Cebu’s Kubra Commander releases strong second album

While waiting for “That 90s Show” to hit Netflix and for the 1990s revival to hit popular culture everywhere, you may still don those Beatle moptops, parkas, track jackets, Ben Sherman crewnecks, Adidas Gazelles, and bucket hats that were di rigueur of the Brit Rock era.

Why not? There was some terrific music from that period.

And Cebuanos Kubra Commander aren’t waiting and are leading the charge locally with their sophomore album, “Rhythm Tourists”, that hit all streaming and digital platforms this past September 30 (courtesy of Lilystars Records).

Before you continue with the comparisons between Kubra Commander’s love affair with Brit Rock (Oasis, Blur, Super Furry Animals, Ocean Colour Scene etc. – yes, you can hear all the rip-offs) they aren’t the only ones.

There’s American band The Shore that sounded so much like the Verve and were signed to Madonna’s Maverick label. They had the misfortune of coming out at the tail end of Brit Rock and roundabout the time Richard Ashcroft released his solo album. Nevertheless, they put out three brilliant but unheralded albums.

There’s also Japan’s Supercar that will remind you of the Happy Mondays.

And there’s our very own Kubra Commander. You simply must pay attention to the band’s musicality.

The band — J. Martino Olvido on vocals and guitars, Joko Nozawa on guitars, Jah Acab on bass, Lynel Sucalit on synthesizers and keyboards, and Tim Williams on drums — can surely write a tune. Big tunes with big riffs with a dash of psychedelia and shoegaze. As such, “Rhythm Tourists” is, dare we say, a much better effort than their debut, “Vagrant Up”.

In fact, there isn’t a bad song on this album that sounds like the Best of 90s Brit Rock.

From the rousing first track of “Autoresponder” to shoegaze textures of “High On the Sky” to soaring Verve-inspired “Doldrum” to the dizzying Kula Shakeresque “Garden Bistro” and the synth-driven “The Now” and “The Fire’s Back”, “Rhythm Tourists” is never boring.

The songs sing of life’s uncertainties – especially during the COVID-19 global lockdown – self-doubt, anticipatory anxiety, different and new perspectives, solitude, and hedonism. And in spite of the crazy times, Kubra Commander has put out a damn good album, one of our best of 2022. Even if does sounds like it belongs to another time and place.

Kubra Commander’s Commanding Sophomore Outing Out Today

Kubra Commander’s second record is further proof of what we’ve always known about them all along: able recordists, tasteful arrangers, irresistible melodists.
Kubra Commander is an easy personal favorite. It was a love-at-first-listen proposition for me two years back, when I was first given the privilege to fill these confines with my often-incoherent babbling.

And they’re precisely the sort of band that reduces me to incoherent babbling: able recordists, tasteful arrangers, irresistible melodists.

Thankfully, they’re still very much all of these things (and then some) in their second full-length release (their first under the Lilystars banner): the ridiculously good “Rhythm Tourists.”

Nudged by pandemic blues but fanned by a still-very-much-potent juice to create, the much-anticipated new release from J. Martino Olvido and co. is not so much a revelation but a confirmation of what we’ve known all along: Kubra Commander is a force of nature.

That sounds like an ironically cheerlead-y thing to say considering the difficult circumstances it was forged in, but let me qualify: While they’re neither a rapturous earthquake of a band, nor a particularly volcanic and explosive one, what they do provide is an unmistakable, unshakable atmosphere.

“[It’s something] new and yet it’s something that I’m already very familiar with. I feel it’s a validation of how the type of music that I’m into has influenced the music that I create,” Olvido shares.

That’s a modest admission for a lowkey band peopled with tasteful sound landscapists, but such a hat-tip is something to both acknowledge and appreciate. After all, there are unmistakable hints of Manchester-strain Brit pop in their numbers, like in the swagger-filled ‘Garden Bistro’ and the swing-and-sway rocker ‘I’ve Seen the Heathens Cry.’

