With live shows on a temporary standstill and the global music landscape currently at odds with the challenges that come with the complete shift to the digital realm, more artists are surprisingly making records that represent the specificity of the times. Never mind the logistical restrictions on the music-making process: What’s important is that they’re channeling their personal experiences during forced and self-imposed quarantine through songs that function like the pep talk the world needs right now—most of the time, comforting and hopeful, but sometimes a complete validation of our collective rage, loneliness, and frustration inside.
Now returning with two new singles that capture the universal sentiments of grappling with an invisible peril, The Itchyworms drops back to back releases under Sony Music Philippines—their first under a major label since 2008’s Self-Titled.
Two new singles
“Armageddon Blues” and “The Silence” are two new songs inspired by the band’s response to the ongoing social, mental, and emotional crisis that people from around the globe are facing in the midst of a pandemic.
“Armageddon Blues,” in particular, is an update of an old demo recorded by Jazz Nicolas (lead vocals, drums, piano, keyboards, keytar) and Chino Singson (lead guitarist and backing vocals). With crunching guitar riffs, Beatlesque pop melodies, and raw but in-your-face production, the latest track from the band exhibits both ends of the emotional spectrum, as filtered through the lens of happy-sappy music geeks. As Chino recalls. “I remember it being a fun song to record. If you listen to the lyrics, you'll see it's very tongue-in-cheek, but very heartfelt.”
Written in 2005, the song was supposed to be included on the quartet’s critically acclaimed album, Noontime Show and the follow-up record, Self-Titled, but The Itchyworms felt that it was thematically different and completely ahead of its time. “Time jump to more than 15 years later, I was the only one who had a copy of the demo,” Jugs Jugueta (co-lead vocals, rhythm guitar, percussion, keyboards) narrates. “Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ) happened, and I sent them the demo of ‘Armageddon Blues,’ telling The Itchyworms to release the song, because it captures the somewhat end-of-the-world vibe of our present situation. A couple of weeks into the ECQ, we realized that we’re in this for the long haul, and that we had to do something creative. We decided to write and record a few songs inspired by our experiences during COVID-19.”
The songwriting sessions birthed another single, which already made its rounds on Facebook a week earlier. Following the official release of “Armageddon Blues” on all streaming and digital platforms worldwide a day late, “The Silence” was written by Jugs Jugueta and Jazz Nicolas, and recorded and produced by The Itchyworms entirely during the Enhanced Community Quarantine imposed over Metro Manila due to the global COVID-19 pandemic.“It’s what we think everyone is going through right now. Nobody could’ve foreseen 2020 to be like this,” Jugs shares the underlying theme behind the song. Musically, it’s a mish-mash of influences that put Depeche Mode, Radiohead, The Beatles, and The Walking Dead in a blender: The production seethes with soaring builds and nuanced sonic details, but ends abruptly in faded noise—as if the transmission is suddenly lost in the background, its silence “killing us” infinitely and metaphorically.
A “Quarantine” Album
Both songs are part of their upcoming album, Waiting For The End To Start, which was conceptualized and recorded while the members of The Itchyworms were confined in their homes, connected digitally by their resounding “shared” experiences. “Expect it to be unpolished and imperfect,” Jazz describes the new album. “Maybe a little lo-fi. It’s not necessarily all about COVID-19, but this is the result of what we feel during this time. So there’s restlessness, loneliness, boredom, delirium, fear, uncertainty, and all that jazz.”
Chino puts into perspective the concept behind the 8-track release, which will most likely drop sometime in July 2020. “Like any collection of music, it is a record of its time: A snapshot of the artist's reaction to his or her circumstances. But it's a concept album in that our aim was to create art in the midst of a pandemic, to capture our emotions in the music we record, even with the limited recording gear we have at home. So you'll hear amp buzz and imperfect vocals, but for me that's part of the spirit of true rock.”
Reunion with Sony Music PH
Waiting For The End To Start is their second album to be released under Sony Music Philippines. After their groundbreaking major label opus, Self-Titled, whichmade an impact in the local music scene at the tail end of 2008, the band was forced to go indie after the label’s short-lived hiatus handling domestic releases.
Speaking of their reignited ties with the international record label, Jugs tells in a statement: “Aside from the fact that we felt a sense of familiarity with Roslyn Pineda of Sony Music PH, as we’ve known her since our college days, we believed that Sony, being an International record company, could help us reach a wider audience. We want to reach new and foreign audiences, because our music is universal and capable of touching several hearts here and abroad.”
Chino adds, “I feel that Sony is a good place to be for an artist. Their team is small but they work hard and have their artists' interests at heart.”
“Armageddon Blues” is now out on various digital and streaming platforms worldwide. Watch out for the official release of “The Silence” tomorrow midnight, May 22, 2020.