One Last Time: Orange & Lemons Are Back!

by Ian Emmanuel C. Urrutia
The Philippine Star | September 22, 2017

MANILA, Philippines — Not all band reunions work. Most musical comebacks that end in disaster were products of crass cash-ins or soulless fiddling with the past. Take legendary alt-rock outfit Pixies as an example. Unfortunately, no amount of sonic overhaul can save the band from the failure to recapture its old glory. While the Pixies reunion tour in 2004 gained significant interest for their game-changing releases in the late ’80s — most notably 1988’s “Surfer Rosa” and 1989’s “Doolittle” — the subsequent turn of events proved to be messy. Years after getting back together as Pixies 2.0, lead vocalist/guitarist Black Francis and bassist/backup vocalist Kim Deal refused to settle their creative differences, unwary that this would open up old wounds and escalate further conflict. As expected, Kim left the Pixies again to pursue other music endeavors, while Black and the remaining members (lead guitarist Joey Santiago and drummer David Lovering) released records between 2014 and 2016 that were forgettable and critically panned.

Sometimes, it’s best to seal the legacy inside a glass case, untouched. But in the case of The Eraserheads, whose short-lived reunion was done in good taste at the right moment, with a refusal to pander to the lowest common denominator, it became clear that homecomings could be triumphantly bittersweet and life-changing. The reunion concert reportedly drew an estimated 100,000 fans and earned them a multimillion-peso deal that would last for years (without the need to tour again). Even if the commodification of nostalgia has cheapened the way we consume memories of music fandom, there’s no greater feeling than seeing your favorite band relive the classics that you fell in love with. After all, it’s about making the return more eventful, the experience worthwhile in the present time — no matter how ephemeral it is.

A Different Context

Exactly a decade since they’ve called it quits, Orange and Lemons have recently reformed to write new music and headline a couple of gigs this year. Apparently, the band’s founding member, chief songwriter and musical director Clem Castro, reached out to brothers Ace and JM del Mundo in a decision “to protect the legacy of the band” and continue where they left off.

The reunion seemed only a remote possibility a few months ago when Clem shunned the idea of working again with his former bandmates in an interview published in Supreme last Feb. 14, citing irreconcilable differences. It turns out Clem didn’t want to preempt ongoing negotiations between both parties that had been brewing for almost two years. “We were making arrangements about this reformation even before The Camerawalls concert. It’s been two years since I was contemplating this. I gave them an offer that they couldn’t resist. We tried to take care of things, and the news about the reformation. So here we are now.”
Drummer Ace del Mundo points out that timing has a way of healing old wounds. Hence, the reason for the change of heart. “Actually two years ago, tinatawagan niya na ako. Pero that time, hindi ako interested dahil busy pa kami sa kanya-kanyang banda. It’s been 10 years since the disbandment of Orange and Lemons. We miss working together as a group. We miss playing the old songs. Kaya napaisip rin ako.”

Regrouped as a Trio

Noticeably out of the picture is founding member and rhythm guitarist Mcoy Fundales — the lead vocalist behind the band’s chart-topping hits, Just A Splendid Love Song, Hanggang Kailan and Pinoy Ako. When asked about Mcoy’s absence from the current iteration, Clem takes no prisoners in expressing his decision not to make amends. “So many things have happened in the past that will not permit us to work together. But I respect what he contributed to the band. It was good while it lasted. But the idea of me and Mcoy working together, I cannot comprehend that, actually.”

While the less informed might normally associate Orange and Lemons with Mcoy Fundales, relegating Clem Castro to second billing, it was Clem who steered the band’s musical direction and decided, for the most part, what would end up in the repertoire. With Ace and JM as rhythm section, Clem wrote lyrics, melodies, hooks, chords and even devised production quirks, making the most of the studio, while Mcoy (in Clem’s view) would come to the studio to record his vocals and guitar parts. Clem also sang half of the album’s tracks, as McCartney did with the Beatles — yet the songs featuring his lead vocals never ended up being released as commercial singles. “Universal Records didn’t want to release a single sung by me. I was actually requesting that so people would have an idea that Orange and Lemons have two different lead vocalists,” Clem notes. “I wasn’t given that chance. Because sabi nila malilito daw mga tao. Dahil naka-identify na sila with Mcoy’s voice. I get that, but that’s not who we are as a band.”

Main Reason for Reformation

Although Orange and Lemons earned prominence with the release of their sophomore album, “Strike Whilst The Iron Is Hot,” and reached a creative peak with the sprawling ambition of its follow-up, “Moonlane Gardens,” their debut record was mainly responsible for putting them on the local music map. Released under Terno Recordings, “Love in the Land of Rubber Shoes and Dirty Ice Cream” was perfectly emblematic of their strength as a band with charming pop smarts, albeit lacking the production polish of the succeeding albums. Re-recording that first album is part of the reformation’s major agenda, which coincides with its 15th anniversary next year. “There are many things that we disliked about that record,” Clem says. “But that debut has so much potential. We just need to work on the arrangements and vocals.”

Aside from the upcoming reissue, the band is set to headline a series of music shows in the coming months, with 70’s Bistro as its first stop. They have also wrapped up the recording of a new single tentatively titled Lovers Go, Lovers Come.

For all the developments surrounding Orange and Lemons’ much-anticipated return, the buildup leading to the final reveal already feels like a triumphant welcome. This is a chance to get their legacy right, an opportunity to reclaim the spotlight at their own volition, away from the shadows of the past. “We’re gonna do it on our own, with no one telling us what to do,” Clem says. “Kailangan may balance kasi yan: business and creativity. So we wanna try it out again.”

Sometimes, life gives you Orange and Lemons. Now as a trio, with no major record label pulling the creative strings, Orange and Lemons are back — smarter, bolder, and more determined than ever.