To say that Lean Ordinario isn’t afraid to step outside of the box is an understatement. In fact, that’s the spirit behind Loner — his house music-inflected project that marries the catchiness of Filipino pop and the groove of UK dance. What started out as a final requirement for his music production degree eventually turned him into a favorite in Metro Manila’s electronic and club scene with his fast-paced beats and catchy hooks.
When Loner released his debut record No Fidelity in 2018, it introduced him to the world as a bedroom pop artist singing over slowed down beats, echoing glittery guitar riffs, and haunting synths. It wasn’t until his 2020 breakout EP, Into Midnight, where he finds his footing in dance and house music. He builds the foundations for what would become his signature style: chopped and electronic vocals, bouncy drums, and infectious melodies. This continues into his second album Make Noise which brings back the haunting synth textures of No Fidelity but with more pronounced, insistent hypnotic beats — the perfect formula for songs that you can’t help but dance to.
“I started practicing music when I was in high school. I would just join Battle of the Bands, making covers and stuff before,” he tells Billboard Philippines. “I realized when I was looking for college options, the other degrees didn’t interest me until I saw a degree in music production in [De La Salle University – College of Saint Benilde]. That’s when I started to take [music] seriously. I was able to meet a lot of people in the industry, build more connections, and furthermore practice my craft.”
A little after he graduated college, Loner found his first start in music as a drummer for London-based Filipino musician No Rome. During their world tour, Loner shares that he discovered dance music during their stop in the United Kingdom. “That genre really interested me. I realized I wanted to pursue [dance music] since not many [artists] were working on that genre before. Now, it’s kind of gaining hype with NewJeans, PinkPantheress, and all these other dance pop artists.”
While dance pop may have its origins outside the country, Loner sees this as an opportunity to combine these international influences with local ones. A lot of that, he says, can be attributed to his relationship with Filipino music over the years.
“Back when I was in high school, I used to cover a lot of OPM stuff. It’s nice to see the growth of it from being super band-centric before and now, there’s a lot of electronic music references and a lot of different types of genres compared to before that [it was] very focused on ballads,” he shares. “It’s also nice to see a modern approach [to pop] today. I guess that’s also where I want to fall in. I still want to incorporate some [Filipino] elements like focusing a lot on love, medyo ma-birit minsan, [but still] mixing elements from other genres.”
Loner’s ability to be fluid with his music, always testing his boundaries in the process, is a part of his journey to create a sound that is “less controlled and more whatever [he] feels.”
“Moving forward, I wanna be less genre-specific. Syempre, the genre will still be revolving around dance music and all its subgenres. You can expect more alternative elements, more moody emotions, and some dream-like dance [aspects].”
Now, the artist is finding the balance between consistency with his releases but also giving the time he needs to grow, listen to feedback, and realize where else he can take his sound. “You can expect that I’ll always be growing, I’ll always be trying new stuff, and I hope the listeners can join me on the ride.”
Loner is carving out his own space in an industry that many describe as “cookie cutter.” He has a talent for reinventing the formulas of pop, and executing them in a way that shows listeners that Filipino music is constantly evolving. Loner is an artist that is committed to charting his path in today’s industry, and just as he says, we should all join him on the ride.
Listen to Loner’s 2021 album Make Noise below: