a Bedroom Project to a Regular in Manila’s Indie Scene

Originally published on STATUS Magazine, September 2018

From an introverted solo bedroom project to a full-fledged four-piece band, CAROUSEL CASUALTIES has turned into a name regularly spelled out on the letter board of your favorite Manila gig venues.

Hopping on the solitary horse of this galloper was frontman Emmie Villegas and by the second half of 2016, frontwoman Pau Villanueva, bassist Jot Nicanor, and drummer Ryan Pineda were given a ticket to ride. “Life is like a carousel and we are the casualties living it. We have ‘no choice’ but to ‘go with the flow’,” the group explains of their name. “Emmie wanted a tongue twister for a band name and basically something that’s catchy and would sound nice; hence, Carousel Casualties.”

“Our sound isn’t exactly new, but what makes it unique is that it’s an amalgamation of each of our individual perspectives, tastes, and influences. That’s what makes up the identity of the band.”

Citing the legendary careers of ‘60s English rockstars Jimmy Page and John Lennon as influences, their music is a fusion of Britpop and garage rock to the simple mind. Digging deeper into their artistry results in a much livelier tune—one that holds the perfect balance of their individualities. It’s a feat that’s deemed difficult by most bands new to the industry, but Carousel Casualties have perfected their personal formula. “[Our music is] probably happy with a teaspoon of sourness! Our sound isn’t exactly new, but what makes it unique is that it’s an amalgamation of each of our individual perspectives, tastes, and influences. That’s what makes up the identity of the band.” They continue, “Breaking our influences individually would be tough and probably take a whole day of sharing stories but essentially, our sound emanates from our common desire to make music that’s downright crazy, yet focused.”

With their debut studio album and a string of music videos on the way, Carousel Casualties are pulling rank as one of the catchiest young bands in Manila’s indie scene. They sat with us and described what it’s really like to be neophytes in an industry so intimidating.

“Overall, making one song is a collective collaboration among the four of us and that’s usually how it works.”

What’s your creative process like when making music together?
Emmie is the chief songwriter and he presents the songs in basic arrangement. Pau and Emmie would usually figure out how the vocal harmonies would go together as well as the harmonization of the guitars section. Ryan and Jot would separately work on a solid backbone to cover the rhythm section well. When it comes to musical direction, Jot would be the one to fine tune the arrangement and analyze how each song can be performed precisely and effectively. Overall, making one song is a collective collaboration among the four of us and that’s usually how it works.

When not making music together or playing at a gig, what are you guys doing?
Emmie’s an architect now, Pau is in architecture school, Jot’s learning music production, and Ryan’s learning music business management; it’s also the perfect time to plan what’s next for the band, rehearse, and of course have fun while doing it.

You released your newest single “She’s a Mystery” last March. Could you talk a bit about the song?
Although seemingly a song that states a direct declaration of endearment to a certain woman, “She’s A Mystery” was intended to be nothing remotely close to a love song. It’s actually a songwriting exercise that Emmie wrote back when he was 19. The song’s narrative is really about the protagonist having a struggle with his relapse. Take “Got To Get You Into My Life” by The Beatles as an example: behind its celebrated, sugarcoated upbeat tune is a message about McCartney’s fixation with a particular substance. In contrast, “She’s a Mystery” also channels that certain metaphor. But at the end of the day, the beautiful thing about the song is that it can be androgynous to how the listener may interpret it.

“She’s a Mystery” is also the first song you released under Warner Music Philippines. What’s it like being signed to the label?
It’s a good experience so far. Warner PH has been really kind and supportive of our work and it’s really amazing how they can reciprocate and reinforce our efforts in making music. Being supported by Warner PH lets us learn more about how the industry works and enables us to maximize our reach in terms of our releases.

You released the music video for your song “Flats” last May, in celebration of your EP Madison’s one year anniversary. What was the story or inspiration behind the video?
The song talks about a couple being separated due to the pressure of settling with a high-paying job resulting to less quality time between the two. The video’s narrative shows the progression of a novice model from her early days up to her rise to fame. The intention of the video was to be silly in terms of colours and the portrayal of the characters. This is because we wanted the video to represent the younger and more innocent times we had when we first came up with the song.

It was also the first music video you guys filmed. What was the experience like?
Filming the music video took a lot of effort due to its guerrilla nature. The video was filmed for two days jumping from one location to another. We also had fun conceptualizing the wardrobe. Coming up with a music video has always been one of our goals and it’s good to finally have one that was delivered well.

You’re currently working on your first full-length album, which is due sometime next year. How far along are you in the music-making process? What can you tell us about the new album?
It’s more emotional, more thought of and more well-rounded. We started recording a few songs last year that will make it to the album. Currently, we’re in the process of further developing the songs. We’re pretty excited to announce a lot about the progress, but for now, we’ll keep the details in the closet.

side from your upcoming album, what should we be expecting from you guys within the year?
We’ll be gigging a lot. On top of that, we’re working on a series of music videos and a few more singles before the year ends!


Written by Sophie Caraan

Photographed by Miguel Alomajan
Makeup by Myrene Santos