2016 saw the release of I’m Drunk, I Love You (IDILY), a Filipino-produced romantic comedy. It is about two college best friends where the girl, played by Maja Salvador, has been in love with Paolo Avelino’s film graduate character. The film explores an unrequited love where friendship prevails. The film became a hit, blending tasteful indie styling with mainstream movie values and helping usher in an increase in quality in mainstream Filipino films for the next generation.
One of the most memorable elements of IDILY is the Danao, Dancel, Dumas rendition of the song “Burnout,” by Sugarfree–the band that shot Dancel to fame. While “Burnout” has been a Filipino hit song since its release in 2003, it has enjoyed a new popularity and a greater association with this generation’s #hugot culture because of IDILY.
Sugarfree remains one of the Philippines’ most influential rock bands, even after it disbanded in 2011. For this reason, Sugarfree songs are on a general circulation in all my driving playlists. The band was introduced to me in high school by my bandmate. I was not so familiar with their music, other than “Hari ng Sablay” from the trailer of the 2004 movie Jologs. After giving their tracks a deeper listened, I was hooked. They became a very important foundation to my band’s songwriting.
Sugarfree is a band that should come with a warning label every time their song plays. Nope, I’m not saying that their lyrics are obscene or are need an “explicit content” sticker. This is a band that can either break a broken heart even more or helps a broken heart accept the present, validate feelings, and move on.
I have to admit that I am only familiar with their first two albums, but these act as a primer for the band as they contain most of their biggest hits. The very first album begins with the aforementioned “Burnout,” a song about a failed relationship. Imagine starting the first album of your career with that!
The second album plays with self-deprecating themes even more. Admittances of one’s shortcomings in terms of ligawan and a frustration with low self-esteem prevail in this record. This is a classic album of the Pinoy emo generation. Even songs with lighter topics and happy melodies such as “Prom” and “Tulog Na” have an underlying sadness. These, of course, are reflections of songwriters who have gone through pain. They understand it so much that they utilize the ordinarily sunny Beatlesque pop arrangements and chord progressions to communicate their sadness.
The songs of Sugarfree still dominate the airwaves even almost a decade after their break-up. Ebe Dancel’s soaring vocals are still some of my favorite birit moments in the car. The drums by original drummer Mitch Quisumbing suggest a jazz background that hold the band together yet let the drums sing on their own. Hats off to bassist Jal Taguibao, now a Ph.D professor in UP Diliman, for some of the sickest bass lines in Pinoy Pop. It is perhaps this chemistry that helped the band develop the sound of a generation.
Sugarfree is one of those bands that are perfect for any time of the day on the road. They tell their stories excellently. What’s more: the meaning of their stories evolve with the lives of their listeners. Sometimes it hurts more, and sometimes you just sing to them for nostalgia. This is what makes them a fascinating band to get into.
For your next road trip: