It’s not every day that a relatively obscure song like “Cloud” shoots straight to the summit of Spotify Philippines Viral 50 charts. The latest single from Lions and Acrobats, a pop-rock ditty with bracingly infectious and crisp production, has crossover potential written all over it—a quality that seems to open more opportunities for the band in terms of commercial breakthrough.
But before the track’s unexpected success, “Cloud” was released in stripped-down format a few years ago through local streaming and download platform Amplify PH. And from that moment, it became an instant favorite among music fans who would sing along to the song on live shows and embrace its wistful, anthemic appeal.
“Blame it on the acoustic version,” lead singer and chief songwriter Icoy Rapadas tells FHM.com.ph. “Doon naging mas familiar yung fans. But I’m excited with the studio version. We just wanted to get it out of the way.”
Almost two weeks after the song was released, “Cloud” is still in the top 3 of Spotify Philippines Viral 50 charts, and is currently enjoying airplay success on Jam 88.3 and MYX Philippines—a proof the track’s staying power.
But there’s more to Lions and Acrobats than its chart-topping lead single. In fact, the band has quickly amassed a string of remarkable achievements this year, with the release of their latest album, Mundane as the most prominent among the bunch. With sturdy song structures, sophisticated instrumentation, and newfound restraint, Lions and Acrobats’ debut full-length coasts through exciting sonic choices that weren’t explored in previous releases.
While their kind of unabashedly earnest rock music isn’t exactly groundbreaking, the band shows discipline and music chops throughout the process, rewriting the direction of the music with a reinvigorated start. “Yung pinakamalaking change siguro dito sa album is when we gave Icoy the spotlight he deserves,” guitarist Jim Lopez reveals. “Hindi na siya instrument lang dito. Sinuportahan namin yung melodies niya. Hindi siya sumisingit sa amin. Yung huli kasi, parang guitar line lang siya at bassline. Ngayon mas naging prominent yung lyrics niya.”
Truth be told, Rapadas’ straightforward but introspective songwriting speaks volumes of the sextet’s maturity. We’re drawn to his struggles to navigate romantic relationships and conquer personal demons, but at the same time, the more we listen to songs like “Whiskey,” “Cloud,” “Photograph,” and “Car” the more we feel invested to the intimacy of his narrative, and somehow, it resembles ours too in a quite relatable way. Icoy adds, “lahat ng songs namin in the album one-word lang na object. These things represent a life story. But the object is more than just a metaphor or a representation; it’s a life event, an important one that we want to relive kahit sa music man lang.”
In terms of consistency, the band has delivered a more restrained approach in music arrangements and production. Gone are the days when you’d hear Lions and Acrobats push their intensity to the limit with histrionic showcase of techniques and guitar solos. Mundane does exactly the opposite. It’s a well-produced record filled with subtle inflections and a more pop-informed sound, waiting for the right moment to build instead of going for the kill.
Bassist Oteph Tumambing admits they couldn’t get any happier with the band’s newfound sound. “Mas nag-iingat kami na hindi na maglagay ng unnecessary parts. Dati andami naming pa-pogi. Tapos yung ibang parts mas iniklian namin para mas may sense.”
It’s worth noting that the new record is produced by Nicholas Lazaro—the underrated genius behind some of the best local indie releases of the last 2-3 years—from Ourselves The Elves’ low-key pop opus, Geography Lessons to BP Valenzuela’s confessional electro-pop record, The Neon Hour.
“He’s very particular with what he wants with the record,” guitarist Carlo Angelo Lava points out. “We went to recording knowing that he is the album’s producer. It’s very refreshing to have an opinion outside the band helping out with the music for the betterment of it.”
Marked by stronger melodic initiatives and tight musicianship, Mundane proves that less is actually more, and that sometimes, it’s more important to put premium on songcraft rather than technique or embellishments. It’s a warm up for what’s to come, and hopefully it would involve more risks, more challenges, and less drama.
Photos by Jello Espino