A part-time music teacher, a marketer, and an engineering graduate involved in the business of flipping houses—who would’ve thought this unlikely combination could make really good music?
But that is what Turn Me On Holly is all about.
The band is the latest in a string of rising indie acts that are beginning to make a splash in the rejuvenated Original Pilipino Music (OPM) scene. True enough, you might catch them playing a gig here and there. You might hear them pop on your Spotify recommendations, or see snippets of them in action through a friend’s Instagram stories.
To be You sat down with the boys of Turn Me On Holly—vocalist and rhythm guitarist Aaron Silvestre (himself a former writer for To be You), lead guitarist Gino Tambuatco, and bassist and keyboardist Jerome Ulob (drummer Charles Gener recently left the group)—to get the lowdown on the hustle (they have day jobs), the grind, and the music that brought them together.
To be You: What’s the story behind your name?
Aaron: I actually got it from another song, from another band. I thought it was cool and I forced my bandmates to go along with it.
Gino: He didn’t force us. We just couldn’t think of any other name. It’s from an All Time Low song.
Aaron: We were actually in a gig and the emcee called us and asked for a name and we didn’t have a name yet, so I said, Turn Me On Holly, a reference to an All Time Low song called “Holly (Would You Turn Me On?)”
Who else are your influences?
Gino: We come from different musical backgrounds. I started in a metal band. I was in high school when I learned guitar and my friends got me into Metallica and Iron Maiden. So I had a metal phase, I had a math rock phase, and some post-rock, too. I think the way I play guitar shows where I come from.
Jerome: It’s a little too long to list because I started composing metal, electronica and cabaret. But I was also brought up in music conservatory, and I listened to some 19th-century composers—the likes of Claude Debussy and then Erik Satie, with all the harmonic colors. Although I don’t really get to apply it much with the band.
Aaron: I listen mostly to pop music. But I started with punk rock—I thought it was the superior genre at the time. I was into bands like Sum 41, Rancid, The Casualties, and then eventually I started branching out and listening to bands like Arctic Monkeys, Circa Waves and The 1975. Very guitar-heavy pop music.
With such different influences, what’s your songwriting and recording process like?
Aaron: It’s a really collaborative effort. Usually, when I begin writing, it’s just basic. Very bare. Like, laying the groundwork.
Gino: Aaron makes the bread. And then we make it spicy—a spicy bread! But that’s how it’s been so far. Aaron starts something and we give it our own touch.
What Turn Me On Holly song will you recommend to someone who’s new to your music?
Aaron: We have four songs so far and they’re all on our EP “Beach Episodes.” Personally, I pick “Yesterday’s Best.” Because it means a lot. It’s about selfish people.
Gino: My favorite song is “Velcro” because of the epic intro and the tremolo guitar part.
Jerome: “Stay The Night.” It’s just pure fun.
Speaking of “Beach Episodes,” what’s it all about?
Gino: It actually comes from how animés tend to have “beach episodes,” and they’re usually just fun and inconsequential filler episodes. But, to me, a beach episode is also a good way to explore your character. When you go to the beach with your friends, you’re not just going out and having fun, you’re also living life to the fullest. To me, the beach episode is when you truly live and feel alive, and that’s what I think these songs are about. We strive to feel alive.
How do you balance your work and play time? What would you tell aspiring musicians looking to embrace the grind?
Aaron: Yeah, we all have day jobs and it really takes a lot of work. When I was younger I used to look at the people playing on stage and thought it would be easy, but it’s actually not. We work really hard. We stay up really late. After work, we go to practice for an hour or two. You can have all the talent, but if you don’t put the work in, nothing’s going to happen.
Jerome: You need to actually like what you’re doing because it’s going to be hard. And of course, practice, practice, practice. It takes time.
Gino: You have to love it because it shows if you don’t. People will notice. And it’s not just about making a catchy song. You have to mean it. —CONTRIBUTED