Cover Story

Sandwich: Always Relevant, Always Changing

Sandwich have maintained their status as one of Pinoy rock’s enduring bands because of the way they’re never afraid of change.

In January of this year, Sandwich posted their first TikTok.

A month later, they had their first video with over a hundred thousand views. A week after that, their next video hit over 150,000 views. Eight days after that video, another video hit over 600,000 views. 

These were all part of their own TikTok series, where Raymund Marasigan, Diego Castillo, Myrene Academia, Mong Alcaraz, and Mike Dizon went around interviewing the likes of SB19’s Josh Cullen, Yael Yuzon of Spongecola, Basti Artadi of Wolfgang, KZ Tandingan, Yeng Constantino, and more on their “favorite” morenas. It was a campaign to promote their first single of 2024, “Morena.”

This was a band that was no stranger to a music marketing joint — for Five On The Floor, they made custom stickers for each of the album’s songs, while <S> Marks The Spot had an exclusive toy made in collaboration with Secret Fresh, a vinyl toy shop. 

“Mostly every single, we have a meeting with the label,” Marasigan explains, as he talks about the process of how they market new releases. “And we ask them how to promote [it]. Normally, you do it through radio, you do a radio tour —”

“— Back in the day!” Alcaraz chirps, with a laugh.

“Yes, back in the day,” Marasigan repeats, as the whole group laughs along.

But for “Morena,” he says, it was different. PolyEast had brought up that the “new thing to do now” was social media. While all of the members of the band were more or less very present on social media — Marasigan has a vlog channel and runs his Offstage Hang podcast on YouTube, Castillo hosts his own internet radio-slash-podcast called Foaming At The Mouth, and Dizon is a food vlogger — they never really actively promoted their music as a band on their platforms. They functioned as more of their creative outlets outside of music. 

“We didn’t really know how to navigate [TikTok],” Marasigan continues. So, the label helped them set it up. PolyEast’s “team of youngins” (their words, not mine) met with the band during the shoot for the live performance video of “Nyare?”

Sandwich as the cover stars of the Billboard Philippines Indie and Alternative Issue

Alcaraz then explains that that same team convinced them to make their first TikTok. “And then that same team started showing up in all of our shows… we became comfortable with them, we became comfortable with their ideas.”

In principle, it’s all the same things they’ve been doing before, in terms of marketing — physical press kits, physical CDs, the likes. “The only difference is iba ‘yung medium (the medium is different).”

“I think of [TikTok] this way: it’s like a quantifiable way for you to find out how many people listened to your song. Like for radio, you can’t quantify it unless they hire you, like ‘oh, it’s a hit,’ but you wouldn’t really know until they hire you to play shows.”

Making TikToks or coming up with their own ideas isn’t second nature yet, but at the end of the day, Marasigan says, “We’re not afraid to try it.”

In just one passing sentence, Marasigan pretty much sums up the secret to what has made Sandwich such a long-standing and enduring band in the Filipino music scene — not being afraid of change.

Sandwich for Billboard Philippines.

Sandwich Photographed by Magic Liwanag, May 2024 at the Billboard Philippines Studio in Pasig.

We saw it in 2003, when the band was dropped by their original label just before the release of Thanks To The Moon’s Gravitational Pull. Instead of shelving it, they decided to record and release the album completely independently. In today’s world, this seems like no big feat. But in the 2000s, recording an album on analog could’ve gone for upwards of P200,000. So, the band rolled up their sleeves and got to work — recording the album in Marasigan’s apartment, mixing and mastering, printing and pressing the CDs, dropping it off in radio stations and record stores — the whole lot. 

When original singer Marc Abaya left, Marasigan assumed frontman duties and they enlisted Alcaraz from Chicosci as another guitarist. They went on to release Five On The Floor, which produced some of their biggest hits like “Sugod,” “DVDX,” “Walang Kadala-dala,” and more.

And even when the pandemic hit around the same time they just released a new single (“Buhol Buhol”), they found a way to record and perform together from home as early as March 2020, just as the first enhanced community quarantine was implemented.

Even though adapting and evolving with the times has been a constant fixture in their journey as a band, it was the pandemic that was the hardest for them to navigate. It wasn’t just difficult for them career-wise, but also as individuals. 

“We weren’t prepared [at all],” Marasigan says. Alcaraz hops in, adding, “Because you can’t adapt to it.”

“That was the hardest for everybody,” Marasigan continues. “Mentally, physically, emotionally, psychologically, everything.”

