It was 9:17 P.M., and Kathy Gener walked straight inside Route 196’s Jack Room to catch a quick dinner break after attending an earlier gig commitment at B-Side. Meanwhile, standing casually in front of Route’s façade was Anj Pessumal. She was having a casual chat with the early birds while making last-minute preparations for this month’s scheduled gig. This is what a typical pre-Attraction! Reaction! gig night looked like.
Since 2008, Attraction! Reaction!—or simply A!R! as the regulars would endearingly call it —has been religiously throwing gigs on a monthly basis, most of which are staged at their home court, Route 196.
For its fans, Attraction! Reaction! is one of those production outfits that wholeheartedly supports the indie scene here in the Philippines, while some critics perceive it as a snooty hipster hub that banners the obscure and anti-mainstream. Well, call it whatever you want! For its brainmothers, Attraction! Reaction! is simply home, a place where they get to be themselves and do what they love the most, which is watch their favorite bands play.
FHM: How long have you been doing Attraction! Reaction?
ANJ: We’ve been doing this for about 9 years.
KATHY: Yes, nine years in January.
FHM: So how did A!R! start?
A: Kathy and I have been long-time friends and gig buddies, and we had this idea of doing a film documentary about… do we have to say what the documentary was for? Ha ha!
K: Tony Leung! We have this strong fascination with Tony Leung.
A: Yes! Tony Leung! So, Kathy, me, and a bunch of friends were concocting a Tony Leung-related documentary. Our main challenge was to come up with something in order to fund the film, so we got this idea of putting up a gig to bankroll our Tony Leung project. At first, we thought we were just doing this for the money. We started inviting our friends to come over then book our friend's bands to play, and the number of people showing up started to grow in numbers. All of a sudden, it became a monthly thing.
FHM: How about influences? Any gig prod pioneers you look up to in terms of running a gig production?
K: During the same time A!R! was conceived, we were still going to gigs staged by established prod outfits like All-Starugo Night, Sunday Grabe Sunday, and Admit One just to see our favorite bands play. Those gig productions somewhat became our inspiration, and perhaps our influences during the formation of A!R!. We eventually patterned our scheme from those prods we loved.
FHM: We're curious. What's with the name Attraction! Reaction!?
A: We were just thinking of a catchy name that best described the prod. It dawned on us when we were browsing our iTunes playlist. There’s this one song that goes something like ACTION!, then something like IN REACTION! and then we thought “why not ATTRACTION! REACTION!”? It sounded so right because we like the idea of having a name thathas numerous layers of meaning to it.
FHM: So what was the first Attraction! Reaction! like?
K: We’ve had Us2 Evil0, Spazzkid, The Lowtechs, Halik ni Gringo, and Shirley.
A: May Gorgoro na ba nun?
K: Wala pa. Parang 5 lang ata nun.
A: It was here, at Route 196.
FHM: A lot of people say your production outift is an abode for hipster bands. Do you agree on this?
A: Personally, I don’t want to label it as hipster, especially with the bands we book. I mean, we don’t deliberately schedule them because they’re “hipsters”, more so with our audience. I guess the term hipster is entirely objective. Whether people tag our bands, or our whole scene for that matter, as "hipster", is entirely up to them.
K: Sa’kin okay lang. I’m not affected.
FHM: Speaking of hipsters, do you consider yourselves as such?
K: Nowadays, people tend to interpret the term negatively. Nevertheless, hipster is already obsolete. Laos na. Hindi na siya uso. MILLENINIALS na ang usong term ngayon! Whether we embrace the label or not, it’s all too pointless now because we’re like “ang laos na niyan eh!”
A: That’s so 9 years ago!
K: And I think the reason why people see us as hipsters is because Anj and I are upfront when it comes to our monthly lineup. We don’t go chasing out mainstream bands, not because we’re anti-trend, but because we simply base our lineup on our own music taste.
