Interview by MARK FRANCISCO of JASPER TAN, Chief Lyricist
1) When did Thoughts and Notions start? How was the group named? Can you mention the original members and their instruments? What was your genre? When you started back in 2006, where did you perform? When you released your debut album back then, in what way was it released? Who were your avid fans back then?
Thoughts And Notions started as a fund raising project for our Church way back in 2004. The founding members, Wilbert Tan, Thrina Dimaano-Escano, and Me decided to come up with a music album that would be intended to be sold to help raise funds for our Church. When we got good reviews from our Church mates, they encouraged us to send a copy to House and Praise and see if they would be interested to pick up our album for national sales and distribution. It did not take that long for House of Praise to offer us a distribution contract and the rest is history. There was really no serious intention to make this a long term project, most specially forming a band. But House of Praise told us to form a band so that we could promote the album. Thus, we recruited John Fernandez, Tim Marquez, Alvin Carreon, and Nelson Dychauco Jr. (a fellow church mate) to form the band. Our genre is basically Christian contemporary music. We play in different Churches but we were not limited to performing in Churches alone because the band is composed of Christians from different denominations. We were also highly active in the local music community joining establish bands on stage like Tabularaza, Gasulina, K9, Southrace, Fayeed Tan and other such bands back then. We were also very active in supporting the local underground music community mostly composed of student bands that perform in local productions in various bars or music events produced independently by students back then. So it is safe to say, despite our genre, we were not discriminated.
Our debut album was released in CD format under Praise Music (the distribution arm of House of Praise) and was distributed Nationwide. Most of our listeners started from our churchmates, which eventually grew to include the general public when local CDO radio stations started playing our songs. Neighboring cities in Mindanao as well as in Cebu, and radio stations as far as NU 107 and RJ Underground Radio in Manila also played some of our songs, but mostly form the second album.
2) Emerging back in the music scene 16 years later, can you compare the music industry then and now? What are the advantages on your part? Does your genre back then still attract listeners now? Who are your target audience now? Have you changed or fused genres?
Back then, it was a bit harder to explore different types of music. Radio and MTV almost had the monopoly in influencing us what songs to listen to. If you want to get more experimental, then you’d have to purchase a copy of a CD from random artists which costs a lot if you just want to discover other artists and their songs. Now, anyone could just log on to different digital streaming music sites and apps like Spotify, iTunes, YouTube. As long as you have an internet connection or LTE data, music is at your fingertips.
On our part, the biggest advantage right now is that people can easily listen to our songs without having the need to purchase our albums. All of our releases will be available at their fingertips and they can easily access it anytime they want to. Back then, every time we introduce our album to our listeners, they have to purchase a copy before they can fully listen to all our songs. Which not everyone really has the spare money to buy every CD they want.
Our genre (Christian contemporary music) is still very relevant specially during these dark times (Covid pandemic, people losing hope, suffering anxieties and depression etc.). Actually this is also one of the reason why we decided to come back because some of us dealt with our own anxieties and one of the ways how we were able to conquer that is to start listening to positive and inspirational music. So yes, maybe some of our songs would mean to someone.
Our target audience remains the same. Anyone from all across ages. Back then when we were younger, the main audience were the teeners and young adults, but we also had a fair share of older listeners who really took a liking to our songs. Because at the end of the day, what they are listening to is more than just music. It’s the message that we wanted to share. Specifically God’s Love and our experience of it.
I can’t really say that we have changed genres. The core is still the same. In the second album, we kind of added more secular acceptable songs. But the core is still the same, positive, inspirational Music. Currently we are working on a third album, and lyrically it is a going back to our roots (Christian Music). Musically, since we are older and more mature now, we are going to go on a more mature route. Maybe we might sound less popish and more Gospel, Country, Blues, or a fusion of the songs that we are more known of.
3) Considering that a generation has already emerged during your hiatus, what challenges are you now encountering?
