On The Records: Outerhope


Philippines surely not very far from Indonesia, but unfortunately, I’m totally not aware of their music scene, let alone the indie scene of it. Last Philippines music caught on my radar after the anthemic “Manila Girl” is probably Christian Bautista who gain some amount of fanbase in Indonesia. That’s it. But once again, thanks God for the internet, I educate myself by try to find some indie bands from Philippines and bumped into Ouerhope, a sibling duo from Quezon City who make a very nice indiepop tunes filled with childhood melancholia. It was love at the first heard, then I download their new EP for free on their bandcamp and send an email a.k.a love letter to know them better.

Hello Mike & Micaela, where are you right now and what’s the scenery outside your windows?

Micaela: We are at my studio in the Cubao district of Quezon City. We both live and work here; Mike’s place is across the driveway. Outside the window there is a large warehouse rooftop, and sky, telephone wires and treetops above; to the left a street sloping downhill and a house with vines, and some dilapidated buildings. Beyond we can see a few tall buildings towering from the old shopping district of Cubao, and a fraction of the train line above EDSA, Metro Manila’s main thoroughfare.

 When the first time you decide to make music together?

One day in 2004, we tried to compose songs together. That afternoon we wrote two, which made it to our first LP Strangely Paired: “Sky High Blue” and “Morning After.”

What instrument do you play? And how did you learn?

Micaela:  I had a toy keyboard when I was little and made melodies with it. I learned about keys and time signatures by paying attention in grade school music class. I got my first keyboard on my 11th birthday. It was a Yamaha Portasound. I can’t quite explain why, but instead of classical piano lessons my parents made me take organ lessons.  It was the late eighties after all!

Mike: I took up classical guitar lessons briefly when I was in the 3rd grade but got quite impatient with the songs on the syllabus.  I think Tom Dooley really challenged my sanity.  I was made to wear rubber bands to separate my fingers every night for months – that actually might have done me some good in hindsight but at the time, it was too bizarre for me to keep up.  Eventually, I made the escape into just teaching myself and learning from all the other kids who more likely than not, gave the exact same ridiculous excuse to get away from music that they couldn’t relate to.

 I read on your web that you’re inspired by children’s and 60s folk record, could you mention the particular ones?

We had the 1970 Sesame Street Book and Record, which had some great songs. We particularly liked a track called “Nearly Missed”, sung by Susan. We also had a Puff the Magic Dragon record, and a lovely version of Hush Little Baby, which stood out among other nursery rhyme records my mother played before we went to sleep.

Our mom was a big fan of 60s pop, and taught us Everly Brothers harmonies. She loved Claudine Longet and other little-voiced girl singers from that era. As we grew up we were also drawn to Simon and Garfunkel and Joni Mitchell.

 What are your biggest musical influences?

 Micaela: Aside from the childhood stuff I listened a lot to The Sundays in my teen years, then went on to Cocteau Twins, Belle and Sebastian, The Pearlfishers.  We were big on 80s teen movies, which often had great soundtracks.

 Mike: We went through a lot of different phases, hopping from genre to genre like most people growing up.  It’s almost impossible really to figure out which artist or song influenced us the most.  It’s likely that some bits and pieces made their way to the present but we try not to let that matter so much.  It makes it easier to consider that we can actually create something new by pretending to be oblivious.

 How would you describe your music?

There’s always that hint of nostalgia that ends up in the song whether it’s planned from the beginning or not. We suppose that having boy-girl harmonies and two distinct instruments, though circumstantial, reinforce that mood substantially.

 Who’s in charge for the lyric? And what things influence the lyric of your music?

We both write the lyrics, sometimes together and sometimes individually. Whether the subjects are imagined or experienced, the songs are always rather personal.

 What’s the story behind the band’s name?

The name came from the title of Nicola Barker’s book Five Miles from Outer Hope. Outer Hope is actually a real place, and we don’t know what it’s really like there but we liked the visual the words evoked.  Hopefully, we get to visit at some point in our lives.

 I enjoy your No End in Sight so much; I play it on repeat for hours, what’s the main theme for this record? Why do you choose to release it as an EP instead of full album?

Thank you so much, that means a lot to us. We knew that we were undergoing some changes musically and wanted to explore other sounds, new things we can do instrumentally and with our vocals. We revisited our childhood music just like in our first 2 records, but moved up a decade, and came up with something that wouldn’t be out of place in those teen movies we grew up with and loved.

Soon we received invites to the NYC and San Francisco Popfests, much to our excitement. And we didn’t have much time, so we decided to complete a 4-track EP instead of a full-length album in time for the shows.

How was your experience in SF and NYC Popfest?

We had an incredible time there! We met lots of great people. It was very surreal to perform at the popfests, we were so nervous but people were listening intently and even showed their appreciation by approaching us after our sets.  It was very humbling to have shared the stage with bands we genuinely admired but it also kind of boosted our confidence in performing and in writing songs the way we do.

Could you tell me a bit about indie scene in Philippines?

 It’s quite diverse given that not that many artists end up on big labels.  A number of independent labels have popped up over the years and that has really helped draw up a platform for more and more music to be created and distributed.

 What it feels like to be in band with your sibling? Do you guys have any other siblings?

We have an older sister, Mira, who is a full-time mom living in Ohio. Our younger brother Bobby lives in Berlin, where he’s writing his first book. He also instigated the creation of our label, Number Line Records, which we run with him regardless of the distance that separates us.

Being in a band with your sibling conveniently allows you to be very genuine when it comes to writing songs.  There’s no way you can be pretentious when the other person has seen you make all those decisions growing up.  We keep each other in check and that’s quite comforting.

 Next project? 

One of the songs on the No End in Sight EP will be rereleased on vinyl early this year along with tracks from the other artists on our label in this Number Line Records Anthology LP.  We’re also gearing up to write new material for a third full-length record before the year ends.