But make no mistakes: they’re not here to roleplay latter-era Oasis or strike Stone Roses poses to get by. They’ve got a firm pulse on the hook, and unlike other bands who subsist on a paltry plate of faux grand gestures, Kubra Commander consistently chooses subtlety and intricacy.

That doesn’t mean they can’t rock out (opening track ‘Autoresponder’ is a potent Exhibit A) or that they can’t churn saccharine jams (as the magnificent ‘The Fire’s Back,’ which features Ang Bandang Shirley’s Debb Acebu, can prove). It just means Kubra Commander isn’t desperately putting on fireworks displays to show they’re made of incendiary stuff.

Rock ‘n’ roll is alive and well in the hands of Ovido, synth player Lynel Sucalit, guitarist Joko Nozawa, bassist Jah Acab, and drummer Tim Williams. That much is true, as propulsive ear-candy pieces like ‘The Now’ and ‘Rhythm Tourists’ can very much attest.

But they’re refreshingly uninterested in bombast and spectacle, and in some ways, that’s the crowning achievement of their second record.

“Cabin fever brought about by the pandemic heavily influenced the writing of the album,” Olvido says, further stressing how anxiety and uncertainty are recurring touchpoints in the record.

That’s a mighty fine paradox if there ever was one, because Jesus, ‘Rhythm Tourists’ is calming this terribly, terribly nervy man.

Cebu’s Kubra Commander channels their inner Oasis with new song ‘Doldrum’

Some 15 years ago, Rivermaya cut a trilogy of albums that were influenced by British bands like Radiohead and Coldplay. The music of Orange and Lemons on the other hand sounded like a paean to the Beatles and the Smiths.

Now completing the various waves of British music that enveloped the world, Cebu’s Kubra Commander channels their inner Oasis with their new single “Doldrum.”

It’s a neat follow up to their previous single “I’ve Seen the Heathens Cry” that still screamed of the Mancunian band albeit with shoegaze textures.

And it’s different from “Garden Bistro” that drips with Kula Shaker influences.

To be fair, Kubra Commander aren’t some tribute band. Their songs aren’t the blistering and crunching rock and roll that marked the first two albums of the Gallagher brothers and company.

Theirs is a heathen chemistry of Gallagher guitars, Morrissey ruminations, and Sgt. Pepperesque psychedelia. And it makes exciting concoctions.

“Doldrum” is one such strange brew. It’s got that Linkin Park intro for “Somewhere I Belong” that morphs into “Champagne Supernova” with introspective lyrics.

More than vocalist and guitarist Bobbi Olavido’s penchant for the music, it is given a backbeat by the England-born drummer Tim Williams who “grew up on this stuff.”

With Blur frontman Damon Albarn recently in the news for all the wrong reasons. Liam Gallagher pathetically calls out to his brother Noel for an Oasis reunion of which the latter doesn’t seem keen on after all the verbal abuse he and his family received. Richard Ashcroft resisted reforming the spellbinding the Verve. The music that defined a generation and rocked the entire world is reminded us by a release of concerts from Knebworth and appearances by Ashcroft as a solo act.

We have to thank Kubra Commander and their brilliant take on this music that makes it live forever.

“Doldrum” is released on all music streaming platforms and will precede a new album to be released under Lilystars Records.

Kubra Commander’s new song ‘Doldrum’ sounds fresh in these COVID times

In the music video for British rock band Oasis’ classic “Wonderwall,” you’ll see a minor record player spinning a 7-inch record with the band’s name on it.

Even back in 1995, the song was like a throwback. The vinyl more prominent during a time when compact discs were kings. And the band’s music, a thoroughbred version of the Beatles.

Imagine that when you hear Cebu-based rock band Kubra Commander and their new single, “Doldrum.”

Kubra Commander makes no bones about their Brit Rock influences.