A: I prefer the term “indie” because it justifies our DIY attitude. Kathy and I share this high level of appreciation for the local indie scene. Tony Leung aside, that’s what got us here in the first place. We’re not here because we want to be tagged as hipsters, but rather to serve as an avenue in supporting and helping independent bands and artists. That’s what pushes us further to continue A!R!.
FHM: How tedious is it to organize a monthly gig?
K: First off, we make sure every band lineup is well-curated. We make it a point to keep the tonality of the bands in check to set the perfect mood for each gig. We’d pair bands like Ang Bandang Shirley with like-minded acts such as Ciudad or The Buildings.
A: Upon finalizing the lineup, we’d contact the bands to check their availability. From there, we discuss the show’s theme that would correlate to the season, occasion, current events or in this case, album launchings. We also discuss the title that fits best with the gig’s central theme. Most of which are based from movies.
K: We also consider the posters and artworks as an integral part of the process. We usually tap our graphic designer friends and favorite artists to come up with the poster. Although on some occasions, different artists will come up to us and ask if they could contribute, which for me is an absolute honor.
A: We just give them the titles, and from there, we let them express their creativity and style in rendering their ideas for the posters.
FHM: Outside A!R! what do you guys do for a living and for leisure?
A: Freelance screenwriter. I teach writing as well for college students. For fun, I watch movies or meet our friends at Today x Future. I also have a knack for fighting trolls on the Internet during my pastime, ha ha!
K: Marketing for PBA, but mainly on the creative side. I also juggle my time between managing Shirley and running our independent music label called Wide Eyed Records. On the side, I make and sell totebags. I’m very much into handicrafts.
FHM: Any plans on cooking a bigger A!R!?
A: We’re happy with how we do things for now—doing a monthly tambay where we can enjoy the company of friends and acquaintances while our favourite bands are playing in the background. We’re already satisfied with organizing gigs where people get to enjoy the night, regardless of who’s playing.
K: We don’t want to compromise the quality of our gigs just because we want to put on a bigger show. Just imagine the time and commitment that we need to invest, considering the demands of our day jobs. Regardless if there are sponsorships offers, I don’t see ourselves walking on that long road.
A: We prefer the “intimate” vibe. Mas sulit not only for the audience, but also for the band.
FHM: Aside from being producers, we know you are music lovers first. So among those bands who played for A!R!, which ones are your favorites?
K: Sandwich’s first A!R! appearance. Raimund Marasigan crowdsurfed!
A: Hannah + Gabi’s album launch. Intimate banig session. Very “unplugged” vibe.
K: Of course, there’s the “MUSH PITS”! It’s this thing where a bunch of people mosh to Outerhope or Ciudad or Ang Bandang Shirley. It never ceases to be fun and wild!
FHM: Do you consider A!R! to be a successful production?
A: Honestly, we never really had an end goal to begin with, except for the Tony Leung project that didn’t even pan out in the first place. That aside, I guess success was never really the goal for us. It stopped being about longevity goals, or about the money, or how big we want it to become, but rather finding a sense of fulfillment on our part. It felt good when we learned that some of our friends became established artists because of the awesome posters they pitched, or when the majority of the audience discovered a new band or brand of music because they saw it live at A!R!.
K: It’s enough joy for me to see up-and-coming artists eager to play or share their artworks for A!R!, or when some of our younger regulars commend us for being an inspiration. It really motivates us to continue doing this. Perhaps A!R! has become our own way of helping them in terms of showcasing their work.
FHM: Do you have any advice for those who aspire to follow in your footsteps?
K: Wag lang puro porma because starting a production outfit entails hard work, commitment, and dedication. Be passionate and serious enough when establishing your production because it’s your credibility that’s on the line. Give the bands what they deserve as well.
A: Do your own thing. Do what makes you happy. Never let others pressure you to do otherwise. And give your audience what they paid for. Saka ‘wag kang maglasing sa sarili mong prod!