KINDRED has the guts to call itself a boy band. With charming stage antics and whimsical technicolor visuals, the group pays homage to the pop music that they grew up with but spins it to make their sound distinctly of the present. It's thanks partly to how they are disarmingly relatable, like anyone else could live out their pop star dreams too.
Before the group formed in 2021, each member of KINDRED was an independent musician operating in different, yet connected networks of the music scene like BuwanBuwan Collective, Club Matryoshka, and other fluid electronic, hip-hop, experimental, and bedroom producer circles. Now signed to Island Records, the group still keeps their underground roots, while aiming for the stars–like Sharon Cuneta, who they recently collaborated with.
The motley crew of nouvul (Jorge Wieneke), Fern. (Fern Tan), PIKUNIN (Luis Montales), dot.jaime (Jaime San Juan), Slomo Says (Moses Webb), VINCED (Vincent Dalida), Punzi (Justin Punzalan), and Cavill (Obi Intia) have crafted an eclectic debut album in "Subset,” which was released last week. It's a lovingly crafted mixtape of each member's interests, inclinations, and idiosyncrasies, with a little bit of something for anyone interested in pop music and the boy band as a beloved cultural archetype.
We hopped on a video call with KINDRED to dive into "Subset,” learning to dance as a non-dancer, and more. This interview has been edited for clarity.
KINDRED plays around with the idea of the boy band. Even before K-Pop, we thought of boy bands as something formulated in focus group discussions or in record label meeting rooms. We assume that their identities have been created to appeal to an audience. But KINDRED seems to have autonomy over its music, performances, and even creative direction. Why identify as a boy band in the first place?
nouvul: I can’t speak for the group personally, but these are things we’ve discussed in the creation of the project. We wanted to dismantle ideas of labels. The idea of what a boy band is, we wanted to blur the lines of what it means, or by pushing the form.
I grew up with the idea of boy bands being romanticized because I grew up on MTV. Backstreet Boys, Boyz II Men, NSYNC, those are icons for me. And then the rise of the K-pop fandom and having boy groups there showed me how effective it is to seed an idea.
The conscious idea of making something to challenge that form or put ourselves next to that is the bigger idea of the project: to sort of reshape or reframe what it is to be a boy band in the Philippines. Do we abide by the beauty standards? Do we abide by the same musical standards? Do we create our own name, or do we allow people to live vicariously through us na we’re regular people — kind of — that want to do music on our own terms while taking that form?
dot.jaime: Definitely at the start, we were trying to look for our sound. We were referencing these famous boy bands like Boyz II Men, NSYNC, the chart-toppers before that actually left a mark on us. In a way, when we would work on a song, we would joke about making a Boyz II Men kind of thing. It came to a point where we would try to make ends meet and emulate it. At the beginning, it sounds like it’s a spoof but it ends up being an actual song. Sometimes nagugulat kami na, ‘Oh, we actually pulled off something that sounds like the actual song from an old band.’ It develops with our identity: how malleable we are as a boy band.
So all of you were into boy bands?
PIKUNIN: My first ever concert was Super Junior, the 13-man K-pop boy band. My first love of music was K-pop in grade school, so it’s surreal to me that I’m doing a boy band, inspired by all of them, but doing it in a way that’s unique to me and everyone else in the band.
dot.jaime: I wasn’t a big boy band kid, but F4 before really struck me. I’d go to a record store in QC with my pops and their tape would be on display and available for listening. I was amazed by the fact that they were guys singing over an instrumental, not playing any instruments. The comparison of an actual band who plays instruments and a boy band were interesting to me as a kid.
Performance-wise, you choreograph your own dances, and you do them anywhere: big stages, small stages, even without a stage at all. I’ve seen you play at a street party in Poblacion where you were running around the crowd, climbing on speakers and any space that was available along the road. Your choreography doesn’t confine you to a specific space or stage. What was your approach to dancing?
PIKUNIN: We wanted to double down on the boy band thing, since a lot of modern boy bands dance. I said, even though we aren’t dancers, we need to be dancing since it adds to the intentionality of the whole performance. It’s clear that we’re not dancers. But the fact that we are pushing ourselves to dance adds a layer of intentionality.
dot.jaime: The choreography also added more to our relationship as a band. It made it stronger. (...) Before, it was more joke lang. And now it’s turning into a more serious thing, but it’s still something we enjoy. It also developed our relationship, our stage identities. It definitely led us to something new.
There’s this assumption that if you’re a musician in a more underground space, choreography isn’t cool. Everything you do onstage is supposed to be spontaneous, or “authentic.” It sounds like choreography is a thought experiment that you committed to.
PIKUNIN: It’s a funny idea rin for us. As much as we like the big stages, since we all came from underground, we still want to be playing these underground shows. I don’t think you’ve seen eight guys do a full-on dance in Mow’s for example. Just the idea of it is so funny. We wanted to push for it because it adds this new layer of what can be done in the underground, what can be done in the mainstream. That things don’t have to be so edgy or spontaneous. Things can be fun, things can be dorky. That’s the fun of music.
You were also able to work with Sharon Cuneta. In your music video “Lambing ng Megastar,” you were living a dream that many of us have: to share a stage with her. Kilig na kilig kayo sa music video.
VINCED: What’s funny is that people didn’t believe us at first. They weren’t convinced that it was existing.
nouvul: CG ba daw siya?
nouvul: There really was [doubt].
What was that like to open for her concert at MOA Arena recently?
Slowmo Says: That was… I don’t know. The most high-pressure hangout I’ve had with the boys yet. We were just grateful to get the opportunity to open for such an icon of our country. For me, that’s the most amount of people I’ve ever performed in front of. That pressure kind of showed me that me and my band are capable of incredible things. The way that we were able to lift each other up, that strengthened our relationship.
What are you most excited to share about your upcoming album “Subset?”
Cavill: Out of the 15 songs, regardless of what kind of music you grew up listening to, we’re sure that you’re really going to like at least one. And that’s already a win for me. Not just like, but love. (chuckle). At least one song, hopefully. Manifesting.
Fern.: Honestly, the album is still starting to sink in for me. Everything we’ll do after — we’ve been working on this for two years, coming to life — that’s what I’m most excited about. When we release the album, the outcome isn’t the most important part. When I see what happens after it, it’s proof of concept that we can do this again and again and again.