Strong as Bamboo

manalac bamboo

manalac bamboo

They are probably best known for having two ex-Rivermaya members in their lineup, but in the eyes of the worldwide audiences that they have rocked, Bamboo are very much a band in their own right…

They have returned to our shores for Asean Rocks at Hard Rock Caf? Singapore. I get up close with the band just hours before the show, while singer Bamboo Manalac and guitarist Ira Cara Cruz answer my questions about their upcoming album, worldwide tour, and the fans.

GASHAUS: You formed Bamboo in 2002, four years after leaving Rivermaya at the height of their success. Was there initially any pressure to emulate what you had achieved with Rivermaya?

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MANALAC: No, there was no pressure at all. We just wanted to make music

GASHAUS: Did the 4 years you spent in the US change the way you made music?

MANALAC: Yeah, going there changed me in every aspect. When I was there I went to school, I worked, you know, I changed. I gained a lot of experiences and I guess it did.

GASHAUS: Your debut album As The Music Plays was a great success. In your second album, Light Peace Love, you experimented with several new styles. What response did you expect from some of the fans who might have expected something similar to you first album?

IRA CRUZ: We did the album without any expectations. We were just happy with what we had. We were sort of consumed by the music you know, the songwriting began to dictate how this album would be like, and it all began to fit together.

MANALAC: I always thought that Light Peace Love was like a diary of what we went through during the year after the first album. It was a diary of our musical lives and our personal lives. The best thing that happened with this album is that it opened up to a bigger audience. With As The Music Plays we got people who were hooked on to that sound, and then got hooked on Light Peace Love as well, and we ended up with a bigger audience.

IRA: Including people who wouldn’t normally listen to rock.

MANALAC: Yeah, so we were opening the doors to that.

GASHAUS: Would you say that you guys were evolving?

MANALAC: I can’t say we were evolving; we kept going and continued to push ourselves to create new material. When we get bored we know that it’s time to pack it up. We just keep the fire going.

GASHAUS: Is the third album on the way?

MANALAC: It’s on the way. We are recording it in Manila actually. It’s called We Stand Alone Together.

GASHAUS: What can we expect from the forthcoming album?

MANALAC: We can expect…

IRA: …a lot of different stuff thrown into a pot.

MANALAC: (laughs) Yeah the third album is the ending, the footnote of the first three albums, which are like a trilogy. From this point we move on and maybe evolve. Then maybe we will try, for the next album, to change gears. I think for this album we threw in everything including the kitchen sink.

GASHAUS: You have upcoming tours of the US and Australia.

MANALAC: We’ll be in Bahrain, Australia, USA and Canada.

GASHAUS: Is it important to give a Filipino identity and feel to your music when you perform in front of these audiences?

MANALAC: I don’t see that, because I think our music is universal. Like when we were in LA, people didn’t see that, they only found out we were Filipino after the show. Just like here in Singapore, we play a gig and we’re just artists sharing our music. It’s encouraging because I never imagined we were playing in Singapore, Dubai, Bahrain or Thailand. We’re just happy playing good music. Now with the help of the internet, the interest is getting bigger.

GASHAUS: Is there any country where you have always wanted to perform?

IRA: Well I wanna go to Europe though (laughs). Actually I just wanna SEE Europe.

MANALAC: Yeah actually, UK.

GASHAUS: Bamboo’s singing style has often been compared to Rob Thomas…

MANALAC: Seriously?

GASHAUS: That’s what I’ve heard. What are the band’s major influences?

MANALAC: Well it’s not Rob Thomas (laughs). I personally have a lot, it ranges. I listen to a lot of different things. Right now I’m listening to Ryan Adam’s Gold and Heartbreaker, and a little of Green Day’s American Idiot. I can’t wait to get the new Norah Jones CD.

GASHAUS: In your song Much Has Been Said, I noticed that the last few lines “You say / I only hear what I want to / You say / I talks all the time so” is from the song Stay (I Miss You) by Lisa Loeb. Is she also one of your influences?

MANALAC: No, we were just messing around. When we play live, sometimes at the end of our songs we mix in a different song, and that was the idea behind that. But that bit us in our ass because what happened was Universal came looking for us and they wanted some money for it, so that sucked. If I knew, we wouldn’t have put that there.

IRA: Now she gets a cut from everything we do.

MANALAC: From the CD, actually.

IRA: Does she even need the money? (laughs)

GASHAUS: You have been a great pleasure to interview. I have one last question. In all of your travels so far, have there been any bizarre stories involving the fans?

MANALAC: They’re pretty much all the same. They’re all great… Singapore’s been pretty interesting actually.

IRA: The last time we were here we walked back to our hotel from a gig at Fort Canning, and some of the fans just walked with us all the way to the hotel.

MANALAC: After the gig we walked back to our hotel, we freshened up, and then went to eat. When we went to eat we saw that the same set of fans were eating at the same place.

GASHAUS: They waited for you?

MANALAC: No, it was by sheer coincidence.

GASHAUS: Did you speak to them?

MANALAC: Yeah it was great, just catching up with the fans.

GASHAUS: Yeah, it’s a small country (laughs).

IRA: Singapore has been great, man.

MANALAC: And we can’t wait to come back.

GASHAUS: That’s all I have for you guys, thank you very much for your time.

MANALAC: Thanks man, and tell the fans to visit our website We’re fixing it up.

IRA: Yeah, it’s a mess (laugh)

MANALAC: It sort of looks like a wet market, so we’re gonna fix it up.