“I don’t think music itself today is disposable, but I guess attitudes towards music releases become [that] because they don’t have a lot of story to hold on to.”
Words by Aldus Santos
Illustration by MC Galang
“I sometimes think of archaeologists. You dig up bones, stone tools, earthwork. And on their own, they are just remains, but taken in context, they form a picture,” musician-producer Joey Santos says, prompting you to fashion an image of that world in your head. “But people aren’t interested in the remains; they just want to see the picture!” When a man starts juxtaposing music with fossil trail—and gets inexplicably thrilled about it—you know he’s not horsing around. In truth, today he’s launching a new record label called floppydisks, but acknowledges the irrelevance of the enterprise. “Who cares about record labels these days?” he asks.
Yeah, logic and practicality are fine (it’s grade-school Darwin), but ask anybody who’s ever fallen in love and you just know they’re deficient in those aspects. To Joey, however, that kind of impractical romance is sorely missed, and he wants to change that with floppydisks. For him, embarking on this new “artist-centered” endeavor—while in the throes of economic, social, and national turmoil; while in the throes of loss, really—is an act of reclaiming our lives.
“When people talk about music being devalued, I’m not even interested in the monetary aspect of value anymore; I’m more concerned with the attention that’s given to it.”
“The idea was to make a label that explored the idea of owning music,” he says, quick to add that these need not be limited to physical-music formats; prints, handmade objects, sheet music, and other items also count. “That’s a pretty huge commitment to make during a time when music is akin to disposable product,” I challenge, and he agrees. “It’s also the reason why we have a tiny roster,” he adds, referring to We Are Imaginary, the classical guitarist Aaron Aguila, and the two artists putting out new singles today: his very own Halik ni Gringo, and singer-songwriter Coeli.
Joey’s excitement is contagious, his vitriol viral. In place of a bag of hackneyed platitudes—the kind people expertly spew when pushing product—he’s all seething idealism. And he’s got issues. “I hate how music is this thing that just gets put out on a Friday,” he says, bemoaning the fact that even something massive like Taylor Swift’s moody-gorgeous Folklore (put out in July) eventually gets lost in the news-cycle. “When people talk about music being devalued, I’m not even interested in the monetary aspect of value anymore; I’m more concerned with the attention that’s given to it.” In floppydisks, he says, this is addressed by ensuring that the artists have a story, get to keep that story, and have that very story on proud display.
“I don’t think music itself today is disposable, but I guess attitudes towards music releases become [that] because they don’t have a lot of story to hold on to,” Joey stresses. I’m honestly hazy on how these “stories” will manifest for the end listener, but suffice it to say that, with the label’s two maiden releases, they’re stories I wouldn’t mind being told.
“I hate how music is this thing that just gets put out on a Friday.”
First up is Halik ni Gringo’s “Mr. Big (Data),” a word of caution about how liberal we’ve gotten about our previously well-guarded privacies. It’s done in that wacky-djent way Gringo’s become really adept in. It’s not every day you get dished a finger-wagging—“Don’t believe everything that you read on Facebook and social media / Question everything that has a political agenda”—and have it sound like…this. The track is decidedly unfashionable, and anything bold enough to be out of step with the times, for my money, is worth looking into.
The mix is tops, the fretwork respectful of the form, and the lyricism stupid-smart, conscious of the power of free association but also spot-on in commentary. Interestingly, Gringo intends for this number to be a template for a Kanye-style “evolving” track, a semi-regular critique on whatever’s “trending” during any given season. “Every other month, we’re going to update the song to include new topics,” Joey explains, then proceeds to wax lyrical about the teachings of Susanne Cook-Greuter regarding pluralism, “where reality is ‘reality’ according to your reality,” he paraphrases.
Also out today is Coeli’s gripping “Nabibighani,” a live staple and a fan favorite since 2016, now given its much-overdue studio treatment. And as far as stories go, it’s the good kind: an intriguing set-up, a calming bricklaying of context, a beguiling narrative architecture. It’s also propelled by a nonstandard chord progression that mimics the uncertainties of new love. The cello ensemble that opens the track is particularly riveting; Coeli sounds angelic at the mic; and the guitar phrasing is meandering and poetic. It sounds like good, old-timey pop gold—not cheesy old-timey, but good old-timey; the nuanced, imaginative George Canseco variety—and I can’t wait to hear the rest of the record she’s writing.