“Sansette is a band born and raised on the island of Cebu where every day feels like summer,” reads the description of the group on Spotify. The sentiment is true in more ways than one, especially in a province where both the beach and the mountains are just an hour or so away from the city center. Sansette take these influences and infuse them into the signature sound they’ve been known for: sunny guitar riffs, upbeat synths, and the occasional ukelele or acoustic guitar strum.
Composed of members Jarren Narciso on drums, Cris Ong on bass, Adrian Labra and Leonard Cadurnigara on guitars, Peter Cambonga on saxophone, Michael Villacarlos on keyboard, and Gabriel Villacarlos on vocals, the idea for a band started out as early as elementary and high school.
“Kami ni Gab ug majority sa members (Gab and I, as well as a majority of the members), we went to the same elementary and high school,” shares Labra in an exclusive interview with Billboard Philippines. He goes on to say that band culture was very prominent at the time, especially since they grew up in an all-boys school. “Nag-start mig (We started) play sa mass, cover songs, and then eventually na-introduce mi sa mga OPM artists sa Cebu…mga indie scene ba (Eventually, we were introduced to the OPM artists in Cebu…the indie scene). Naa mi amigo [nga] si Karl [Lucente, of Mandaue Nights and co-organizer of Cebu’s biggest indie music festival, September Fever], murag siya ang nagtabang namo para masuwat ang among first single” (We have a friend named Karl, and he helped us write our first single).
In 2019, the seven-piece band made a splash in Cebu with that exact debut single, “Sunburn.” Just a year after they were formed, they were in the running to be winners of the San Miguel Wanderbattle, an annual battle of the bands competition to win a slot on the lineup of Wanderland Music Festival. Sansette were able to reach the grand finals, bowing out to fellow Cebu-based act The Sundown.
“Si Pat Sarabia [drummer of Oh! Flamingo] ang usa sa mga judges sa Wanderbattle finals,” (Pat Sarabia of Oh! Flamingo was one of the judges at the Wanderbattle finals) shares Labra. After their set, Sarabia approached the band and offered them an opportunity to be signed with Manila-based record label Offshore Music. The rest, as they say, is history.
From 2020 to 2022, Sansette released a number of demos and singles made over the pandemic, two of which featuring Ysa Ferráz of indie pop duo Ysanygo and Offshore Music co-founder Ely Buendia.
While the band have established themselves as a surf pop band, they never intentionally decided to make “beach music” (as they describe it). Ever since the start of Sansette, they’ve brought their diverse set of influences into the band’s music, such as indie and psychedelic rock band Kubra Commander, veteran rock group Missing Filemon, and blues rock artists Purple Kush, just to name a few. As they look forward to the future, they’re looking to experiment with their sound even more.
What’s next on the horizon for Sansette? Labra and Villacarlos tease that there are a number of exciting projects for the band in the next few months, such as a project with other Offshore Music artists, a new single, and hopefully, their debut album.
Beyond just their plans for their band, what Sansette want is to share and push a platform for Cebuano artists. “Support local music! The music scene in Cebu — and how much more, in Manila — is so diverse. Everyone’s so good,” Villacarlos says in a mix of Bisaya and English, to end the interview. “They need to be given a platform.”
Bands like Sansette — and admittedly, all over the country — infuse their personal experiences and culture to create the soundtrack of Filipino life. Whether its from the sunny beaches that line the shores of Mactan Island to a road trip to the mountains of Busay, Sansette make music for not just Cebuanos, but for all Filipinos to sit back, relax, and enjoy the tropical weather all around the country.