I think nothing changed except right now, there’s a huge emergence of K-Pop songs. But that’s the beauty of music. It is a cycle. Some songs might sound outdated now, but in the next year or so, people will tire of listening to almost the same type of songs and would want to go back to other genres. Here In the Philippines, if you look at the evolution of popular music. In the 90’s it was the Rock explosion, which died down in the early 2000s replaced by the easy listening Acoustic songs, then the Band explosion returned in the mid 2000s, then followed by the easy listening Bossa songs. So it’s just a cycle. Now, artists like Ben&Ben are huge. So I wouldn’t be surprise if rock music will make a come back in the coming years.
4) Back then, you just emerged into adulthood. Sixteen years later as more mature persons, how do you think will that affect your songwriting and dealing with your audience?
I think our songwriting has matured with us. Back then we were writing lyrics that related more to young adults and teenagers because I was also conscious about the type of songs that Thrina would be singing. But now that we are older, we more or less share the same experiences as adults with families and professional careers. Speaking on my end as a lyricist, for the new songs that I’m writing, I’m channeling more on what I am experiencing right now and there are some themes that I find too personal then but right now I’m not ashamed of sharing them. Because I also want to relate to people my age. On what they are dealing with, specially when it comes to their Spiritual Faith. And with experience also comes wisdom.
5) We are now into a more digital age. Since you are considering it as an opportunity, how do you intend to capture new audiences given the fact that there are also other recording artists elsewhere in the country which are using the same platforms?
I think we have never shied away from our genre. That’s the thing in our country. Christian contemporary music does not have a huge listener base. But in other countries, our genre is hugely accepted and embraced. And we are never ashamed to call ourselves a Christian contemporary music band from Cagayan de Oro, Philippines. So that itself would probably pique some curiosity specially now that our songs are more easily accessible on digital music streaming platforms in various countries. I could still remember back then when you do a google search of Christian contemporary music band from the Philippines, Thoughts And Notions was one of the top search results. Since we had a long hiatus, we are working on recapturing that.
6) Can you specifically mention the platforms where we can access your album In Awe of His Amazing Love?
As per our digital music distributor, our songs will be available across 240 countries in 20 plus different digital music streaming platforms and stores. But for the Philippines, it will be available in nine digital music streaming apps because of region-locked issues for other streaming apps. So as far as I can remember, it will be available in Spotify, YouTube, iTunes, Amazon Music, D24/7, 7Digital, KKbox, qobuz, Deezer, and Tidal. To give more clarity, some countries have their own local digital music streaming apps. So the app might not be available to some countries but our songs will definitely be uploaded in those apps too. So people in that locality can access our songs on their country’s excusive digital music streaming app.
7) How many tracks does In Awe of His Amazing Love contain? What is its genre? How confident are you that it will connect to this new generation of audience?
What are the long term plans for Thoughts and Notions now that you have your own individual professional lives and families? How do you remain to be as artists in this setup?
In Awe of His Amazing Love contains ten tracks of Christian contemporary Music. One track I could say is a Praise and Worship song, which back in the day, some churches in Cagayan de Oro City were playing it in their Praise and Worship events.
In terms of connecting with a new generation of audience, we have a new second vocalist that will be infusing our songs with his own brand of music. His name is John Fernandez. He is a singer/songwriter who has a wealth of experience musically. He was actually part of the first line up of our band when we started promoting the first album before we separated ways. Now he’s back with us.
Ever since the pandemic hit, artists were forced to explore the digital world by doing live shows on various social media sites or pre-taped videos that later on would be uploaded on video sites. So those are the things that we are working on. And for the meantime, our main focus is the producing and the recording of our third album. So all efforts and energies would be spent there. Our better half and our partners are supportive with this endeavor because through the years, Thoughts And Notions did not operate as just your typical band. We have always been a family built by the Christian values of Love, Faith, Hope, and in times of troubles, to be Redeemed. And I would like to believe that although some of us might have been apart, but the seed planted within us, was nurtured through the years, and has been instrumental in helping us raise our families and live our professional lives in the most Christian way as we could. We acknowledge that we are neither saints nor perfect examples. But we have each other and a big GOD behind us to pull us back to the right path. Thoughts And Notions is God’s project first. We are only instruments. And we trust his plan.