“I knew from the get-go that is the sound that I wanted to achieve,” acknowledges vocalist-guitarist Bobbi Olvido. “Even when I play other genres, I always circle back to Brit Rock. So when I started Kubra Commander, our sound, our music is just the way I wanted to sound, and the way I wanted to perform it.”

Their music is so against the grain in terms of the local indie scene packed with shoegaze punk and alternative rock music.

In fact, the last time a band gave off that Brit Rock vibe was Rivermaya when from 2000 to 03 they cut 3 albums that dripped influences of Radiohead, the Verve, and Coldplay — “Free,” “Tuloy ang Ligaya,” and “Beneath the Stars and Waves.”

Kubra Commander goes for the heart of Brit Rock with an Oasis-like sound with “Doldrum.”

The song starts out with a fuzz of an acoustic guitar in reverse (see Linkin Park’s “Somewhere I Belong”), then gives way to a rumbling bassline and jangly guitars. As the song kicks into high gear, the song explodes into dizzying psychedelia.

“Holy ‘Champagne Supernova’, Batman!” Kubra Commander has bottled the lightning of a bygone era.

And that suits Kubra Commander’s Fil-British drummer Tim Williams just fine.

“Coming from England myself, I really connected to the music of Kubra Commander,” shares Williams. “I was into Keane, the Libertines, Hard-fi, and many others.

“When I heard Kubra Commander, it was a special feeling because not many bands sound like that now. Coming from that background, I felt I could bring something to the band.”

More than the sound, Olvido hopes the song connects as well with Filipino music fans.

In “Doldrum,” Olvido sings: “Are you contemplating? You should be concentrating. Don’t ever lose your ground.”

“The song is about staying steady and not throwing it all away. It’s holding on to something,” he explained.

“It could also be a response to the pandemic. We’ve all been through such a difficult time. It only seems natural to write songs to connect it to the pandemic. The song made perfect sense to me and I hope the band — Lynel Sucalit on keyboards, Joko Nozawa on guitars, Jah Acab on bass, and Williams — as well.”

And hopefully, to fans as well, as this is going to be the one that saves you.

“Doldrum” is available on all music streaming platforms and will precede a new album to be released under Lilystars Records.

Listen to “Doldrum” here.

Kubra Commander Back with Hypnotic Brit Pop-Inspired Romp “Doldrum”

A moody piece built on a robust bassline, tasty acoustic-guitar jangle, and a sparse drizzle of strings, “Doldrum” is Kubra Commander in peak form.

A good song ropes you in. A second from the same artist is a magnificent reckoning, but not seriously so, especially if the ingredients are even marginally similar. A third is, well, embroiled in the same wrangling: one either acquiesces or disengages. And the world spins madly on and all that.

That’s my personal ballpark anyway, and, applying it to my dalliances with the music of Kubra Commander—their last three singles at least, including the one launching today—my appreciation has traversed the same map like clockwork:

(1) a rough curiosity, sufficiently piqued by the tuneful riffage and hypnosis of “Garden Bistro”;

(2) a desire for confirmation, engaged upon spinning “I’ve Seen the Heathens Cry,” with its “absence of spikes and peaks” and its uncanny ability to approximate nondescript drapery; and lastly,

(3) the anticipation of a hearty mix of the novel and the familiar, which “Doldrum” gamely and squarely delivers.

The song, purportedly about “doubts, fears, and the dilemma of whether to throw things away or not,” is a moody piece built on a robust bassline, tasty acoustic-guitar jangle, and a sparse drizzle of strings. And as KC tunes go, there’s a modular nature to it: the words functioning like sing-song phonemes rather than just signifiers of meaning; the musical elements rather like trinkets on a beautifully repurposed tree.

Singer-guitarist J. Martino Olvido remains masterful in his grasp of the hook, his melodious phraseology straight from the Gallagher Brothers playbook, but his trippy cadence all his own. The KC rhythm section— bassist Jah Acab, drummer Tim Williams—remains a testament to restraint, while the rest of them, counting axeman Joko Nozawa and Lynel Sucalit on keys, provide dashes of color whose very discreetness (and inherent unfussiness) are the stuff great songs are built on.

