EXCLUSIVE: Local Indie Artists On Quarantine, Mental Health, And New Music



Music lives on with these local indie artists. No matter how the music industry is situated in current limbo—one thing’s for sure, this is not its end game. 

Related: 10 Artists And Their Creative Ways To Help Us Get Through Quarantine With Music

As concerts and other live music performances are still barred at the moment, the detrimental effects of the pandemic in the music industry are crystal clear. With how the pandemic has wreaked havoc not only to international and local mainstream and indie artists, but also to concert-goers and fans, the ecosystem of music is definitely mired with challenges to survive. Nevertheless, with the brimming passion that remains steadfast in spite of the pandemic, it can be said that music is alive and well.

With resilience and resourcefulness, relenting to the new normal has seen a swell of optimism for the unforeseeable future for musically-inclined individuals brimming with so much potential and possibilities. To reveal their uninterrupted journey to creating music, we talked to these local indie acts on how they coped with the pandemic. In hindsight, these talented acts are not only compelling us to stream for more, but also inadvertently keeping us sane in quite the time of our lives. 

Jana Garcia 

Photo from @janagarciaph on Instagram

From pre-recorded online shows to live streams, Jana made sure that her music engagements would benefit both music fans and the unsung heroes of our generation—our front liners. The lockdown has also given her more time to create new songs. Thus, she’s written five compositions. 

“Creating music is innate; an itch that needs release,” shares Jana. “We are here to express either our musicality or to be the voice of other people’s experience through music.” The absence of competition among indie artists has exhibited their essence in the industry. 

While the pandemic may impact our mental health negatively, for Janna, music is always a great avenue, a temporary escape, a relief to get back up and continue our battles. “Music for me is a great companion when it comes to stressful moments like this,” shares Jana. “It can take us to different worlds, moods, and perspectives. That’s the power of music.” Her inspiration enlivens through Him who loves unconditionally, her mentor, her family, and her unfaltering supporters.

Apart from the two singles she released this year, she’s not emptying her plate anytime soon and she has exciting news for everyone. Jana is planning to release her first full length album, produced by Biboy Renia of Join the Club (Nobela), which they’ve worked on since 2019. 

When asked about the recent digital release of her song, Di Biro, she shares “Di Biro is an innocent take about unconditional love for someone, felt in an instant which ultimately leads to a long lasting romantic attraction. It’s a hopeful song which one may have had at one post in their lives, reminding us how it’s okay to reminisce sometimes.”

Johnoy Danao 

local indie artists
Photo from @johnoydanao on Instagram

As a musician, Johnoy sees that a huge part of their work involves interacting with people. While we are in a pandemic and despite physical constraints, he had to find another way to keep doing that, both for himself and for other artists as a producer. Having most of his equipment assembled right at his own home, it allowed him to work on projects virtually. 

During the initial days of the Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ), he was quick to do a live “gig” on his Facebook page, just to test the waters. This paved the way for collaborations with brands and fundraisers through an online event. Since a lot of fans have been asking for chord charts of his songs, he created tutorials of his original compositions on his Facebook page and Youtube channel

Recently, he launched a series of online gigs entitled, Dapithapon Sessions, where he gets to do usual performances while benefiting a certain cause, raising awareness for social welfare organizations, and local brands that he is in support of. “I created this series to bring everything I advocate for together, in a format that’s relevant to the times.” shares Johnoy. “It’s also nice that I get to interact with my listeners and some of them are the same faces that I see in my live gigs.” 

While we’re facing uncertainties, music can be a great distraction. “At times, it can even speak on your behalf, when you can’t seem to articulate what you want to say,” he adds. “It can either enhance or neutralize your emotions.” And for the singer-songwriter behind songs Ikaw at Ako, Bakuran, and more, his listeners would tell him how his songs can calm people and get them through depression. He has even created a playlist of his written songs according to how our mood dictates. 

“It can be challenging to make music while the world is crumbling to pieces, but you have to adapt if you want to keep up,” adds Johnoy. “I also worry for the live music industry and all other industries that rely on public gatherings.” 

Kio Priest 

Photo from @kiopriest on Instagram

Even while working on his music, which is a constant creative process for Kio Priest, the pandemic has seen him taking extra care for his peripheral circle, constantly checking on his friends, making sure everyone around him is doing fine. While in quarantine, the queer indie artist performed in the Online Pride Revolution and an event by Nectar Manila. Although the feeling of seeing these performances take place online was quite odd for him, he is only hopeful for everything to get better soon.

