Bleu Rascals consists of three talented college sophomores. Vocalist and guitarist Paul Marney Leobrera, 17, is a Hotel and Restaurant Management major at Centro Escolar University; bass guitarist Spencer Carlyle Rymonte, 18, is taking up Psychology at New Era University; drummer Darwin John Quinto, 18, majors in Psychology at Trinity University of Asia. Though not related by blood, they treat one another as brothers.
The band they formed back in high school was an alternative rock band inspired by Fallout Boy. However, Leobrera was somewhat influenced by a friend into embracing Blues. He started listening to musicians like John Mayer and Eric Clapton. He ended up liking Blues and eventually asked Quinto and Rymonte to join him.
Although the two other members found Blues “weird” at first, they eventually learned to like and love it, too! They formed Bleu Rascals and were eventually mentored by Tom Colvin, an American harmonica player who’s been based in the Philippines for 25 years. He is the founder and director of the Blues Asia Network.
Bleu Rascals is in demand today, having four gigs a week. Not bad for students who are only beginning to determine what to do for the rest of their lives, but who happen to have a passion for Blues.
For Quinto, “Blues is heart, soul and sweat.” Rymonte expounded on it poetically. “Every note na tutugtugin mo, kadikit na ng puso mo. (Every note you play follows the beat of your heart.)” He added that you’d sweat and really feel the music every time you play.
Leobrera boasted of the vastness of Blues: “All about the feeling…nakaka-relate sa lahat ng emosyon sa buhay (can relate to all the emotions in life). Blues is not (stereotypically) sad but not (necessarily) happy. Some Blues have fast beats which give one a sobrang happy mood, while the slower Blues have a slow beat that (bring on) a sad mood.”
Rymonte said Blues is “as is” music––the way they begin to play the music and how they change their live performance is dependent on the audience. If the audience does not like what they play, they’d adapt right then and there. Theirs is a very interactive and creative type of music.
Blues is filled with improvisation. According to the Bleu Rascals, it’s like building on someone else’s work. A member of the band starts to play––it can be the drummer who begins with a catchy beat, or the bassist who plays a cool tune, or the guitarist who figures out a simple melody or fantastic shred; then other musicians ride in with the feel of the song and add something to it that will make it sound really good. A member can change the direction of the song, while the others would try to catch up.
Blues is also the father of our presently famous genres: Rock, R&B and Jazz. “Blues is the root of music. No Blues, no other genres,” says Leobrera. He dares young people to listen to the the music first before judgment. He warns people of fake Blues bars that supposedly play Blues, but really play rock.
During the performance at Backdoor Blues Café along Kalayaan Avenue in Quezon City, Leobrera took out his effects set; I thought it would not involve any distortion. I waited eagerly for the music. He did some awesome shreds and riffs, reminiscent of Metal rock. He had good control of his Wah-wah pedal and made his guitar cry with ease. Though his vocalization is still developing, his voice blends well with the music.
Rymonte played the bass skillfully, with equal mastery. His bass sounded like rock and country in some songs. While Quinto was spot on, setting the tempo well for the group. His drumming may sound a bit like alternative rock though, to the contemporary listener.
I was sucked into the moment when the guys performed. Rymonte had his eyes closed and was feeling the bass lines he was thumbing: both the highs and lows, the fast and slow. Quinto, could not close his eyes, but it was obvious in his face he was also lost in their music. Leobrera played and sang with eyes closed meditatively at some points.
I closed my eyes, too at one point while they were playing. By ear, the guys playing seemed like they were in their early 20s, even though the oldest member is at least two years from becoming 20 years old. The band has been playing actively since high school and they are dedicated to their craft. This band will really go far, and I cannot wait to see how awesome they will be years from now!
As a genre, Blues is awesome. It is different, but at the same time familiarly sounds like our present mainstream genres. If you love contemporary music and would like to try a different rock experience, try Blues! Listening to it feels like you’re time traveling through the history of music itself.
Bleu Rascals will be at “The Story of Jazz: 1st CCP International Jazz Festival 2011” at the Cultural Center of the Philippines on Aug. 23-28. They perform in “Blues Night” on Aug. 24, 7:30 p.m., at the Tanghalang Huseng Batute. Tickets are at P300. Call the CCP Box Office at 8323704; Ticketworld at 8919999; CCP Music Division at 8321125 loc. 1604-1605.
Tickets to events at the Tanghalang Nicanor Abelardo (Main Theater) are at P800, P600, P400 and P200. Tickets to all concerts at the Tanghalang Huseng Batute and the Silangan Hall are at P300. All lectures and workshops at the MKP Multi-Purpose Hall are at P100. Discounts of 50 percent for students and 20 percent for senior citizens apply.
Check out www.facebook.com/RascalsMcFly.