“Doldrum” may be borne of, well, doldrums, but doesn’t produce the same effect: despite (and perhaps because of) its trance-inducing rhythms and mirror patterns, this new KC romp is strangely gripping, the same way sublime forms of art like the haiku or a well-thought-out installation are gripping.

“Are you contemplating / You should be concentrating / Don’t you ever lose your ground,” Olvido sings, and it’s fascinating how this may speak of the music his band makes, too.

So, fair play, dear sir, you seem on the tracks still, from where we stand.

Listen to “Doldrum” here.

Kubra Commander releases hypnotic single ‘I’ve Seen the Heathens Cry’

HOMEGROWN band Kubra Commander has released their much-anticipated single, “I’ve Seen the Heathens Cry,” on all streaming platforms Friday, September 24, 2021.

The band, which is under Lilystar Records, is composed of Bobbi Olvido (lead vocal/songwriter), Lynel Sucalit (synths), Joko Nozawa (guitar), Jah Acab (bass) and Tim Williams (drums).

“I’ve Seen the Heathens Cry” is 6 minutes and 9 seconds of pure hypnosis, taking its listeners to another state of mind with its infectious melody and harmonies.

The psychedelic-rock track has a trance-like vocal delivery from Olvido, which fans of Tame Impala or The Stone Roses would find joy with.

Kubra Commander also released the track “Garden Bistro” last April 9, heavily inspired by the Manchester Sound of the late 80s that carried on through the 90s.

Kubra Commander Return with Trippy, Cathartic New Track

Cohesion doesn’t come easy. We can split hairs and say consistency is first cousins with monotony, and we can have that conversation run like drunken ping-pong all through the night. For my money, though, chasing after a sound like it’s some sort of pocket religion is always admirable.

The gentlemen of Kubra Commander congregate in the church of genre, and for the first time in a while, that’s an OK thing. As with their previous single “Garden Bistro,” their new offering—the trippy, hypnotic “I’ve Seen the Heathens Cry”—sees a band that’s hell-bent on delivering a mood piece that doesn’t knock you out with stillness.

Forged in the same fires as the best of The Brian Jonestown Massacre and Oasis, the KC boys—singer-guitarist J. Martino Olvido, synth player Lynel Sucalit, guitarist Joko Nozawa, bassist Jah Acab, and drummer Tim Williams—achieve in “Heathens” what overthinkers couldn’t with fancy chord changes and time changes and things.

Performed with swing-and-sway rhythmic aplomb, superbly mixed, and well-sung, the new single by the psych-rock-cum-Britpop quintet doesn’t quite strut, shimmy, or sashay. In truth, it edges closer to elevator muzak with its absence of spikes and peaks. But it doesn’t just meld into the furniture and the drapery; it becomes the very atmosphere.

First written in April of last year, “Heathens,” like countless other tunes penned during this time, is a stab at catharsis. Kickstarted by a slithering bassline and sedating synth parts, the band worked their way into the jigsaw-like the masters that they are: with nary a superfluous note thrown in sans rhyme or reason.

“Am I ready now, to fall asleep / We’ve been living in doubt, are my thoughts even real,” Olvido and company sing while swathing the listener in repetition and willowy sonics, fully aware of the ironic potency of just-being-there.

New Kubra Commander Track Conjures Manchester Sound and Credo

Kubra Commander’s new Brit-rock-style romp is as hypnotic as it is infectious. It leaves you defenseless against its blistering charms. A triumph in both songcraft and studio work.
It’s no accident “Garden Bistro” sounds vaguely ‘90s Manchester.

The Kubra Commander boys dig that vibe: that reverb-laden overdrive that not so muchpaints the walls but washes it. It has neither the anarchic cheek of New York, nor the existentialist desolation of Seattle. But no matter: there’s swagger and groove in hearty doses, and people who swear by mid-career Oasis and latter-era Stone Roses will surely have reason to be roped in.

