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Some people say you should separate work from friendships, but college friends Leanne Mamonong and Naara Acueza beg to differ.
They first gained popularity with their single “Again” in 2016, before finally dropping their debut album “Daybreak” in December 2020.
You could say it’s been a long time coming for the indie duo who’s been jamming together since freshman year at Assumption College. They even wrote a song on their debut album that describes their friendship down to a T―“Choose You.” Like most friendships, the duo had their fair share of ups and downs, but they’d always find a way to be there for each other again.
“We just really get each other in a way no one else does and being able to make music together is just the icing on the cake.”
The thing about working on your passion with your closest friend, for them, is that “everything’s just more fun” and they get to be themselves without worrying about walls between them. And fun fact: As all friends do, Leanne & Naara have nicknames that sum up their friendships. They call each other Tuck, and would have been named “The Tucks” as a duo.
They’ve shared their love for music since college and a lot of young creative people dream of trekking the same path. For y’all who see yourselves living the dream with your friends, Leanne & Naara have one advice: “Be ready to take a risk.” There’s the probability of a falling out because nothing’s set in stone, but the key for them is to always respect each other.
For this week’s Friday Picks, we caught up with Leanne & Naara to chat with them about their debut album “Daybreak,” their passions and the secret to overcoming the friendship-work boundary.
What was your vision for “Daybreak?”
Leanne: We wanted to create something that would be appreciated by a wider range of listeners. It’s the beginning of our transition from easy-listening cafe music to more upbeat songs that really catch your attention.
Naara: We didn’t want to be in a rush because we wanted it to be special for us and, of course, for our listeners. Now that “Daybreak’s” already out, we hope that they love each song that’s in it because all of them were carefully picked and have a special place in our hearts.
Tell us about your songwriting process for the album. How did you get inspiration despite the current situation?
L&N: At first, we were a bit hesitant to release an album during this time because we feared it might be a tone-deaf response to the pandemic. But then we realized one of our goals is to inspire people and we thought this album could be our own little way of lightening their load.
Favorite song on the “Daybreak” album?
Leanne: “Choose You,” because it’s everything I love in a song. It’s honest, it’s not afraid to be cheesy, and more importantly, it’s jazz.
Naara: My favorite is “Never Made It Far” because of how it was arranged and it’s a perfect opening track for the album. The song sums up the sound of the whole album. Also, I love the post-chorus!
Which song from “Daybreak” felt like the hardest one to write?
L&N: We both agree that “Who’s Gonna Love You” was the toughest one to finish. Only the first half of the song was written four years ago, and we only completed it during recording in the studio last year.
We felt we’ve already said pretty much everything at the start of it, so it was hard to know where else the song could go. Eventually we found our groove also with the help of our producer, Brian Lotho, and it turned out to be an amazing track (especially with that guitar solo).
What are you guys passionate about? Aside from music, of course!
L&N: We’re theater majors so one of the things that we really loved to do pre-pandemic is watching plays together. We miss it so much.
You guys recently started the “Daybreak” podcast, too. How’s it like working on it?
L&N: We were very excited to start it because we can get very talkative at times. We had help from our label Warner Music with the production too, so we focused more on carrying out the conversations with the guests that we picked ourselves.
Leanne: The conversation with Sir Jungee Marcelo was one we didn’t expect. To hear all those words of affirmation from someone we look up to just made it even more special. We’d love to bring in more indie artists as guests in the future! Mostly because we also miss hanging out with them backstage at gigs too.
You released three MVs from “Daybreak.” What’s your dream MV concept?
Leanne: I think we were able to fulfill our dream concept with “Keeping Me Up.” If you watch all our music videos from before, we always seem so serious in them, so it was so refreshing to be able to just be ourselves and have fun in that MV.
Some veer away from working with their friends because of the probability of having a falling out. How did you manage to overcome this fear and pursue collaborating with each other?
L&N: To be honest, we didn’t think that we would be where we are right now. It started as a hobby, something we enjoy doing together and there was no hesitation on our part because we were just two kids having fun.
But as we grew older and started to take it more seriously, of course there were some fears of it not working out, and there were a few times when we were challenged. Glad to say we’ve surpassed those, and we trust that our friendship will take us farther.
Are you guys dropping anything soon? What are you looking forward to this year?
L&N: Something new is in the works but we don’t want to spoil the surprise just yet. But rest assured this is going to be an exciting year!
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Photos by Shaira Luna