The frontman of the long-running OPM band Mayonnaise found himself in the depths of depression at the turn of 2020.
After a grueling full-year tour schedule, shuttling from bar to bar then traipsing overseas, Monty Macalino suddenly felt overwhelming fatigue when they got home from Toronto December of 2019. Tired, listless, and lacking sleep, he was rushed to the hospital. The doctors discovered a medical condition in his veins. He was at his heaviest then at 330 lbs. Macalino thought he was going to be amputated and that his musical career was coming to an end. He thought that was it.
“I was really depressed that time,” Macalino told PhilSTAR L!fe in a Zoom interview.
He got out of the hospital after 10 days. But his demons did not let up.
“For some reason, after I got out of the hospital after ten days, I was out of it. I was panicking. I thought I was going to relapse,” said Macalino.
But he pulled himself together and managed to wise up.
“Sabi ko sa sarili ko, ‘Kailangan nang umayos’,” Macalino said. “Nakain ko na lahat ng puwedeng kumain.”
To help give him a leg up in the recovery process, he decided to go home to his parent’s home instead of staying inside his studio. With his parents beside him, things got easier.
“I experienced home-cooked meals and yung pagmamahal talaga na galing sa magulang,” said Macalino.
Cooped up with the parentals, he thought of the name for their new album — “Friends and Family.”
The title was mainly a fitting nod to those who helped create the album, which as Macalino admits is their most collaborative one to date. Due to the pandemic, many artists found themselves mostly grounded at home willing and even aching to collaborate with their musician friends. Except for the first track, every single song in the new album features a motley of artists and bands, namely the Manila String Machine, I Belong to the Zoo, Raymund Marasigan, Chino David of Hale, Barbie Almalbis, Steve Badiola of Typecast, Gloc 9, Josh Villena of Autotelic, as well as up-and-coming names Julia Daniel and Rangel Fernandez.
In addition, the title also alludes to an oft-used phrase in the sneaker community — where Macalino is also fully immersed in as a confessed sneakerhead — to refer to exclusive product releases not available to the public.
“Astig tong pangalan na ito na ‘Friends and Family’ to celebrate that we are collaborating with our friends and family from the industry,” said Macalino.
On top of the artistic collaborations, the album is also peppered with various samples drawn from pop culture specimens that has influenced Macalino — PUBG, the South Korean variety show Running Man, Blackpink, the US sitcom Scrubs, and the K-drama Weightlifting Fairy Kim Bok-joo.
“Ang mga bagay na nagpabilis ng mga buwan na yun na hindi ako makagalaw, yun yung naging parts ng album— K-drama, K-pop, mobile games,” said Macalino. “The entire album, yan yung mga nagpabilis ng taon ko. These were the things that helped me cope with being depressed.”
One song that stands out in particular, mainly from its title which is in hangul, is a paean to Blackpink’s Rosé, who was Macalino’s main inspiration for the album.
“Nakahanap ako ng muse in her,” said Macalino.
Hindi siya marketing move para gamitin yung hype ng Blackpink o kalakasan ng K-pop. Gusto ko lang gumawa ng kanta na nagma-matter sakin kasi at the end of the day, yun lang naman gusto ko gawin.
“Mayron akong kantang ginawa pangalan ‘Park Chae-young.' Ang ginawa ko dito yung lyrics dito sabi ko aalayan ko ng kanta itong babaeng ito kasi for the last few months siya lang ini-Story ko. Tapos ginawa ko, tinitigan ko lang yung IG niya, as in tinitigan ko lang mga picture, then dahan-dahan ako nagsulat, so parang power of music. Hindi siya marketing move para gamitin yung hype ng Blackpink o kalakasan ng K-pop. Gusto ko lang gumawa ng kanta na nagma-matter sakin kasi at the end of the day, yun lang naman gusto ko gawin eh,” said Macalino.
The amalgam of artistic voices and samples coupled with the narrative and musical maturity of the band’s eighth studio album makes "Friends and Family" their strongest output to date. The pop culture Easter eggs scattered around through the various samples also makes the entire album experience fun, something that has been sorely lacking for quite some time in the music scene due to the towering influence of singles in today's contemporary landscape.
But beyond being a mirror to Macalino’s life and the recent cultural milieu, the album is also a statement and a repudiation to the cruel calculus wrought by the pandemic to the livelihood of musicians and the artistic industry.
“Non-essential daw yung music eh,” said Macalino, partly stinging from the government classification branding their livelihood as non-essential.
Indeed, unlike essential businesses, music may not exactly fill one’s stomach. But it might just save a life. Just like it did Monty’s.