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Manila, Philippines

Kjwan: 20/20 vision for year 20

In an era when Facebook was just an infant, iPods boasted wheels, and the Moto RAZR was the epitome of chic technology, a band emerged onto the Filipino music scene, ready to leave an indelible mark. Kjwan, with their unmistakable sound and unwavering vision, embarked on a journey that has spanned two decades, evolving with the times while staying true to their core values and purpose.

What did change over the course of the twenty year ride?

Marc reflects on the enduring passion that ignited their musical odyssey, tracing it back to childhood when music was not just a pastime, but a lifeline, a sanctuary. It was in those early years that the seeds of love for music were sown, blossoming into a lifelong commitment to their craft. 

“Purpose why we still do what we are doing. Some answers are the same. Some are different. We still love and we still enjoy doing it. “

“The line up did change throughout the years. Coming from guys you have been there since the beginning. It still exciting for us. With change, comes a lot of motivation and inspiration and purpose.” Kelley acknowledges.

As they steps into a new era, there's a palpable energy, a drive to break new ground and carve out their own narrative. Isok echoes this sentiment, “Before we were doing it to emulate our heroes. Now is the chance to tell our own story. From bearing the inspiration from our own influences, now it’s about owning our craft and telling our narrative. I think that’s one of the most fundamental things when we realize the formation of the band.”

This phase feels like the culmination of years of growth, a moment where their music rings truer, more honest than ever before.

What’s the blueprint? How did you guys manage to stay this long?

Staying power in the ever-shifting landscape of the music industry is a feat few achieve, yet for Kjwan, longevity is not just a testament to talent, but to a deeply ingrained blueprint that has guided them through the years. 

“Is it passion? Is it what makes us who we are? Is it our purpose? We’re still figuring it out. But it feels noble. Because the intent now is not just to rock or to flex or to show off. It’s scary to say because we don’t want to come out too preachy. But having to look at it on what’s the blueprint for us, it’s the passion. Passion is not something you do on the side cause you’re bored and eventually you would outgrow it. “ Marc reflects.

Kelley adds another dimension to their endurance, emphasizing the importance of staying inspired and challenging oneself. 

“One of the things is that you always want to keep yourself inspired.  I know it’s hard. You’ll have moments where it feels like you’re going through the bases. But always challenge yourself. When you get comfortable with the situation, that’s when usually you get bored or you want to exit. It’s at that point that when you are slightly uncomfortable is when you get challenged to do things. And that is when good things happen. It brings out the best in you. When Isok came to the band, he challenged us right away. And that put me and a lot of us out of our comfort zone and forced us to be locked in. As bands grow, as bands mature, there’s a tendency to fall in the familiar. So I think, being in that space where it’s not so uncomfortable is also good in terms of creativity.”

Marc adds. “Another fundamental for us being still here and growing together is that we are friends. Kelly’s been my best friend. It was our answer way back in 2004 on the formula. To be able to do these things, to have a noble cause, to strive towards a goal, to become better versions of each other, to be at that slightly uncomfortable space so that you can create. Something not safe. That is where the magic happens. Musicians need a huge amount of trust. And with this new lineup, I can say that we are friends. We have been friends for more than 10 years when Eo joined the band. We always knew each other. We were there in each other’s gigs. We were fans of one another. And here we are now under one flag. We get along and that’s rare.”

“Also a huge factor is patience and empathy. Acknowledging that we are all human beings. We can be honest. We have to be open to emotions and feelings so we can all understand where everyone is coming from with a specific stand.” Kelley pointed out.

The band’s back with “Dahas”

The band's latest single "Dahas" is a fusion of analog nostalgia and digital innovation, a reflection of their journey through the pandemic. Isok describes the process of creating the song as a blend of old-school camaraderie and modern technology, resulting in a heartfelt outcome.

“Dahas started trying to give that analog feel kung san tayo lumaki. Yung magkakasama tayo sa isang kwarto. So we created it together. And having the digital phase in our lives, we try to integrate it to form something new. That old ways of analog like being together and compiling it with technology, grabe yang outcome.” He then added, “Sonically, we envision it as three dragons eh. It was like dancing around together with Marc’s word on introspection and forgiveness. So what we have in the end is pure heart.”

For Marc, "Dahas" encapsulates the introspective journey many undertook during the pandemic, a recharged celebration of life's precious moments. 

“Everything was put on hold and everything became precious. All of a sudden there’s a wealth of experience to write about. Not just about drunken nights and girls and parties and luxury, no man, which what we were singing out before. Haha. Which is wonderful as well because that was like 1999, 2004. And then life slapped us with the pandemic, something so real that affected the entire planet. Dahas at first because it’s high octane, the lyrics sound angry even the way I sang it. It’s a confrontation of the self. Self-awareness that your enemy could be someone or more often, it could be yourself. Like why would you bother someone so much unless you see a reflection of yourself in that person but if you are truly at peace with yourself, you wouldn’t have a problem with the world. So it’s the first step, get over your shit.”

