Now to others, this may not be so, as many see the Philippine music industry as sort of the awkward cousin (ten times removed) of the glamorous and popular America. However, despite the petty controversy, which is often tainted with negativity, bad vibes, and backlash—whatever else you want to call it, the truth of the matter is this: We’ve struck liquid gold. And that gold is better known as The Ransom Collective.
A musical anomaly
The Ransom Collective, comprised of lead singer and guitarist Kian Ransom, drummer Redd Claudio, percussionist and vocalist Jermaine Choa Peck, bassist and vocalist Leah Halili, keyboardist and vocalist Lily Gonzales, and violinist as well as vocalist Muriel Gonzales, is an indie band that was formed in 2013.
Though a relatively new addition to the Philippine’s musical family, this newcomer is not to be underestimated. Its sound—simple, acoustic, with a touch of pop and a dash of folk (which hasn’t exactly been as big in the Philippine music scene as it is today)—together with the relatable themes of its songs (youth, discovery, and the journey of life) reach beyond one particular group of people. Furthermore, the emotions many of us face but are too scared to bring out into the open—such as doubt, fear, apprehension, and uncertainty, are undeniably felt in The Ransom Collective’s tone. But what makes all the difference is the bold, dauntless, almost reckless abandon that these songs are sung with.
Straight from the depths of the heart, evoked from the hidden parts of the youthful soul, and shamelessly and fearlessly brought out into the open for all to see—something rare in the industry—The Ransom Collective’s music has become a symbol not just of a generation’s resilient take on life, but a representation of what an entire country’s music industry could be.
The cost of being independent
Though The Ransom Collective’s members have only been together for four years, they certainly seem to have a good hold on the ropes of the industry and its demands. However, being “independent” (not working with a label), all of the hard work that goes into being a successful band falls solely on their shoulders. “We actually don’t work with a label. We’re independent. It’s just us and our manager. We have to finance everything.” lead vocalist Kian says.
From studio costs, to marketing, to distributing merchandise, to upkeeping their social media sites, and even handling inquiries and event bookings, nobody does it better or, for this time, for them. “That’s why it’s convenient that we’re six in a band!” Lily points out, chuckling.
“Yeah. We all have different roles.” Jermaine adds.
It’s the need to juggle important tasks that’s the most challenging for The Ransom Collective. “[E]specially now that we’re more serious about being a band, we’re finding that we have so many other things we have to worry about. It’s hard to write at the same time. It’s hard to schedule practices when you’re also trying to schedule meetings for music videos, or for this and that, so that’s probably the single biggest challenge of being independent.” Kian explains.
It’s clear to see that being independent is not for the faint of heart, and The Ransom Collective is definitely not one to back down from a fight. In fact, when asked if they’d have it any other way, their answer, plain and simple, was no. “It works out.” Redd says.
A Filipino indie band
It’s pretty common knowledge that the Philippines is a very nationalistic country. Filipinos all around the world tend to take pride in anything “Proudly Pinoy”—from food, to handmade products, to music, which is why it’s no mystery that many articles and features on The Ransom Collective all seem to flaunt how they are, among other things, a Filipino indie band.
Though they didn’t start off with the particular objective in mind, the awareness of the fact that their music has ended up representing the Philippines itself has definitely changed their mindset. “I don’t think it’s affected our music, but our attitudes, definitely,” Kian says. “[N]ow that we’ve felt that sense of responsibility; that we’re representing the country, really adds a sense of pride…that people are proud of us.”
A diverse sound
Now, to represent your country is one thing. But to represent your country with your own thing (as opposed to a mere imitation of someone else’s) is another. So in The Ransom Collective’s case, it’s surprising to see that despite their list of major musical influences (Bon Iver, Mumford & Sons, and The Lumineers), they’ve still managed to come up with a unique sound all their own.
“I think those influences were mostly mine, when we first started,” Kian explains. “So then when we all started playing together, that’s where it started to get diversified. We all have similar influences in some aspects, but as far as what we each bring musically, that’s where it gets diverse.”
Leaving a trail of wise words behind
“Going indie” has shifted from a mere alternative (in case things don’t work out as planned), to an actual alternative for musicians. And because of the brave forerunners of the indie scene, more and more musicians are leaning towards working independently as opposed to working with a label.
The Ransom Collective has paved a significant way in the mostly unexplored indie terrain, even kindly leaving behind some words of advice for others to find. “Just don’t be afraid to put yourself out there. I think a lot of people have the tendency to be very perfectionist—especially since it’s their work or it’s their expression, but at the end of the day, it’s just really about figuring out how you can put yourself out there and the best way for people to see that and to recognize what you have.” Redd says.
Kian adds and says, “I wouldn’t set your goal at ‘trying to make it’, like trying to make yourself. Yeah, it’s kinda cheesy, but figure out your own sound, figure out what you like, what works for you, what you can feel proud to sing. And then if it works for you, then that’ll translate. Because we weren’t trying to make it. We weren’t trying to be successful. We weren’t trying to be gigging four years from where we started. We were just trying to sound good and have fun doing it and be proud of it. And…I think we were surprised at how well people appreciated that aspect of it.”
Sometimes it’s okay to be reckless—it’s okay to jump even when you can’t see who or what’s going to catch you. Sometimes it’s okay to take a leap into the unknown, abandoning everything we’ve ever known and everything we’ve ever been told before then. Because it’s in moments like these that we find the most beautiful, unique, and precious things meant only for us to find. And just like the steady, foot-stomping rhythm of The Ransom Collective’s music, we find ourselves moving on through the song called life.