It all started with a tweet by indie folk singer-songwriter Vincent Eco.
In 2018, Eco put out an open call for whoever wanted to form a cover band for ’80s British alternative act The Cure. The people who volunteered turned out to be some of the biggest artists in the Cebuano indie scene: Vincent Eco himself and Mandaue Nights’ Gino Rosales on guitars, Sepia Times’ Luigi Balaza on bass, Alden Panes of Thinking Chair on drums, and finally Aaron Domingo on vocals.
“I don’t even listen to The Cure pero gicomment ra gihapon ko (but I commented anyway),” shares Balaza with a laugh. “When we were jamming, none of the songs we played were from The Cure.”
Despite being only two or so years old, it was their combined talents and hard work that made them the grand champions of San Miguel Wanderbattle 2020, besting acts from all over the country.
“From our point of view, who would’ve thought na mu abot mi diri (that we would ever reach this point)?” Balaza continues. Domingo and Rosales join in by listing the acts that they never thought they’d get to play with, like Carly Rae Jepsen during the 2023 edition of Wanderland as well as Joji and Kehlani when they performed in Cebu as part of the Plus63 Festival. “It’s sort of surreal.”
However, just like many artists, the pandemic served as a challenge for the band. It was especially difficult for The Sundown, who after winning Wanderbattle, weren’t able to play at Wanderland Music Festival until almost three years later.
“The challenge was really to sustain [the momentum after Wanderbattle],” Rosales says. “When the pandemic happened, we didn’t really know what to do.”
He goes on to say that being signed with Island Records helped them sustain engagement with their listeners and release music even during the pandemic. They dropped a number of singles over the course of the past three years, including “UwU,” which is currently their most streamed track with over a million streams.
“When we think about our sound, the words anthemic, nostalgia, and timeless come to mind,” Balaza explains. “We want people to sing along to our songs during gigs.”
If you take a look into their discography, you’ll know that this is true. Their songs are upbeat, instantly catchy, and ooze electro-pop. Think a mix of Metro Station’s “Shake It,” Black Kids’ “I’m Not Gonna Teach Your Boyfriend How To Dance With You,” and The Killers. Just as Balaza puts it, it’s definitely nostalgic but with a fresh new twist.
For The Sundown, it’s definitely paid off. Last year, they received a nod from the Awit Awards for the People’s Voice Categories’ Favorite Song and Favorite Group Artist. They’ve established themselves in Cebu, regularly playing gigs, local festivals, and even opening for acts like Cueshe. Despite the wins they’ve garnered over the years, they feel very strongly about the disparity of support between acts from and based in Metro Manila versus acts from different regions.
“It’s also a challenge for us because we’re from Cebu,” Rosales shares. “Manila’s a different monster when it comes to the music scene. Naa man gud didto tanan (Everything’s there). It’s nice to get [the] insights of regional artists because that’s where the real struggle is.”
As a band that has experienced both the Cebuano and Manila-based music scenes, they hope that there can be more support and platforms for regional artists in order to bridge the divide.
“There are a lot of great artists in Cebu, Visayas, Mindanao, that are very untapped,” Balaza says to end the interview. “If there’s any last words [we want to give], we encourage everyone to explore outside the Metro.”