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Reality is colorful too, and other life lessons I learned from Any Name’s Okay

By Kristine Malonzo Published Dec 01, 2023 5:00 am

The story of how the Eraserheads met still circulates on our campus grounds. Students still talk about the four friends who met within the halls of Kalayaan dormitory and made history. It fueled the perspective that college was magical. It could inspire movies, songs, and even a musical.

I was one of those students. My freshman year was online due to the pandemic, so I was yearning to feel the same magic. When in-person classes resumed, I braced myself for the pilot episode of the new series I was starring in—the best years of one’s life, as they called it.

The first few days were eventful. But over time, the hues faded. I didn’t know if it was the academics, the dullness of growing up, or if the media I consumed set my expectations too high. Rewatching Alone Together or playing Eraserheads songs while walking along the University of the Philippines was not enough to bring back my rose-colored glasses.

Then, while listening to a random playlist on my way to class, a mellow song filled my ears. I learned that it was by a band that met on the very campus I was walking on.

All I Feel and See by Any Name’s Okay did not romanticize college life but bared its harsh realities. It didn’t paint my world in a rosy pink hue but accentuated the colors that were already there, and that somehow made everything feel less lonely. It meant that I was not going through the terrors of growing up alone.

I naturally became a fan. Their music still makes my days more colorful and brings out life’s shades of lilac skies, bright lime green, and most recently, cobalt blue.

For the band’s sixth birthday, I had the amazing opportunity to talk to Sofia Abrogar (vocals), Renzo Lumanog (vocals and rhythm guitar), Anton Atienza (lead guitar), Arvin Olete (drums), and Juan Lada (bass) about their humble beginnings and life lessons they picked up in their six-year journey.

YOUNG STAR: Six years ago, did you imagine you’d be where you are right now?

RENZO: We did not expect any of this at all. It all shows in the (band’s) name: “Any Name’s Okay” was a joke. It’s nice na, at our sixth anniversary, we gained a lot of friends in the scene who are here to support us. You never really imagine stuff like that. It’s a surreal learning experience.

But, within the five of us, we really like doing it. As long as we can keep doing it, we’ll do it. With music, especially here in the Philippines, it’s not something you can go into with full confidence because you’re not sure you can live off of just that.

What are the challenges you experienced when balancing your studies and music, and now, work and music?

SOFIA: Personally, I had a more complicated relationship with the band in terms of how far I wanted to take it. I was 17 when we started. We’d go to bar gigs and I wouldn’t be allowed to drink. I didn’t know how long this was going to last so the amount of commitment was always unsure for all of us. Lada and Anton are engineers. Renzo has a career in marketing and advertising. Arvin is a full-time musician who has commitments outside the band.

But, within the five of us, we really like doing it. As long as we can keep doing it, we’ll do it. With music, especially here in the Philippines, it’s not something you can go into with full confidence because you’re not sure you can live off of just that.

RENZO: You have to be a little obsessed with it. We try not to sugarcoat it because it’s hard. It takes a lot of sacrifice, but at some point, if you enjoy it, it becomes worth it.

You sing of love, heartbreak, friendship, and life. How do you select which topics to sing about? Has public demand ever affected your releases?

SOFIA: We’re trying to expand roles, but for the current discography, (Renzo and I) write most of the lyrics. We don’t try to pretend that it’s anyone else’s. If we’re going through something, we write about it on our own and we show the band. A big part of our discography so far is just about being young, which could mean a lot of things. We just hope other people can relate as well.

We really appreciate our fanbase but we’re lucky that we’re not fully dependent on the band and we have other things to fall back on, so we can still write songs we like. It’s kind of sad that art is being treated like a commodity now but at the end of the day, we regret it less if we like the music we release.

What is it like working with your friends? How do you maintain a good relationship with each other?

RENZO: You should see our recording sessions. When we have to record or rehearse for three hours, we have to pay (the studio) for four (hours) because there’s an hour (where) we just talk to each other.

Building an actual friendship with your bandmates, not just for work, makes the music better. You can’t force it either. That’s why so many big bands will just split up at the “peak of their career” because they never really formed a relationship. You have to work on it, which entails simply listening to people and sharing about your day.

Where do you see yourself six years from now?

SOFIA Hopefully still doing this. We didn't have expectations when we started. I still don’t have expectations now. I’m just grateful for every gig we get to play.

RENZO: It’s like what Phil Dunphy said in Modern Family, “No expectations so you’re always pleasantly surprised.”