Last year, in an interview with Manny of Picksysticks.com, Moonpools and Caterpillars lead singer Kimi Ward Encarnacion finally answered a question that fans had been wanting to ask: Why did they stop playing in 1998?
“It was the last thing we expected. Things went from high momentum, getting ready to make this record to being dropped with no explanation. It was all quite a blow! Looking back, it was the best thing that could have happened to me. When I got over the sting, and believe me, that took a long time, a few years, I jumped into being a mother to these two boys and have never had a single regret.”
The record label may have dropped the Filipino-American band but its fans never did. Even after over a 15-year absence, Moonpools fans have stayed loyal. They were there when the band reunited in 2013 for a Ethiopia Health Aid benefit, and again later that year for a post-Supertyphoon “Yolanda” (international name: “Haiyan”) relief event. With ticket, CD, T-shirt sales and donations, Moonpools raised $21,000 for Yolanda survivors.
Both shows were in California; but this time, Moonpools and Caterpillars will fly back to the Philippines for its first concert here since 1996. The band is taking a break from busy schedules: Kimi has embraced motherhood and now maintains her blog CaliforniaPixie.com; Her husband Jay Encarnacion is in real estate; Gugut Salgado works in an engineering firm; and Tim de Pala is in the film industry, having worked on the visual effects of “Men in Black II,” “Hellboy,” “Enchanted” and “Blade II.”
Online musical portal PinoyTuner is bringing them here. “PinoyTuner decided that Moonpools and Caterpillars coming home to their motherland and playing their hits would be cool not just because they made a lasting impression the last time they were here but because they’re very Pinoy and miss the country too. There are a lot of fans who want to relive the experience—when music and the vibes were good,” said Joey Dizon, PinoyTuner’s content director.
In this fun e-mail interview with Inquirer Super, Kimi talks about her memories of the Philippines, Moonpools’ devoted fans, and why her kids think the band should rerelease its songs.
When was the last time you performed in Manila and what do you remember about it?
Wow! 1996! Of course I remember. It was only my most favorite show of all time! We had no idea of the reception we’d have in the Philippines. We did this week-long promo campaign on radio and TV. Everyone streated us like kings. It was fun but exhausting. By the end of the week, I couldn’t fit into my pants because of all the merienda and I couldn’t go anywhere without someone knowing my name. Fat and famous in the span of five days! I remember going into Shoe Mart or somewhere and the salespeople were so starstruck they hid from us in a rack of clothes. I couldn’t believe it! We knew where they were, too. I wanted to buy something but nobody would come out. Even the guy working the peanut cart in Quiapo yelled my name from across the street and gave me a bag of peanuts. It was crazy! Unlike anything we’d ever experienced at home. By the time the show came around, we were pretty psyched! We walked into the Star Expo and the place was packed with the most energetic fans we’d ever seen. It was awesome! Kids jumped and sang to every song. I’m known for jumping out into the crowd after a show to meet fans. In the US, it’s no big deal, but in the Philippines I was instantly surrounded by so many people I felt like I couldn’t breathe. It was nuts! We loved every minute of it!
Did you come to the Philippines for personal trips while you were on your break, or is this the first time you’re coming back?
Gugut’s parents still live in Manila so he goes back for visits a lot. I’ve been over there five times. We took our kids over for Christmas a few years ago. We’ve had some crazy adventures in the Philippines. Once we got caught in a typhoon at a surf camp in Catanduanes. We were in a jeepney with about a zillion people in it when it came to a part of the road that had been washed out from the rain. The jeepney started to tip. Nobody even panicked. The man sitting between the driver and the window stretched his body out and hung there like he was steering a catamaran, and the guys on the roof all hopped to the same side and did the same. The jeepney balanced out and we continued on our way. I guess it wasn’t any big deal because I was the only one who freaked out! I love Filipinos, man!
Another time, Jay Jay and I spent a week in Palawan. That place is gorgeous! We landed at Puerto Princesa and asked our trike guy where to go. We ended up on a tiny island called Coco Loco, sleeping in a little bamboo hut. At night the sky was filled with more stars than I’ve ever seen. I’ve probably seen more of the Philippines than most Filipinos.
Are you all still based in the same city?
Gugut, Jay and I live in a little beach town in Southern California, and Tim lives in San Francisco just across the Golden Gate Bridge.
Do all of you have kids now? What do they think about Moonpools playing again? Have they listened to your songs?
Tim has a little guy who is so cute and full of it! We love having him around. Me and Jay have two boys, both teenagers now. After the LA show in January, Byron, our youngest, said, “Mom, you are so fun to watch… your arms go crazy!” He sat up on stage and watched every minute of it. He loved how we just get up there and go for it. Rocky was out in the crowd dancing! I think they both love it! They think we should re-release our songs. Me, too.
How do you feel about performing in Manila again?
We can’t wait! Not sure why we waited so long to do this!
During your 15-year absence, did you ever listen to your songs or watch your videos? Or find yourself humming them in the shower or while driving?
