After 10 Years, Orange & Lemons Are Back Together

by Paul John Cana
Esquire Magazine / July 22, 2017

Orange & Lemons, arguably one of the most popular Filipino bands of the 21st century, are getting back together. Exactly 10 years after they called it quits, the award-winning group behind songs such as “Hanggang Kailan (Umuwi Ka Na Baby),” “Isang Gabi,” “A Beginning Of Something Wonderful,” “Let Me” and the controversial “Pinoy Ako” are reforming with the trio of Clem Castro and brothers Ace and JM Del Mundo.

The band posted a statement on their website earlier today:

“We badly miss the music so we decided to add a new chapter in the band’s short history. We have officially reformed Orange & Lemons as a trio to continue where we left off. This is not some fancy reunion, but a decision to protect the legacy of the band and the songs that many of you know and have grown to love.”

The band also addressed the absence of co-founder, guitarist and co-vocalist Marco “Mcoy” Fundales. O&L disbanded in 2007 because of creative and personal differences between high school classmates and erstwhile bandmates and friends Castro and Fundales.

“When relations between Clem and Mcoy unraveled to the breaking point, O&L officially split in September 2007. The mutual disinterest to work together remains to this day and the creative difference and direction is evident in individual works, therefore irreconcilable. The collective interest and decision to reform rests solely on Clem (chief songwriter), Ace and JM (rhythm section).”

When O&L split, they were at the height of their career as one of the most popular names in local music. The first artist signed under Toti Dalmacion’s then-fledgling Terno Recordings, the band came out with their debut album, Love in the Land of Rubber Shoes and Dirty Ice Cream, in 2003 and won Best New Artist at the prestigious NU Rock Awards a year later. The band’s fresh, breezy sound of jangly guitars and whimsical lyrics brought them acclaim from critics and fans alike.

O&L soon signed with major label Universal Records, which released their sophomore LP Strike Whilst The Iron Is Hot in 2005. The foursome enjoyed unprecendented success: they recorded songs for commercials, TV programs and a movie, and traveled the country playing shows in front of massive crowds. They brought home numerous awards, including Artist of the Year at the 2005 NU Rock Awards.

At Castro’s prodding and insistence, the band took a step away from the mainstream with their third album, Moonlane Gardens. It was an attempt to recapture their more conceptual and high-brow indie pop sound. Produced by Robert Javier and Jonathan Ong, the album received widespread critical acclaim and won Album of the Year at the 2007 NU Rock Awards. It was handed out soon after the band had already broken up.

Castro says he was unceremoniously kicked out of the band. After a tense US tour in August 2007, during which Castro and Fundales weren’t even talking to each other despite sharing the stage during shows in multiple cities, the group disbanded. Fundales and the Del Mundo brothers went on to form Kenyo, while Clementine founded The Camerawalls and now plays in a solo project called The Dragonfly Collector. For 10 years, O&L ceased to exist.

Until now.

I sat down with Castro and the Del Mundo brothers to talk about the genesis of this reformation, what’s in store for fans, and how they really feel about Fundales. Excerpts:

PJ Caña: Have you three seen or talked to each other in the 10 years since O&L disbanded?

Clem: No. Nag-mi-meet kami, occasionally, siguro mga twice or thrice in 10 years. We would bump into each other at events.

Pero hindi yung usap or ‘kita tayo?’

Clem: Once nagkita kami nina Mcoy. Sa Greenhills Teatrino. We had a short encounter. NIlapitan niya ko. (He greeted me Merry Christmas). I replied with a nod. Hi, hello lang. This was in December (2015). After that, wala na.

PJ: So how did this reformation happen? When did you start having these thoughts? Walk me through it.

Clem: Recently lang. Late last year, nag-reach out na ko kina Ace. I thought, ‘What if I re-formed O&L with us three?’ Hindi sila sumagot. (Laughs)

PJ: Hindi ka sumagot Ace? Seen-zoned?

