reaping the cost of solitude

Tuesday, August 08, 2017

The Ransom Collective + Gab & John of Urbandub and the creative process

Yesterday I watched an episode of the Coke Studio series featuring the indie-folk group The Ransom Collective together with Gabby Alipe and John Dinopol of the now defunct hard rock outfit Urbandub. The series is basically about putting two completely different acts together, locking them up in a room, and forcing them to collaborate to create a new, original song. Both bands are also given a chance to choose a song from each other's catalog and do their own renditions. Overseeing the project is Raimund and Buddy from Eraserheads.

The Ransom Collective (TRC) is somewhat still a 'new' band despite having released several songs a few years back. The guys of Urbandub, being the seniors of the bunch, quickly acknowledged this, calling TRC the 'new breed' and stressing the need to scale back and take a back seat in an attempt not to ball-hog the creative process. However, this only seemed to put tremendous pressure on the guys in TRC - specifically the singer because as a result, he's unintentionally pushed to the limelight to become the head writer by default. There's nothing more terrifying than to write music and immediately have it subjected to scrutiny by your newfound peers. Thankfully, the Urbandub guys, while being supportive throughout, stepped up and went into a much more hands-on approach midway, and both bands managed to create a slightly awkward, TRC-ish track with distorted guitars.

The Ransom Collective, Gabby Alipe and John Dinopol of Urbandub and producers Buddy Zabala and Raimund Marasigan.

The creative process, in general and not just in music, is both scary and amusing. It's hard enough to express your ideas to your own band mates, but to have this strange band - these outsiders - tag along and actually see you go through the motions as you create something from scratch is daunting. No one can speak for TRC's singer, but most writers are hard enough on themselves. You're constantly looking for honest feedback while frightened to ask for it, and you're always questioning yourself. Am I doing it right? Should I do this instead? You present an idea and begin reading the people in the room. How are they reacting? Their body language? The worst thing that could happen is to receive condescending pseudo-compliments like "it's nice". You know, the kind that doesn't go overboard with praise but also not say "it's average" so your feelings won't get hurt. It's one thing to hear your closest friend say "it sucks", but to have strangers say it is another.

It's nice. In the worst case scenario, it means "your work sucks but I don't want to be a douche so let's just get this over with."

As for the covers, TRC did "First of Summer" while Cables and Space, er, Urbandub did "Fools". TRC's version of "First of Summer" was cute. It was adorned with the usual TRC embellishments like violins, xylophones, and vocal harmonizing that could make Lalay proud (former Urbandub bassist, back-up vocalist).

Urbandub's take on "Fools" was a highlight though. They managed to capture the dreamy aesthetic and the spirit of the original song while adding a new layer of hard rock to it. The original song itself was already remarkable, so it turned out to be quick work for Gab, John, and the rest of Cables and Space. Raimund and Buddy couldn't contain their excitement while witnessing the Urbandub alums at work, and harped praise over how "Cebuano musicians work". (Though I doubt the renowned work ethic from Urbandub and its ilk is still thriving in their hometown, since the alternative rock scene in Cebu is pretty much dead - along with its live bars. In its place - VisPop. But a rant for a different time.)

Overall, this series is fun to watch. On paper, it's a chance for listeners to hear their favorite musicians collaborate, but really - it's practically a reality show of sorts for writing musicians. Art, in general, is a delicate process. It's deeply personal, and it's hard to come out and share something personal to the world. While you're still in the writing process, it's sacrilege to show strangers your unfinished work, and you only ever show your drafts to people you trust. In this show though, musicians are forced to do the opposite. Regardless if you're working alone or with a new group of people, you will need lots of encouragement, honesty, and just an overall supportive environment to keep you pushing forward. Naysayers have no place in the room. Literally.

Catch the entire episode here:

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