Music spotlight: No Lore makes music from paintings and poetry

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Sibling duo Tita Halaman (left) and Jerald Angelo (right) take musical inspiration from art. Photo courtesy of OFF THE RECORD

After playing with other bands, the sibling duo of Jerald Angelo Juatco and Tita Halaman finally decided to make music their own way with No Lore. It all starts with a painting by Tita Halaman, followed by her accompanying poetry piece, which the duo later transforms into aural bliss.

Tita Halaman (a visual artist whose works have been exhibited at Galerie Roberto and Salcedo Auctions) is known for her paintings with characters having dark, melancholic, and chaotic faces yet also having expressions of faith— and poetry — poems that are dramatic yet inspirational. Juatco, meanwhile, brings his experience of being a brand specialist and multimedia artist. He has also worked with international musicians in Dubai through Dubai Opera, where he honed his marketing, social media, and motion graphics skills. With musical influences such as Oh Wonder, Of Monsters and Men, The xx, and any male-female-vocal-harmony-driven songs, it was a no-brainer for the duo to make alt-pop the sound that fit their vision.

Listening to a Nore Lore song is not complete without admiring the painting each song is based on — much like walking through an art gallery or exhibit with headphones on. Their music videos are moving picture extensions of the music and paintings — a visual representation of the whimsy and emotion in each song.

Their creative process progresses from the visual to the aural: Tita Halaman first creates a painting, then writes an accompanying free verse poem and transforms this into verses with added words that will fit the alt-pop mold. “After that, I’m going to try to invent melodies,” says Tita Halaman. “And I’m going to voice record it — even the guitars — and then I’m going to send it to [Juatco].” Songwriting then proceeds from there — from recording to figuring out the harmonies and post-production — and being a sibling duo makes the process easier because there’s no sugarcoating involved.

The siblings are no strangers to making music, with Tita Halaman playing drums for multi-genre bands like Dissonance and The Soledads and Juatco playing bass for Admiral Peppery, affiliated with music group Green Apple Productions. But No Lore posed a new challenge for them.

“We sing! We both sing in here which is quite odd for us,” says Tita Halaman, as they explained the differences between experiences with their bands and No Lore. The siblings are also exploring a slew of skills that make up the DIY music-making experience, such as production and the use of keyboards.

Being a duo helps with communicating song ideas. “‘Yung cons, siguro, is dalawa lang kami. Kami lahat, like, ‘yung drums, keyboards, synths, beats,” Juatco explained. They also don’t have the luxury of getting feedback from band members with feedback mainly coming from musician friends and family. It also means having sessionists play with them at live events — something they are still figuring out.

No Lore's creative process progresses from the visual to the aural. Photo courtesy of OFF THE RECORD

No Lore signed with Manila-based label Off The Record in 2021, a move which they say helped them be heard by a larger audience. “It will help us focus more on music,” the siblings said in unison. Being with the label also brought them the opportunity to work with Ean Aguila of Ang Bandang Shirley for their latest release, the Filipino song “Paumanhin.”

Aguila was not only a friend and someone Tita Halaman looked up to, but was also a helpful guide who provided a lot of feedback on the song’s arrangement. His experience with Ang Bandang Shirley also helped guide the band with making the male-female vocal harmonies and even lent his talents by adding guitar and bass parts to the song.

“We learned a lot from comparing our initial work with the improved versions na sine-send ni Ean sa amin,” said Juatco. Aguila’s contribution — added parts and variations — gave the duo ideas on what they can do for their future songs.

“Paumanhin” talks about how a person can be bound by their ideas of loyalty and love but can be interpreted in different ways. On the surface, the song could be considered a love song for people who aren’t able to move on. On a deeper level, that song can be an interpretation of the current political climate.

“I actually composed ‘Paumanhin’ while reading online bardagulans or online debates,” confesses Tita Halaman, explaining how people can be blind followers of their chosen candidates. For example, they sing the lyric “mga pangakong di mo kayang tuparin,” talking about a significant other’s broken promises or a politician’s platform that didn’t pan out. In another instance, the duo sing “at ulit ulit kong ibabalik sa simula,” which can either mean reminiscing about a better past or keeping a politician in check by reminding them why people voted for them. No Lore wanted to make art that captured the relevance of a historical moment and something that will serve as a reminder to future generations and elections.

The release of their first Filipino song was already in the works as a means for Tita Halaman to work on her weakness in the usage of the language. As the duo’s songwriter, she has always had a hard time writing in Filipino. “Feeling ko ang corny ko,” she joked. Writing in Filipino was her way of getting out of her comfort zone. The approach to writing “Paumanhin” was also different for the siblings. Whereas Tita would already have the guitar parts for a song, this one was written together — with Tita providing the tune and Juatco making the piano melodies with lyrics also being written at the same time.

After releasing a string of singles, No Lore are revving up to release an album called “Never Not Moving” as well as publish a book that will contain all the paintings and poems made by Tita Halaman. They are planning to release more songs with each song having a painting that will also serve as the cover art.

Listen to “Paumanhin” here.


Erratum: A previous version of this article omitted Jerald Angelo Juatco's surname. We apologize for the oversight.