No. Giving up music to raise my family was a hard choice. I had to be all in for my kids and that meant leaving my Moonpool days behind. Looking back, I did the right thing for me. I was able to be there for every part of their growing up. If I would have tried to juggle my singing career with my children, something would have suffered. This way I will never have to wonder about that. I always said I can go back to music one day and the crazy part is that one day is here!
What part of being in Moonpools did you miss the most?
I’m so social, definitely the fans and friends! The faces of people I came to know from touring and our big network of friends that was held together largely by our shows. Every concert was a gathering of the coolest people, and that’s for sure what I missed the most. Next would be performing. When I first walk out on that stage something happens to me. It’s the happiest place on earth. Uninhibited and fun!
We’ve wanted to ask you this question since we were 15. Why Moonpools and Caterpillars?
In the US we told people it was a favorite Filipino dish. Ha… but that won’t work this time. It’s nothing. Totally made up. We needed a name and threw some words out there that ended up being Moonpools and Caterpillars.
How does it feel to know that your fans have stayed faithful all these years?
That blows us away! We didn’t know they were still there till YouTube came. A friend told us there were all kinds of videos and most of all lots of covers of Moonpools and Caterpillars songs. Then we created our Facebook page a couple of years ago and it grew so fast. What really knocked us over was the response to our Typhoon Yolanda fundraiser. We raised $21,000. Fans from all over the world bought T-shirts. Some of the T-shirts were sold out before they were even printed. Moonpool fans are not only loyal but incredibly generous!
We read on Facebook that the first time you tried to play together again was in 2011. What was that like? Did you get goosebumps?
Tim came down for a visit about two years ago and we played through the entire Moonpools catalog. We still had it. There were definitely times we all had goosebumps. All the great memories came back and we realized how much we’d missed playing music together.
We think it’s fantastic that you guys first reunited for the Ethiopia Health Aid project and we are so grateful for your efforts in raising funds for Yolanda relief. What was the Lunchtime Rockshow like?
The Lunchtime Rockshow rates up there in my top 5 Moonpools and Caterpillars moments. It was one of my most enjoyable, easy performances. It felt so good! The crowd sang throughout the set, it was fab!
We’ve been listening to your songs for almost two decades now but they still feel and sound as fresh as they did when they first came out. What do you think is the secret behind the timelessness of your songs?
I have no idea. We never set out to sound like anyone else. We were influenced by other bands at times, but what we did was ultimately our very own. There is one thing. In our band experience, our friendship always came first ahead of anything else. Maybe that’s the golden ticket!
Are there any plans to write new songs?
Oh, yeah! Not as M&C but Gugut, Jay and I have been working on some stuff. We suck Tim into it when he’s in town. We love getting his take on our songs and try to squeeze a bass line out of him whenever we can. It’s been fun writing music without the responsibility of making sure it sounds like Moonpools or whatever fans expect a Moonpools song to sound like. Gugut recently put together a home studio and the guy is going nuts! He’s going totally song crazy. It’s like the last 15 years of no music has stacked up in his brain and it’s exploding. Jay and I add our spin to it and we are having a blast!
A lot of your Filipino fans missed out on the album “12 Songs.” Is there a way for them to still get their hands on it?
It’s your lucky day! We’re bringing the biggest balikbayan box in the world with us in April. “12 Songs” CDs, stickers, posters and T-shirts galore! Philippines, it’s time to get real happy!
We read that you now own all the rights to your songs. Is a rerelease in your plans?
We are considering it. How fun would it be to have fresh versions of the Moonpools and Caterpillars classics!
We’re obsessed with your blog CaliforniaPixie.com. It’s such a happy place, the photos are gorgeous and we’re excited to try making your Butterhorn Rolls. We’re curious, is your outfit for the gig ready? Will you be making it or will you be wearing one of your fab thrift store finds?
Love this! California Pixie is a happy place for me, too! So rewarding having a creative space that thousands of others enjoy along with me. Oh, man… you are my kinda girl! I have already started looking for the perfect dresses for the Philippines. I loved my dress for the Lunchtime Rockshow. I have always put a lot of thought into my show dresses. It will most likely be a combo of handmade and thrift shop! Two of the best things in life!
What can fans expect from the Philippine shows?
Expect to sing-along! Expect to get real happy and expect to play a huge role in making the Philippine shows one of the highlights of Gugut, Tim, Jay and Kimi’s lives!
Is your playlist ready?
Ha… we’re close!
Is this a one-time thing or are you guys back for the long run?
This is a treat for us and a treat for our ever-loyal Filipino fans!
Any message for your Filipino fans who are counting down to April?
Get ready for a good time! Pinoy rock!
Moonpools and Caterpillars will be performing at Amber Ultra Lounge at The Fort Strip Bonifacio Global City on April 8, and at Outpost Cebu City on April 9. The tickets are available for P1,850 at Pasto branches (The Fort Strip, Paseo de Roxas, Greenhills and Eastwood), Katsu and Craft at The Fort Strip BGC; 121 Salcedo, 121 Pasong Tamo and Woodfire Paseo de Roxas in Makati; Lucca in SM Megamall and Zao in Eastwood. You may also call 8378388.