Never the Strangers saw mainstream success after releasing their first album, and especially after their single “Moving Closer” became the official Close Up theme song. Now a little bit more mature, both personally and musically, we talked to frontman Ace Libre about their second album “Screenburn” and the band’s journey so far.
One Music: You went from being called Leonecast during high school to Never the Strangers. What prompted the name change and how did you come up with “Never the Strangers?”
Ace Libre: Leonecast felt like it had a lot of baggage that came with it, since it was the name of the band since high school. We had lots of member changes as well, so we already had a different identity as a collective. We felt that changing our band name before breaking into the music industry was good timing.
I just randomly came up with the words "Never the Strangers" one day. The band approved.
OM: Who are your main influences?
This is always a tough one because I'm tempted to drop the names of my favorite artists but I always find myself going back to and drawing from White Lies, Pulp, U2, XTC, The Beatles, and Muse. Because I'm the sole songwriter, my influences spill over into what the band creates.
Among many other projects, Nash (drummer) and Gab (bass) also play for Kaleidoscope Eyes, while JP (guitars) is also known as [DJ] John Pope. Knowing you have such different musical influences/backgrounds, how did you guys come up with this kind of sound for the band?
We've found the common ground or intersection of the music we like and that has made it easy for us to make music as a unit.
OM: You skyrocketed to mainstream popularity especially after the release of “Moving Closer,” which was used as the official Close Up theme song in 2012. What was that experience like at the time?
To call it crazy is an understatement but I'll go with that adjective; we knew that point was a monumental turning point in our lives and careers. It felt unreal. We were at the right place at the right time and prepared to take the leap.
OM: You just released a second album. Was the process easier or harder as compared to your debut album?
Balancing music and academics was the name of the game when we were recording for our debut. It was tough during the time but because it was all new to us, we were more than enthusiastic and willing to fulfill our responsibilities as students and musicians.
Looking back, I view the sophomore album the way a director or scriptwriter views a sequel to a great film; with the mandatory back story out of the way, there's a lot more freedom to explore and expound on the world built by the first.
We didn't exactly build a "world" in our debut album but the entire effort opened my eyes to new creative possibilities. My mindset during the time I was writing material for the sophomore was okay, I don't want to write cheesy love songs. I don't want vague figures of speech. I wanted to write more story-based songs that move in an easily discernible direction. Like a decent film plot.
OM: “Showbiz” is your latest single, and it’s not a subject matter that’s commonly discussed in songs. What prompted you to write about it and did you have anyone in particular in mind?
My goal for "Screenburn" was to take on the role of a storyteller and "Showbiz" is a clear example of that. I wanted to write about something interesting and to me, the urban legend of having to make sketchy compromises to become a star was ripe ground for storytelling via lyrics.
OM: “Screenburn” is also on vinyl! Who came up with the idea and why did you decide to release your album on vinyl?
Our guitarist JP had for the longest time suggested that we have our records released in vinyl but it was Universal Records that put it into action.
OM: Most of you also have different bands/musical projects, how do you find balance between these bands as well as work and recreation?
Being a musician is strange yet interesting because music is simultaneously one's passion, work and recreation. This is a double-edged sword. I've been doing this for a few years now and one thing I've learned is that if you have no life, you have no music. There would be little to no life experiences from which inspiration for songs and new music would be drawn.
Maybe it's just me, but I have come to enjoy doing other things outside of music. I enjoy writing, watching movies and television shows, hanging out with friends, playing video games, and writing about basketball.
I do what I want or what I feel I need to do and, while this might not be the best philosophy, it sort of balances out my life. It kinda sucks to be one-dimensional.
Gab and Nash play in multiple bands and JP has his solo projects but we're all able to communicate and coordinate our schedules so that we're able to do as much as possible as efficiently as possible.
OM: What has been your most memorable gig so far?
The most memorable one in recent memory was our set in UP Los Banos. It was our first time playing there and nearly everyone was into it. The crowd was an ocean of energy and, as performers, we draw from that and are better for it.
OM: How about your most memorable experience with a fan?
Some members of our fan club gifted the band with its own "band of the year" award. It was such a wonderful gesture and I keep it on display in my house.
OM: Any upcoming gigs?
4/11 - 70's Bistro
4/14 - Trinoma
4/14 - The Brewery
4/15 - Route 196
4/19 - 12 Monkeys
4/26 - ABS CBN
4/30 - SM Sta. Mesa
OM: What is “OPM” for you?
I acknowledge the existence of the label but don't think much of it. I just try to focus on getting better as an artist because I know there is much to improve on. I believe that by doing and being better, I make the world or industry better as well.
OM: Who are your current favourite local indie acts and why?
Bullet Dumas. His stye is unique and witnessing him perform is an unparalleled experience. I sincerely hope that his success paves the way for artists of his ilk in the next few years.
Listen to Never the Strangers' latest single "Showbiz" below!