Why is Rakenrol so cool? The Philippine movie, screening today at 5 p.m. at UC Irvine, doesn't have a groundbreaking plot: it's the story of an indie band trying to make it big, where the members come of age, and there's a love story (natch) to boot. It's not just that the motley cast is endearing; the cast encounter “samurai swindlers, narcissistic rock stars, pretentious artists, and bizarre music video auteurs.” The beauty of it, however, is that the movie reminds all of us that no matter what language people speak, the song remains the same.
Directed by Quark Henares (who is also singer/songwriter for Us-2 Evil-0) and co-written by Diego Castillo (guitarist for one of the Philippines' biggest rock outfits, Sandwich), Rakenrol is a heartfelt ode to the formative years both artists spent in Manila's underground music scene.
Henares, now a USC MBA student, spoke to us early today about the movie and the state of Philipppine rock & roll. (P.S. It is subtitled!)
On what inspired Rakenrol: “If there was a movie that inspired it, it was
24 Hour Party People. We didn't set out to copy anything, but if you watch 24-Hour, you know what it's like to be in Manchester at that time–it's very time specific. That, and The Commitments was another inspiration.
You know what it's like to be in a band [Quark knew me when I had a band, as a young[er] person]. It's a part of your life. And we wanted to frame [that experience]. In real life, [being in a band] is a memory and it's a phase. That's usually what happens, anyway. You have that time and then you move on.
On his band, Us-2, Evil-0: “[Bandmate and designer] Mich Dulce is in London half the year, and I'm here (attending business school at USC) [and the rest of the band is in the Philippines]. So everyone's so far apart, but it's always fun to play together when we go back home. We'd love to do another album, but I can feel growing old–I don't [know that] we can do the cutesy boy/girl thing anymore. Even the Blast Ople (his previous band) [gimmick of] falling on the floor and getting kicked…[I don't know if] I can do that anymore.
On making more movies: “I miss making movies. I'm in business school now, and that's OK but it's not what I love. [I'd love to get a US distribution deal] but Rakenrol might be too local, people might not get some things like when [famous Filipino band Eraserheads lead singer] Ely Buendia shows up. Maybe it can be transposed, and I can make an American version of this.
On the Philippine music scene: “Right now it's really bleak for the Fillipino scene. There's nothing happening, and most of the venues featured in Rakenrol don't even exist anymore. There's a lot
of new music but it's not really getting people excited. Taken by Cars and Up Dharma Down probably the rare
bands with a local following. Taken by Cars [first Philippine band featured at SxSw] is my favorite band now; theirs was my favorite album of last year. I'm going to SxSw to make a video and documentary for them. But they're also playing in LA on March 16 at Mr. T's Highland Park Bowl (5621 1/2 N Figueroa St, LA).
Rakenrol is screening at the UCI Social Science Lab (SSL) 290, today, 5 p.m. A Q&A with the director will take place immediately after the screening; this event is free and open to the public.