No silly love songs for Pinoy teen blues band Electric Sala

Kid rock: Electric Sala played the International Blues Challenge in Memphis, Tennessee

Filipino blues band Electric Sala wears some serious influences on their sleeves: Juan de la Cruz’s pioneering Pinoy rock, Cream’s consummate British blues, AC/DC’s slam- bang hard rock.

Playing live at Tiendesitas activity center on a Saturday night, the five-piece combo mixes up their repertoire with Jimi Hendrix, Allman Brothers Band, Rory Gallagher and the Rolling Stones in three hour-long sets.

That’s to be expected for a grizzled bar band. What’s unexpected is that the members of Electric Sala are in their teens or barely out of it.

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Listening to 70s rock

Formed two years ago by three brothers and a close friend, the band is presently composed of lead guitarist Paolo Ferrer, 20; bassist Carlos Ferrer,17; and drummer Abdon Ferrer, who’s all of 13. They’re joined by second lead guitarist Jurell Jamison and Jello Marcelo on slide/rhythm guitar.

Shouldn’t these kids be doing Black Keys, instead? (Well, in fact, they do.)

“Me and my brothers grew up listening to Eric Clapton, Santana, early 70s rock. My father is a major influence cos he still plays the music of his time on our CD player,” says Paolo.

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Blues competition finalist

“I decided to learn the guitar because the guitarist in one of my early bands in high school can’t play (Cream’s) ‘Sunshine of Your Love.’ I told my dad I wanted to take up the guitar and he just told me to take it seriously. I was happily surprised by his reaction. So it was non-stop guitar practice every day for me since then.”

The band’s name is reminiscent of 60s psychedelic bands—and with reason. The name was chosen by Al, the Ferrer brothers’ dad, simply because “they’ve turned the living room into their practice space.”

From doing local gigs on their first year, Electric Sala reached the finals of the First Philippine Blues Competition on their second year. (They lost to the OPM blues funk of Kat’s Express which took the main prize of flying to Memphis for the 2013 International Blues Challenge.)

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The gig in Memphis, Tennessee

But, Electric Sala found themselves flying to Memphis, Tennessee when at the last minute, the Philippine Blues Society decided to send a representative to the youth showcase of the Blues Challenge.)

“We played Southern rock, Allman Brothers, Lynyrd Skynyrd, to comply with the mechanics of the showcase,” said Carlos.

They became the first Filipino band to play two sets at Mr. Handy’s Blues Hall, a local institution in live music that goes back to the 1800s.

Paolo recalls the enthusiastic reception they got. “We thought we’d never run out of energy,” he said.

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Debut EP has serious lyrics

Back in Manila, the homeboys from Antipolo also found the time putting the finishing touches to their self-titled debut EP. The boys wrote all 8 tracks, with dad Al contributing a tune about the mythic sounds of the early 70s.

Paolo is especially proud of their lyrics.

“Musicians today don’t give much thought on the words they set to music. Compared to the 70s, lyrics now come in short bursts. I want to go back to the era when songs expressed things to think about.”

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No point in love songs

Album opener “Commonwealth” uses the squatting problem to tell the irony of homelessness in the homeland. “Tama Na Yan” sneers at bad trips brought on by bad news everyday while “Langaw sa Buwan” takes a look at the insensitivity of people on their own personal trip.

He doesn’t see the point in doing love songs.

“Just because you got dumped, you’d start singing about the heartache. Or you go cutesy to get the attention of another girl,” he said.

“In rock, you really get to meet a lot of girls. I don’t feel obliged to sing about them.”