AFTER what could only be described as a whirlwind of gigs (23 gigs, to be precise) in the past month, Jensen Gomez finally found an opening in his ridiculously busy schedule to sit down with To Be You.
Yes, Jensen Gomez—the very same guy who put the “Jensen” in Jensen and The Flips, the band that’s been tearing up the indie scene and slowly but surely inching its way into the mainstream.
This talented singer and musician is also a producer. Expect nothing less from a true student of the craft, given his time in De La Salle-College of Saint Benilde’s (CSB) budding music production course. The Flips singer spoke candidly about his upbringing as a musician, embracing the grind and his brutally honest take on the realities of the industry today.
There’s Jensen Gomez and Jensen and The Flips. For the benefit of newer audiences, who is “Jensen”?
Well, I’m a singer-songwriter, record producer and also a marketing guy. Oh, and I sing for Jensen and The Flips.
And who are the fine, upstanding gentlemen behind The Flips?
In The Flips, we have Mel Roño on guitars, Sam Valenia on guitars, Carlo Maraingan on percussions (but Fitz Manto officially on drums now), Choi Padilla on bass and Jesser Sission/Miggy Concepcion on keyboards. Yes, dami namin!
Your album “Honeymoon”— great work, by the way. What’s it all about?
“Honeymoon” is about introducing The Flips. It’s a concept album because, in a way, The Flips is a concept band. It’s a tight piece of work that we put out and it may not be the best-sounding album—I know that, I mixed and mastered it myself—but it’s a good introduction for The Flips and what we’re all about.
You talked about mixing and mastering as a music production student in CSB. How has that helped you?
It’s helped me a lot because I learned so much from CSB and other projects outside of it, especially when I produced my first solo album under Universal Records. All the while I also had other projects, producing for other artists. I was in the studio mixing it with my engineer. It was all good. It’s helped me out a lot and I can’t help but feel lucky that I got to work with more experienced people in the business.
What song would you play if you had to introduce the band to someone who’s never heard you before?
I’ll play “Slow” and then I’ll play “Is This Love.” With “Slow,” it’s a normal, catchy tune, kind of
an upbeat pop song with a hook. And check out its music video. It’s all in slow motion and my bandmates just kept slapping me in slow motion. They’ve been wanting to do that for a long time! [laughs]
And what’s your favorite song from “Honeymoon”?
Probably “Is This Love.” Listening to it for the first time, you might say the song is a little too sensual but that’s not really the point. It’s about addiction. It’s doing something that you know is bad for you but you keep doing it anyway. So, you ask yourself “Is this love, what I’m doing? What we’re doing?”
But no, my thought process is every time I write a song, I make the conscious decision to leave it open to interpretation. I feel like you shouldn’t go full on with songs, leave it to the audience’s imagination.
Who are your musical inspirations?
John Mayer is the biggest, then there’s also Justin Timberlake, Michael Jackson. And right now, Miguel and Gallant. But really, I have a lot of influences like Motown music and just really, all music. In every genre, there’s always something that you pick up or something that influences you. You can go from jazz to heavy metal, it doesn’t even matter. I listen to everything, even those novelty songs because they always have that hook.
Going back to your days as a solo artist, you released the album, “Understatements,” a couple of years back. How is it compared to the music of The Flips now?
“Understatements” was the independently released version of “Umpisa,” the one I released nationwide with Universal Records. There were some songs that were removed but it was more or less the same. But the thing with those two albums is that they’re songs that I sort of accumulated when I was growing up and starting out. So, comparing it to “Honeymoon,” it’s really different because “Honeymoon” is a concept album. The idea was to sort of work with a band and we’d play soul, R&B-ish kind of playful music. Actually, the entire album is either playful or melodramatic. So, it’s definitely different.
And the musical sensibilities are different. When I was still a solo artist I just sort of threw all these songs together—a very alternative-sounding song, an inspiring song, even a very profound, melodramatic song. So, in a way, it’s sort of a sampler CD of my whole career and influences thus far. It allowed me to explore possible avenues with different musical genres that, who knows, maybe I can try again afterwards.
Apart from being a producer, what’s your creative process with the band like?
In the band we have this system where, if they don’t like the lyrics, they all take a vote. But I usually write the songs and the basic arrangements of the songs and then we’ll go to the studio to work on them. During pre-production, that’s usually when they’ll tell me “Dude, your lyrics suck. We should change them.”
They arrange the songs for The Flips and it’s just fun because the guys are music theory guys so they know what to call the chords. It’s like a secret language to me. They’re all like “Dude, go play two and then go play one.” It’s amazing, these theory guys. So, yeah, that’s the process for The Flips.
You released “Honeymoon” on CD format but it’s also available for music streaming. What’s your take on the new platform that’s sweeping the industry? Well, on music streaming, I think it’s a big help for us starting artists because it gives us an avenue to put ourselves and our music out there for everyone to listen to. It’s a really big help in terms of its reach. I feel that artists nowadays don’t really think about just profiting from it. It’s the shows that keep us alive. That’s why we really have to kick it up a notch every time we have gigs. That’s why we have a concept for the Flips, to sell the show and reach new audiences. So, music streaming is a big help when it comes to reaching out to an audience that will hopefully end up going to our shows. It’s a catalog, kind of like a calling card, in a way.
You’re a role model now. What’s your advice to aspiring artists?
Music is a hard business, a very difficult one to get into—and an even harder one to stay in. You have to know your limits. There’s always a fine line that you have to tread when you go and push for it. You also have to make sacrifices along the way. It might affect your studies or finding a stable job, and that’s something that could really happen if you’re set on making that sacrifice for your art. I mean, I’ve been playing music for eight or nine years and I’m only just starting to see it pay off now. And even then, I’ve been so lucky to experience being signed to a label and then going back to being an independent artist. So, if that’s what you really want, go for it. If not, you should always have something to fall back on.
What’s on the horizon for Jensen and The Flips?
We’re set to release one more single from the album, it’s a song called “Stay With Me,” and then we’re going to the studio to work on the next one. We’re working on a new concept for the new album and we can’t really base our future album on the previous one, it’s going to be different. It’s a new adventure and we have to see it that way.
Photography Gee Plamenco Styling Luis Carlo San Juan Grooming and Hairstyle Syd Helmsley