Rivermaya refugee returns with dreamy solo album, loud new demos

We’re in Love Another Studios, guitars in hand, fingers looking for their proper places on the strings and fretboard.

Greyhoundz drummer TJ Brilliantes, the session’s engineer for the day, stands with his arms folded nodding along to the playback of the bass and drum tracks.

Ex-Kjwan guitarist and vacationing Berklee student Jorel Corpus (the producer) fiddles with his IPad and comments on the snare drum sound (it was Jorel who insisted recording at least two songs in a proper studio after hearing a demo).

Peso Movement leader Japs Sergio happily concurs the rhythm section (Macky Macaventa of Milagros Dancehall Collective on bass, and drummer Kurt Floreska of Soapdish/Rubberpool) is tight; he can’t wait to lay down his guitar parts, then mine, the next day.

His positivity fuels the sessions and everyone’s goal is to capture the ferocity from his Garageband demos.

Trying to finish Daydream Cycle album

Japs Sergio is one of those rare individuals in the business who tasted success, lived the good, bad, and downright horrible in the industry, and still maintains an enthusiastic relationship with creating music. His optimism, tempered by experience, is unwavering and infectious; he knows how not to blur the line between the business of music, and music itself.

Japs hasn’t been very public in the last year-and-a-half: he’s on hiatus as Rivermaya’s bassist and tried to finish the long overdue album of his dreampop band Daydream Cycle.

He also focused on his van rental business and personal matters that had him shuttling between Singapore and Manila.

Those “personal matters” in a nutshell resulted in a self-released/self-financed dreamy solo album “Monologue Whispers” and a dozen (and counting) loud Peso Movement demos that he recorded at home.

First: stop smoking

Japs’ personal intent was not to immediately re-join the chaotic fray of the local music industry; he very simply just wanted the songs out of his system (and his room), period.

He maintains a refreshing attitude for someone who probably has many reasons to be jaded but retained the modest dream most musicians start with: “Here’s my music…just in case you want to hear it. Hope you like it.”

His biggest worry is performing live again; he will have the frontman role as he did occasionally in the lead vocalist-less line-up in the Rivermaya timeline. The first step? To quit smoking.

Overcoming the clinical sound of a studio

The Peso Movement tunes are crammed with riffs that fall naturally under Japs’ idiosyncrasies on guitar but not mine. I’m out of my comfort zone, and I love it.

The recording studio experience allowed us to really get to know each others’ playing; during rehearsals we play at volumes that blur details and awaken my tinnitus within five seconds. You can’t hide in a recording situation.

At worst, a recording studio can be clinical: getting clean performances almost runs contradictory to the ethos of loud dirty rock & roll. Vibe and feel define music; without it, all you get are lifeless notes on a scale, even if they sound correct.

There is no record company breathing down our backs, no burning desire to land a deal. He just wants to record music so others can choose to hear it. If success follows, thanks.

His songs are personal “me” things that became a “we” thing for the live band. That’s what good bandleaders do. That’s what a leader, of any stripe, should do.

Bad leaders pull rank and demand respect from their troops; the great ones earn it. The right personal intent turns into a collective ethic.

The beautiful thing is he didn’t even plan it that way.

You can order “Monologue Whispers” via japs@steadylang.com. To check out more of his Peso Movement demos, go to www.soundcloud.com/japsuki.

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