16 July 2015


Up Dharma Down is accessible in many ways. The band plays at least once a week in bars up north all the way down south, and you don’t have to pay an arm and a leg to get in. On social media, they allow the public a peep at their private lives, cat snapshots included. And their music, though distinctive in sound, touches upon the familiar: love, longing, confusion.

On the flip side, theirs is a career anyone with musical aspirations can only dream of — anyone who knows how challenging and, to some extent, discouraging a creative endeavor is. As for artistry, their work gained the admiration of many, including Scottish band The Blue Nile’s Paul Buchanan, who even agreed to lend his voice in a track in their latest album, “Capacities.”

They make heartbreak, because beautifully written, noble and reason for people to commune in a bar, cognac in hand, shouting to someone in particular, “Ba’t di pa sabihin ang hindi mo maamin?” They also make the dancing-averse feel like it’s safe to jig. (What’s the Tagalog word for it? Ah, indak.)

It’s no surprise that in this year’s edition of club series Hennessy Artistry — Philippines, Up Dharma Down has been the brand’s hand-picked artist. Through its run we’ve seen Armi Millare (vocals, keyboards), Paul Yap (bass, synth), Ean Mayor (drums, synth) and Carlos Tanada (guitars, synth) stun strollers at Bonifacio High Street with a surprise show; collaborate with another band, with Armi singing a duet with Yolanda Moon’s Cholo Hermosa; and, in Armi’s words, “make the biggest club in Asia sing to [their] songs.”

Light shower out of beat. #HennessyArtistryPH #GISTPH @hennessyph @uddofficial

A video posted by Razel Estrella (@fishpeep) on

Their spirit (and yes, Hennessy) brought us on a high, but how was the experience on their end? Why aren’t they playing in an arena yet? And how’s that new album going?

GIST: What made you say yes to Hennessy Artistry? What is it about the brand and concert series that resonate with your principles as musicians?

UP DHARMA DOWN: Because it’s a good project wherein a corporate brand recognizes the importance of evolution and provides support to artists who are pushing the envelope.

How was the Hennessy gig different from your other gigs — from the crowd to the venues?

Well, it was different in a sense that some of the venues are places we don’t normally play at. It made it possible for us to reach another set of audience.

Which acts impressed you the most during the entire artistry series and what have you learned from them?

We’re definitel y impressed by the growth of Cholo Hermosa of Yolanda Moon. Not because he’s our label mate but, objectively, because of how he’s matured in just a few years as a songwriter and a musician. We can’t wait for Yolanda Moon’s album to come out. It was also a blast to have him sing with us a song of ours and for us to do our version of Yolanda Moon’s track Leaving Soon live!

Armi posted on Instagram after the Valkyrie show, “I never thought we could make the biggest club in Asia sing to our songs because the idea just sounds downright impossible.” After this, will you consider playing in bigger venues?

We have and continue to play in bigger venues side by side the smaller ones. What Armi meant was for a club audience in a dance club, she didn’t expect them to be signing along or reacting the way they did.

Has anyone — a fan or otherwise — asked you to stage a stadium concert? Will we ever see you do one?

That has been suggested many times by fans, promoters and producers; but we don’t think our fan base is that huge yet that we will be able to fill a whole stadium! We’re not opposed to doing such a scale but we’d rather build our audience steadily as we go through the years and we’re more comfortable when the gig is more intimate.

Was there ever a gig where you didn’t perform Oo? How does it feel, seeing fans don’t seem to tire of it and scream like it’s the latest hit on the radio the moment they hear the first few notes of the song?

Yes, there are gigs wherein we don’t perform Oo and there are times when they don’t seem to mind. But for places wherein it’s our first time to perform, we try to play the hits as well as the album favorites. It feels good of course to see and hear people singing your songs, even more when it’s the album cuts and not necessarily the hits.

Describe to us the pressures of creating Album no. 4. If it’s okay to share, your fears when writing an album, especially this one.

There’s always pressure after every album, as we want to better ourselves as musicians and songwriters; and obviously there is no other way but up and we strive to top the previous albums. So yes there is pressure on ourselves, but no pressure from Terno Recordings, who will always just say, “Do what you want to do as long as it’s of quality.”

Give us four words that you associate with the upcoming album.

Celebratory, up, vibrant and colorful.

What’s the best way a fan can show appreciation for your music?

By purchasing the CDs and vinyl and going to the gigs!

If Up Dharma Down were a cocktail, it would be…?

Mint julep — because we would like to give our audience that chill, cool vibe.

—Originally published on GIST.PH

Top Shelf