As a singer-songwriter, this method served as his escape from anxiety and any type of struggle that he faces. Thus, this pandemic is nothing different for him. “Creating personas, fantasies through melodies, lyrics, and beats give you some sort of mini-therapy and an outlet to use up all your energy and temporarily transport your consciousness to a different world.” shares Kio Priest. And, this is exactly the experience he wants to give to his listeners; that whoever listens to his music may be reminded that they are not alone. 

He gets his inspiration from the LGBTQIA+ community, particularly from the conversations he’s having with his friends and their overflowing emotions. “I think it’s about time that we hear love songs for the queer, he+he, she+she, a bisexual relationship, a person doing drag, trans representation, and more.” he adds. That being said, Kio Priest is set to prompt this movement and create more songs for the queer. Now, he sees how the music industry is in need for more uplifting music more than ever. This is the time for entertainers to channel their influence and make a positive change. 

With his viewpoint to put out songs that can provide a temporary escape, he released a new single, Sugarbaby. “Sugarbaby was written on a whim when I thought I was about to quit music, because I thought my music was so depressing,” he shares. “Then I tried writing a fun song which I finished in 30-40 minutes.” Taking its literal meaning or a deeper interpretation, Sugarbaby can mean giving up your pride and submitting yourself to the thought of discovering another dimension to your personality. 

Angelito Ice

Photo from @angelito.ice on Instagram

Angelito Ice is no stranger to all the aspects of the digital platform. Similar to Billie Eilish and No Rome, he is what people call “the bedroom artist.” During the quarantine period, he performed for The Red Whistle, Hoevid-19, Bandwidth, Rappler, and OC Records. He also experimented with real-time and pre-recorded materials. Given the intimacy between the artists and the listeners, he thinks that the virtual set-up also makes everything a little more personal.

The pandemic has made him see how music is beyond performances. According to Angelito Ice, right now, music is about us, the politics, how we feel, and how we can use music to calm us or enrage us. As we focus on the lyrics, melody, and chord progressions, it can serve as a weapon to expose the ugly in our society. 

If we’re struggling to keep ourselves sane and our mental health aligned, Angelito Ice believes how music can heal. “It’s hard to compartmentalise work from leisure which plays a big factor on your serotonin levels a.k.a. Mood, one of his singles,” shares Angelito Ice. “This is a great opportunity for us to tap deeper into ourselves and train our mind to be a lot more disciplined.”

In terms of dealing with mental health, he’s giving emphasis on what is real. “There is a responsibility to keep everyone safe from negativity, but I believe it’s my calling to be honest with myself and each other because if I hold these things in, my thoughts get tangled and strained, my overthinking begins, and Mr. self-destruction appears,” he shares. “Let’s speak up about how we feel, because it can validate someone else’s experience, in my case, existence.”

Every month, he’ll be releasing a single. Recently, he’s released Orange and Mood, which is about mental health and healing. On August 7, he is set to release a new single entitled, Kill Em With Silence, which is about diminishing the voices of the people. “There are and there have been instances where voices of the minority were muted and so I wrote this song for those who felt inferior, because our voices may be silenced, but you can fight in other ways,” he adds. 

Jarlo Base 

local indie artist
Photo from @jarlobase on Instagram

Describing it as “filling out some of the holes and also expanding gaps that musicians have in their lives right now,” Jarlo Base reconnects with his audience through sufficient live-gig simulation. While quarantined, he recorded an acoustic version of his first single, Korona

Apparently, Jarlo Base is a self-proclaimed Blackpink fan. He’s inspired by how Blackpink pushes for efforts to place themselves in the global market. And hopefully, this is something he could do for the local music as well. Hence, the influence made him understand how listeners cling to music for comfort and happiness. He focused to push his boundaries as a musician and artist and come up with original and innovative pieces. 

However, it’s not always rainbows and butterflies. Last year, he went through a dark, depressive phase. “Aside from becoming a tool to calm myself down, I learned how music can serve as an outlet for the pent up emotions, stress, anxiety, fear, doubts, regrets, and more that I bottle up inside,” shares Jarlo. While our minds can superbly be powerful, it can create creative and convincing lies. If it weren’t for his outlets such as gym, music, basketball, and friends, he would have opted for life threatening decisions. With hope, music, and positive influences, everything can be under control. 

This coming Friday, he is set to release a new single entitled, Sisa. This song talks about someone’s lack of interest and eagerness in entering a relationship. Given the honor to listen to the song prior its release, the message of the song is very contrary to typical love songs. This is also the first time he has ever composed a piano solo and would best represent the direction that he’s taking as an artist. 

If you’re wondering what’s next for Jarlo Base, some of the things you should look forward to are his new track every once to two months, visualizers, concept videos, music videos, and dance videos. 

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