Ace: (Laughs) Wala pa sakin yun. Hindi ko pa naisip yun. Pero after, nag-reach out siya sa wife ko (Lui Cornelio). Sabi ko, oo nga. Matanda na tayo. Baka 10 years from now, hindi na ko makapag-jam. Hindi ko na kayanin yun. Tsaka na-miss ko naman talaga yung music.

Clem: Itong second attempt, may agenda na ko. I told Lui my proposal. Sabi ko sayang yung old songs. We should protect and monetize it. Take care of the business side and administration of our intellectual property. And syempre, we miss the music. Yun yung approach ko kay Lui. I said, ‘Kung ipapakita mo dun sa magkapatid, would they be interested?’ It was a long shot.

(To Ace and JM) So naging receptive kayo dun sa idea?

Ace: Oo naman. Kasi ako, matagal ko nang hindi nape-play yung mga kanta namin. Kinakanta namin minsan (with Kenyo) yung iba lang, like yung “Hanggang Kailan.” Tsaka iba pa rin kasi hindi ako drummer dun (sa Kenyo). Gitarista ko dun.

PJ: Na-miss mo mag-drums?

Ace: Oo. Baka nga mamaya matigas na tuhod ko. Baka di na ko makatugtog! (Laughs)

Clem: Baka nirarayuma ka na.

Ace: Ibig sabihin, kelangan na siya gawin. Next year, 15th anniversary of the first album. And this year, 10th anniversary of the breakup.

So with you guys back together, what exactly is going to happen?

Clem: We want to record a new song. Either completely new, or yung old songs na unreleased.

Ace: Marami din kasing mga songs na na-record na pero hindi naman nai-release.

Clem: Some of those songs are along the lines of the first album din. Same sound.

Will you play live shows together as O&L?

Clem: Maybe later on. Syempre we’d be open to it when the time comes.

Orange & Lemons

Let’s talk about Mcoy. He won’t be included in this project?

Clem: We have irreconcilable differences. Personally and creatively. And I think a lot of people know that.

Yan yung main reason why this reformed O&L won’t happen with Mcoy?

Clem: With any of the two of us. It won’t happen na just the three of them, and it won’t happen nang wala ako. As the chief songwriter and creative director, I will not allow that to happen. And ang grounds ko naman for reforming the band is the fact na si Mcoy talaga yung gustong umalis and he doesn’t want to work with me anymore. I remember (we had a) meeting sa Shangri-La and he was waiving his rights if I wanted to continue O&L. Pero hindi ko ginawa.

So at the time, you could have done that? Reformed the band?

Clem: I could have continued, pero…(Trails off). I wanted to leave the legacy as it was. Maiiba siya. And it was an opportunity for me to explore different avenues. I wanted to start from scratch. Mataas din yung ego ko. I wanted to prove to them that I could do it on my own. Sila din, I guess they wanted to prove to themselves that they could do it without me. So pareho kami, mataas ego namin.

What’s going to be different about O&L this time around?

Ace: Lahat naman kasi ngayon, kailangan mag-agree na sa gagawin, hindi katulad dati.

Clem: We signed a mutual agreement. And everyone gets a say. We won’t do anything unless it’s okay with everybody.

Ace: Aminado naman ako na dati talaga, na-burnout din kami sobra. Dumating yung time na pag gumigising ako sa umaga, ang unang iniisip ko, ‘Tutugtog na naman ako.’

Clem: Yeah. Best example yung sinabi ni JM, na in 2006, yung whole year na yun, ang free time lang namin, siguro two weeks lang.

JM: May list pa kami ng lahat ng mga gigs namin. Minsan tugtog namin, five times a day. Umaga sa call center kami, tanghali may taping or TV guesting. Tapos tugtog sa gabi.

Clem: That was a time na sobrang work na siya. Creatively, for me, it wasn’t fun.

Na-miss niyo ba yung time na yun?

Clem: Yung ganun? Ako hindi na.

Ace: Ayoko na.

JM: Ako din.

Clem: Ayoko na yung bibili lang ako ng kahit ano sa mall tapos pagkakaguluhan ka ng mga saleslady. Buti na lang yung mga tao, short attention span, so they don’t really remember us anymore.