“We weren’t a band band,” Castillo shares, remembering what made that time difficult for them. They weren’t together, they didn’t have their normal setup, and they weren’t playing. “We checked up on each other every few weeks; we’d have Zoom talks.”

“I realized, that even though I knew we were lucky to have Sandwich, noong tinanggal siya sobra pala akong swerte [when the band was physically gone, I realized how lucky I was]… I never take Sandwich for granted, but eto talaga na ramdam [I really felt it]… I really just wanted to play with them.”

“But with everything else, we’re just rolling with it,” Marasigan then says, referring to everything that’s come and gone in their career. “We’re not like, ‘Oh, Instagram? What’s that?’ Wala pa naman.”

All the members of Sandwich started playing music in an analog world, where music was experienced in a tactile way and radio stations controlled who gets heard and why. The world is so much different now, and technology has evolved to a point where everything is, admittedly, easier. While some older music fans or artists turn their noses up at how the music scene is today, Sandwich embrace it wholeheartedly.

“This is the golden age of music right now,” Marasigan says. “I’ve been talking to younger artists and they were surprised that back in the day, foreign songs ruled the local live scene. Like, if you played the best version of Guns N’ Roses, or the best version of Bon Jovi…[or] you are the ‘Bon Jovi of Novaliches’… up until the early 2000s, ‘yun ‘yung sukatan [that was the metric].”

He goes on to say that now, Filipinos are proudly playing Filipino-made hits. Whether it’s bass players playing BINI or people saying that their favorite song is “Mundo” by IV Of Spades, this all seemed unimaginable when they were first starting out.

“This was our dream when we were younger,” he says, beaming.

“This is the golden age of music right now.”

Dizon adds that it’s the kids of today, who don’t necessarily get formal training, that are putting out great music. “Sa tingin ko, sa future, paganda lang ng paganda. Ang layo mula nung na-experience namin from the ‘80s, the ‘90s, early 2000s, to here… parang, wow.”

(In my opinion, in the future, it’s just gonna keep getting better. It’s so far from what we experienced from the ’80s, the ’90s, early 2000s, to here… like, wow.)

They all have their own “fearless prediction” (Marasigan’s terms) of what Filipino indie and alternative music will sound like in the next year — Dizon says it’s just going to get grittier, Castillo thinks it will get more dance-y, Alcaraz wants to see more diss tracks (for context, our interview was in the midst of the Kendrick Lamar vs. Drake beef) in different genres, and Marasigan sees more dance pop in the future.

“Robin Rivera [former professor at the University of the Philippines and record producer] once said na umiikot ang cycle ng music. Pero may mga butas. [For example, now] may butas for hard rock. May butas for this or that. So ‘yun ‘yung makikita natin in the future,” Academia says, adding that in time, all the different genres and subgenres will come back into social consciousness. (Her personal take is that heavy music will come back to the mainstream.) 

(Robin Rivera once said that the music always comes and goes in a cycle. But there are gaps. For example, now, there’s a gap for hard rock. There’s a gap for this or that. So that’s what we’ll see in the future.)

And where will Sandwich be in all of this? All of them say that they’re still playing catch-up with the times. Alcaraz and Academia say that they’re finding new things to learn on YouTube and incorporating it into their music. But even if the avenues for marketing evolve, or the tastes of the world around them change, one thing’s for sure: Sandwich will be here, making the music they want to make, finding new bands and songs that they love, and doing it all while having fun.

A version of this story originally appeared in Billboard Philippines Indie and Alternative issuedated June 15, 2024.

Sandwich as the cover stars of the Billboard Philippines Indie and Alternative Issue

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Photographed by Magic Liwanag. Creative and Fashion Direction by Daryl Chang. Art Direction by Nicole Almero. Styling by Daryl Chang, assisted by Kurt Abonal and Maria Paz Gamus. Hair & Makeup by Cee studios by Aira Castor. Production Design by Justine Arcega-Bumanlag. Shoot Coordination by Mikaela Cruz.

On MONG: PULL & BEAR bomber jacket, ZARA t-shirt and GAP pants. On MIKE: PULL & BEAR high-neck shirt, jacket and trousers. On RAYMUND: VANROB HERRERA trousers. On MYRENE: NOAMI NG blazer and UNIQLO trousers. On DIEGO: VANROB HERRERA trucker jacket and H&M trousers. On Mike, Mong, Diego, Raymund and Myrene, all UNIQLO button-down shirts, D.D.DAILY trousers, and H&M necktie