“Oo.” This single, and the response it garnered at Up Dharma Down’s first few gigs many moons ago in Saguijo, was all the affirmation the band needed to continue performing for its audience. Moments leading to an Up Dharma Down set were auspicious. People would gather and within minutes manifest a myriad of reactions: They would sway their bodies, shift their weight from one foot to the other, bob their heads and at times even close their eyes, as if lost in a trance created by the band’s heady concoction of lyrics and atmospherics.
Four studio albums (“Fragmented,” “Bipolar,” “Capacities” and “U D D”); possibly hundreds—or thousands—of shows (including offshore festivals and as the opening act for foreign artists like Bloc Party and The XX); a handful of awards (NU107 In the Raw, NU107 Best New Artist, MYX Music Awards Favorite Indie Artist, AVIMA Best Overall Female Artist); a string of hits (“Oo,” “Tadhana,” “Unti-unti,” “Sana,” “Indak”); a portfolio of commercial clients and soundtrack commissions (the latest; “Paagi,”the theme song for Netflix’s “Trese”); being recognized by Time magazine, BBC and MTV; a slight change in the band’s name (rebranded to UDD since 2017); thousands of followers and 17 years later, the band has dropped the bomb every adoring fan dreads.
Vocalist Armi Millare has left UDD. Separate announcements appeared on UDD’s and Millare’s social media accounts on Christmas Day–not exactly a reason to celebrate. Leaving the band is the consequence of Millare’s decision to sever ties with Terno Recordings, UDD’s record label, in June. She will, however, continue as a solo artist.
In an interview with NME, Millare alluded to her departure from the band as “more like a heartbreak,” not “so much a burnout,” although she did mention doing “too much” of the thing she loved the most: performing in front of a live audience. Playing so many shows may have eventually taken its toll on the vocalist. She also said that the pandemic changed her perspective on things that matter, according to her: quality of life, moral standards. “Like how much integrity matters to some of us, and how little time we actually have left,” she said.
The heartbreak Millare speaks of may not be limited to her, or to Ean Mayor, Carlos Tañada and Paul Yap, her bandmates from Day 1; it may be equally as crippling to the fans who have supported them over the years, whose loyalty dates back from their initial gigs in Saguijo in 2004, and which livened up the crowd in other venues like Route 196, then music festivals, later.
This heartbreak may have triggered some of the fans’ biggest fears and raised some questions. What if they don’t find a new vocalist? What if they do, but they don’t measure up? What if they turn out like other bands that, upon losing or changing members, lacked luster, thereafter? What will UDD be without Millare? Will things ever be the same?
We all know the answer to the last question, and maybe, we should just accept and even welcome the fact that things will be different. Millare’s claim of gaining a new perspective because of the pandemic reflects a catharsis that many of us have also gone through. Change isn’t necessarily a bad thing, and change is often necessary.
While Millare’s departure from UDD has left your heart fragmented, you know that the band’s greatest legacy—their music—will live in your playlist and in your memories. And like with any other heartbreak, you have the capacity to recover from it, with music and memories keeping you company.