As with their 2020 single “The Now,” this new KC banger is an exquisite bit of audio playacting, if you may. In other words, not only does “Garden Bistro” sound great, it is also an adroit bit of studio artistry (which is really all we’re left with these days, if I’m being honest).

On top of the usual personnel—singer-guitarist J. Martino Ovido, synth player Lynel Sucalit, guitarist Joko Nozawa, bassist Jah Acab, and drummer Tim Williams—Kubra also enlisted Jeremy Rigodon to program percs, on top of manning the board at Dirty Jones. And for a densely layered track such as this, that’s certainly no walk in the park.Topically, the band says, “[It’s] about trying to pursue the beautiful things in the world despite [its] many uncertainties.” And man, if this is the sound of coping—not mopey wrist-slasher singer-songwriter fare, not overwrought karaoke-worthy balladry—then count me in.

“Garden” was originally built on riffage before yielding to soundscape architecture, a process that took the better part of two years (and a pandemic). It is yet another stab at the psych-leaning direction Ovido and company want to traverse for this phase in their as-yet short history (i.e., their Lilystars era, if you will), and the signs are already looking bright.

“Take my hand and let’s roll, baby / Believe me, we’re cool like that.”

I mean, why not.

Kubra Commander debuts first official single ‘The Now’ under Lilystars Records

Kubra Commander joins Lilystars Records’ impressive roster of music acts from the Philippines and beyond.

Prior to signing up with the indie record label, the Cebu-based psychedelic rock outfit has been making waves online since the release of their breakthrough track, “On Your Left,” which made it to CNN’s 8 New Local Releases for your Listening Pleasureand earned a glowing review from indie music website, Flying Lugaw.

To mark their debut on Lilystars Records, the band has finally released their latest single “The Now”—a brooding, post-punk number about “gaining a new perspective on things through experience, and having an inclination to share the experience with other people in hopes that they can gain something new in return.”

Propelled by Kubra Commander’s inherent brand of disaffected cool, “The Now” starts off strongly with glistening synths straight from the ‘80s pop playbook, and builds up into an anthemic chorus at a brisk pace. Music-wise, it sounds more indebted to the band’s post punk and new wave influences, as well as the escapist, modern indie rock anthems of music acts such as MGMT and Empire of The Sun.

“I believe the chiming synth riff was what nailed it for me, playing it over the chords and beat gave a danceable feel to the track which I really liked,” vocalist and guitarist Bobbi Olvido shares the details about the music arrangements. “Everything just followed through from that point. It’s the first song where in all the members we’re able to contribute in the recording process, and it was quite easy to have everyone be on the same page production-wise. I also wanted to try to play with the idea of singing all the verses first and having all the choruses after.”

“The Now” will be part of Kubra Commander’s upcoming new album, Rhythm Tourists to be released in 2021.

Kubra Commander and Their Brooding, Post-Punk Single “The Now”

Cebu-based indie rock quintet Kubra Commander has finally released their latest single “The Now”—a brooding, post-punk number about gaining perspectives and having an inclination to share it with other people.

Propelled by Kubra Commander’s inherent brand of disaffected cool, “The Now” starts off strongly with glistening synths straight from the ‘80s pop playbook, and builds up into an anthemic chorus at a brisk pace. Music-wise, it sounds more indebted to the band’s post punk and new wave influences, as well as the escapist, modern indie rock anthems of music acts such as MGMT and Empire of The Sun.

Kubra Commander is composed of vocalist/guitarist Bobbi Olvido, guitarist Joko Nozawa, bassist Jah Acab, synth player Lynel Sucalit, and drummer Tim Williams.

“The Now” marks their debut release under Lilystars Records—the home to some critically acclaimed indie bands and singer-songwriters. Kubra Commander’s latest song will be part of the upcoming new album, Rhythm Tourists to be released in 2021.