On their debut album, Lola Amour hold space for joy and grief: “If you’re feeling sad, it’s also nice to dance it out”

“Lately, I think we’ve been listening to our intrusive thoughts way too often,” admits Lola Amour’s saxophonist Jeff Abueg. He’s referring to the “whack ideas” he and his bandmates indulged while slogging away at their anticipated debut LP – which has finally arrived, five years after its first projected release and following a pandemic, multiple changes in the band’s line-up, and a vault towards mainstream stardom with the viral hit ‘Raining In Manila’ (more on that later).

Despite Abueg’s self-deprecating disclaimer, ‘Lola Amour’ shows the funk-pop seven-piece’s canny balancing of flamboyant creative decisions with digestible ones. They slashed a two-minute horn solo down to 45 seconds on ‘Namimiss Ko Na’ – the same track where they ditched a metal riff for a dancey disco tune, over verses that grieve a loved one’s bout with dementia.

The experimentation and play continues throughout the record, which was released yesterday (April 10) on Warner Music Philippines. In ‘Umiinit’, frontman and rhythm guitarist Pio Dumayas spits cocksure bars between happy handclaps and falsetto-backed harmonies. He reprises the rapping in the much softer ‘If I Ever Come Back’, accompanied by the band’s version of a gospel choir – or “just five of us singing recorded 30 times to sound like 150 people,” explains David Yuhico, who plays keys and handles the album’s mixes.

On this album, “we just went with our gut feeling,” Abueg says. The rest of the septet nod in agreement. The band’s current lineup includes Dumayas, Abueg, Yuhico, plus drummer Raffy Perez, lead guitarist Zoe Gonzales, trumpeter Angelo Mesina, and recent addition Manu Dumayas, the multi-instrumentalist who has taken over bass duties from Raymond King (he also shares chief songwriting credits with his brother Pio on the album).


Going with their gut feeling has worked to the 10-year-old band’s advantage so far. If Lola Amour had stuck to chart-topper conventions, their 2023 single ‘Raining In Manila’ could have been an efficient, 3-and-a-half minute ballad pining about long-distance romance.

“We’re not saying ‘no sad songs allowed’, because there are sad songs on the record” – Pio Dumayas

Instead, over nearly five minutes (complete with a blaring brass break that takes up a quarter of the song), Pio raspily croons about being stuck in the sopping capital while missing friends who’ve fled the Philippines. The frontman calls that a “niche topic” which listeners have sometimes conflated with romantic love. “I wasn’t trying to make it sound like a love song, but I did want to say as much as I could while saying very little,” he says.

“‘Raining In Manila’ defied a lot of conventions,” Yuhico adds. ”We were advised to shorten it so listeners don’t tune out, especially the instrumental break. But up until now, people still sing along to the instrumental part when we’re performing.”


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One of those singalongs took place in January at the Philippine Arena, courtesy of the 55,000-strong audience at the Manila stop of Coldplay’s Music of the Spheres tour. Chris Martin riffed on the song’s opening keys and verses before asking the band to jam with him onstage. “Everyone was there to see Coldplay, not Lola Amour. So, there was this fear na epal lang kami [we were just a bunch of showoffs],” Pio recalls. “We stepped up onstage thinking that was the time the audience would start chatting with each other. But no, they all sang to it and they were all screaming – which was a very proud moment for us.”

The earworm has racked up over 124million Spotify plays since its release last June, enjoying viral numbers in countries with large Overseas Filipino Worker communities including Singapore, Canada, New Zealand and the UAE. A motley mix of artists and personalities both at home and abroad have expressed love for the tune, including Filipino playwright and national artist Ricky Lee, Fil-Am influencer Bretman Rock, Jake of K-pop boyband ENHYPEN and Thai rapper BamBam of GOT7.

Lola Amour, photo by press
Credit: Press

Like the song’s explosion into popularity, Lola Amour are now the very opposite of niche. But did they ever identify as niche artists? “There wasn’t a conscious effort to be niche but we’ve [always] made songs that didn’t sound like the rest of what’s popular right now,” Pio says.

He and his bandmates started as friends who went to the same all-boys private high school in Muntinlupa. They fused from two bands whose members’ training spanned symphonic groups, classical instruments and DIY music tutorials on YouTube. Their varied backgrounds meant they drew inspiration from film and video game scores, garage rock, reggae and guitar pop. The only thing missing was probably a ska phase. “Yeah, how come we never had one?” Pio and the rest of the band snicker. “Actually, pwede pa [we still can]. Thank you for the idea.”

Lola Amour went from campus gigs to winning 2017’s Wanderband, the annual indie band competition hosted by Manila’s Wanderland Festival. Later, they made TV rounds, appearing in Season 3 of Coke Studio together with rapper Al James, performing a string of songs that collapsed genres. “It’s never a conscious choice to sound different. We do our best and then it just sounds different because that’s all we can do,” Yuhico says.

On ‘Lola Amour’, the band prove their chief strength is blurring genre lines with dancey and rhythmic songs that pair with Pio and King’s largely – and subtly – sad lyrics.

“‘Raining In Manila’ defied a lot of conventions… We were advised to shorten it so listeners don’t tune out” – David Yuhico

“I think there’s a conscious effort not to double down on the sadness of the lyrics and for the rest of the band members to add some drive to the song. Personally, if you’re feeling sad, it’s also nice to just dance it out,” Yuhico says. “That doesn’t mean we’re not open to it. We’re not saying ‘no sad songs allowed’, because there are sad songs on the record,” Pio adds.

One of them is the raw closing track, ‘Bliss: Part II’. An ode to a friend who died by suicide, written by Pio the night of his passing, it holds space for vocal imperfections, guitar squeals, and wispy strings and sax lines that crescendo into Pio’s wailing and Perez’s explosive drum beats.

“I was protective of the song when we were trying to pull it back to the album,” Pio recalls. “I’ve never thought that we could make a song that touches on [suicide]. It was very heavy. Even during the recording process, I still felt the heaviness. It’s kind of weird to start tearing up in the recording room. But it made us very happy to be able to revive his memory.”

“When you’re presented with an opportunity, will you be able to choose? What will you sacrifice?” – Pio Dumayas

Also bittersweet for Lola Amour to look back on is the difficult, protracted process of making the album – and having it all pay off, so much so that they can leave their day jobs to become full-time musicians.

“Making the album wasn’t easy. We had to see each other six times a week just to make it happen. We realised that it’s not going to move unless we fit it into the schedule,” says Pio.

“‘Raining In Manila’ was the turning point. It was the only thing that convinced us that we had an opportunity. So when you’re presented with an opportunity, will you be able to choose? What will you sacrifice? Will you sacrifice your day job or will you sacrifice this opportunity?” the frontman muses.

“A lot of us would never admit it to our old selves but this is a dream for us. We’re making music that’s reaching people and we’re very happy to do it.”

Lola Amour’s debut self-titled album is out now via Warner Music Philippines. The band will launch the record on April 13 in Makati and on April 27 in Cebu