Kelley notes the heaviness of the track, indicating its role as an introduction to their musical journey. Through "Dahas," the band pays homage to their influences while crafting a unique sound that sparks conversations and memories.

How does the body of work for Kjwan look like right now that it’s twenty years wiser

With two decades of musical experience under their belt, Kjwan embarks on a new chapter in their artistic journey, fueled by introspection and a desire to connect with their deeper selves. Isok underscores the significance of storytelling through sound, emphasizing the soul-nourishing process of delving into one's innermost thoughts and emotions. 

Their latest single "Dahas" is just the beginning of a larger narrative, one that resonates with hope and unity amidst adversity. The band finds themselves surprised yet inspired by the shift towards singing in Tagalog and exploring themes of overcoming despair and embracing life. This newfound direction reflects their evolving body of work—a deliberate effort to communicate responsibly through music. 

“That is now our body of work. That’s is what I think we are going now. If there’s also one thing that we learned in the pandemic is that we have to be careful with the words that come out of our mouths and the way we say it. In my opinion, there is no better art form than music to communicate. That’s why we are more meticulous now. About ourselves and what we put out. Because now, there’s a responsibility. I know there is freedom in being an artist but there should also be a sense of responsibility along with it that aligns to your intent and purpose. You must watch what you say. You have to be mindful of people. Not that you limit yourself but you have to be aware that there are different cultures, ethics and so on that we must respect otherwise we won’t get that same respect.” Marc emphasizes.

As they venture into new stylistic territories, Kjwan remains grounded in their signature heavy riffs, while also honoring the heritage and beauty of OPM with Luis joining the lineup. For them, it's not just about making rock music, but about creating art that pays homage to the rich tapestry of Filipino musical tradition.

Talking to the new generation

In addition to crafting music that reflects their personal journeys and experiences, Kjwan also recognizes their responsibility to connect with and guide the new generation through their art. They emphasize the importance of showing respect to the younger audience, acknowledging their role as the torchbearers of the music scene today.  While both generations have valuable perspectives to share, there's a mutual desire for understanding and communication. For the band, this dynamic represents a shift in leadership within the OPM (Original Pilipino Music) community, with the new generation at the helm, shaping the future of Filipino music. Through their music and interactions, they seek to bridge the gap between generations, fostering a sense of unity and collaboration within the vibrant landscape of Filipino music.

“There’s a lot of things they want to say that we want to understand and we have a lot to say that we want them to understand. Nobody is better than the other. But I can say on behalf of the band, they are the leaders now. For OPM.” Marc mentioned.

Things that you tweak for the next 20 years

As Kjwan looks ahead to the next 20 years, they are guided by a commitment to excellence—a blueprint that transcends both old and new. Isok emphasizes the importance of excellence in cutting through the noise, serving as a timeless foundation for their music. Within the realm of Filipino music, they strive to challenge the status quo and inspire their fellow countrymen to aspire for greatness. This pursuit of excellence marks a departure from their earlier days of rebellion and defiance. Instead, they place excellence at the forefront of their artistic endeavors, driven by a desire to push themselves to new heights. As they reflect on the past 20 years, the band grapples with the question posed by Louis:

"Have they truly pursued excellence with the gifts they've been given?"

Now, more than ever, Kjwan sees this as their opportunity to give it their all, to push themselves to their limits in pursuit of musical greatness.

Exciting times lie ahead as Kjwan steps into this new era, unveiling a body of work that reflects not just their musical evolution, but their commitment to collaboration and community building within the creative sphere. With each member's unique journey converging into a singular narrative, the band embraces the responsibility of not only telling their own story but also uplifting fellow artists. As they navigate through the collaborative landscape of music-making, Kjwan aims to foster a collective spirit that transcends mere coolness, advocating instead for a nation-building approach to creativity. With diligence and dedication as their guiding principles, the band stands poised to make their mark on the musical landscape, showcasing the timeless virtues of hard work and discipline that continue to propel them forward, even in the face of a rapidly advancing digital age.

“As I mentioned, ang Dami pa into. We’ve been doing this music for a year and now we are putting it out starting with Dahas. We are in the process of unveiling.” Kelley said.

“You can say, 20 years in the making. Divided by 4. Kasi we all had our personal journey na din as musicians. Different experiences we all rolled into this full thing. The collaborative spirit is there like what Isok mentioned. Now we all see that everyone is putting the work and have that conscious effort to produce something to be proud of.” Eo added. 

“Hard work and discipline. It’s about practicing your craft. Even at days you don’t want to. It will pay off. It will always pay off. No matter how advanced time can get, it’s still the analog virtues that will get you somewhere and keep you back in track when you get lost. “ Marc reminds us as we all ended the talk.


Creative Collective | Artists @kjwan Creative Direction by @thenewhueph | Photography by @noelsalazar86 | Cover story by H Produced/Art Direction by @thenewhueph | Location @astburyph



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