Filipino Electro-Rockers Talk Shop
Taken By Cars is accelerating well beyond their base in the Philippines. As the newly crowned MTV Iggy Artist of the Week, the Electro-Rock quintet continues to add new cred to their burgeoning music resume, which includes two albums, and a Warner Music record deal.
We talked to Taken By Cars about their recent experience playing at SXSW, how their hometown of Manila influences their sound, and why they once went by the name Mexican Rice Bowl.
Congratulations Taken By Cars. How does it feel to be chosen as MTV Iggy’s Artist of the Week?
Isa: It is truly an honor to be slated alongside international artists and to be featured by MTV. Nonetheless, we owe a lot to our loyal fans for bagging the Artist of the Week, as they have been voting for us relentlessly. After Time Magazine, our first showcase in SXSW, and now as MTV Iggy’s Artist of the Week, we hope this will all open up our music to a larger audience and at the same time represent our country in the best possible way. Thank you MTV for giving us this exposure!
We heard that you killed it recently at SXSW and at Mr. T’s Bowl in Los Angeles. How are US audiences reacting to your sound?
Bryce: It’s too early to tell, but the audiences at our gigs in the US (we also played a gig in San Francisco prior to heading to Austin for SXSW and LA) were very receptive to our songs and we hope it only gets better.
There are a lot of different indie rock influences in your sound – how did you develop your style? What kind of bands do you guys listen to?
Sarah: I can’t really pinpoint a specific way of how we developed our style. I guess it’s just a good merging of musical tastes and being close friends — we are able to reach each other through one another’s sixth senses when we jam. The pursuit of good music is something never ending to us. And yes, there are a lot of genres that appeal to us, but we did start out with Classic Rock and some 90′s Alternative inclinations, which eventually grew to a love for the 80′s sound, Brit-Pop and Rock, Dance Rock, and Indie.
Bryce: We were heavily influenced by Classic Rock growing up (Beatles, Led Zep, ACDC, etc). Later on, we started listening to more New Wave, Punk, Post-Punk and even Dance/Trance music. Thanks to the Internet, we got exposed to a lot of indie music acts in the past few years. There are just too many bands to mention. We try to find inspiration wherever we can. Each member has his or her own set of influences that differs from the others. I guess it’s the combination of these different sets that make our sound unique.
Bryan: As a band, we were huge fans of Classic Rock staples like Led Zep, Cream, AC/DC, Hendrix, Dylan, etc., and in the 90s to early 2000s, we leaned towards New Wave and Punk like The Cure, New Order, Joy Division, and Blondie. Nowadays, it would be hard to pinpoint bands that we listen to because there are just too many talented acts that release new music every day.
You have a song on your new album called “This is Our City.” Did you write that about Manila?
Sarah: That wasn’t really the intention. It was actually just a song about claiming something and being able to let it all go. It somehow resonates with people as having a patriotic vibe to it. It’s unintentional but it’s good!
We’ve never been – tell us about your favorite place in Manila or your favorite thing about the city?
Bryan: Favorite thing: The people in Manila. I guess Pinoys are known for their hospitality but it is something that can’t be explained unless you experience it first-hand. Favorite Place: A band favorite would be Saguijo. It is like the CBGB of Manila, so as a band, we had set it as a goal to be able to play there alongside other big bands.
Bryce: You should visit. The people are great!
What is the rock scene like in the Philippines? Are there any older local rock bands that you look up to?
Sarah: Probably Pedicab, who inspired the boys to get down to it and write something.
Bryce: The scene is very diverse. There are many bands playing a wide range of music from Pop to Rock, Funk to Metal, and anything in between. Its fun to just go out and watch a band and get surprised with the talent that’s out there. There are so many older Rock bands we look up to. There’s Pedicab, Sandwich, Urbandub, Razoback, Wolfgang to name a few. There’s just too many to mention and we owe our success to them supporting us. In fact, it was the drummer of one of these older bands – Zach of Imago – who helped us get our first few big breaks. He featured us in a local music magazine and got us for our first gig alongside big name bands like Pedicab.
Bryan: Yes! We do owe it to a local band called Pedicab. After catching a set of theirs, we all talked about scheduling our first writing session the coming weekend and “Logistical Nightmare” was born.
According to your bio on Wikipedia, you almost chose the names Morning Wood and Mexican Rice Bowl for your band. Why did you settle in the end on Taken By Cars?
Sarah: It was a name that had something to do with movement and sounded nice — nothing too profound to it really
Bryce: It was a band inside joke.
Bryan: When we realized that we were serious about writing material and gigging, we decided that we can’t be all lazy about naming our band. We sat down one afternoon and finally decided that “Taken By Cars” would be it.
My favorite song from the band is “Shapeshifter.” How did that tune come about?
Bryce: I remember we were trying to cover a song. I liked my guitar settings so I fooled around with the chords and then one thing led to another.
Bryan: The song sort of shaped itself in one afternoon. Bryce made a guitar part, which led to a bass line, which led to a beat and was finalized in a little over 4 hours (without complete lyrics).
In your older videos, you had a male bassist, Benny Yap. Now he’s been replaced by the beautiful Isa Garcia. What happened to Benny?
Sarah: He left the band due to personal and career reasons. It was just that sort of thing where his heart wasn’t in it anymore.
Bryce: He wanted to pursue other personal interests outside music and we still support him in all his endeavors.
Bryan: He didn’t know how to play synths so we kicked him out. MWAHAHAHA!
Does the band have a lot of fans outside of the Philippines? Elsewhere in Asia? Are Pinoy communities in Europe and the US tuning in?
Sarah: Yes, we have played in Singapore and Malaysia and just recently the US. There are a lot of warm messages online even from places we wouldn’t expect like Peru or Brazil or Spain. It’s always nice to get surprised!
Bryce: I’d like to think so. We’ve played in Singapore for the Baybeats Festival there, and we played in Malaysia before.
Now that you’ve made it to MTV Iggy and toured the US, what’s next for the band?
Sarah: New album probably, but before that, new baby. LOL
Bryce: A 3rd Album. Hopefully get to visit the US again and this time, play in the East Coast. Play in more music festivals around the world. Maybe Europe? Who knows? We are taking it one step at a time and just having fun while we are at it.
Bryan: New album.
Taken By Cars — “Shapeshifter”
Photo Courtesy of Charles Buenconsejo