Despite reaching new heights every now and then, SB19 is still growing.
This is what the Billboard-nominated P-pop group considers during a virtual press con for their latest EP “Pagsibol,” an homage to their growth itself. With the title literally meaning “germination,” the name—and the EP’s content—are a direct reference to SB19’s sometimes rocky path into the industry.
“In that context, we want our EP to symbolize our beginnings, origins, or simply our roots,” they said in a statement. “The term also signifies our growth from the group’s formative years to where we are right now.”
The six-track EP kicks off with the previously released single “What?”, which songwriter and group leader Pablo dubs as the most challenging track to write, due to the change in tempo and the lyrics that have to keep up with it. Its next piece “Mapa”—a song which has a collab version with Ben&Ben—is a loving ballad written for their parents that came together from a question posed by Pablo.
— SB19 Official 🇵🇭 (@SB19Official) July 21, 2021
“Dati nakatira pa po kami sa isang condo, during the ‘Mapa’ production. Si Pablo nagtanong siya sa amin na, ‘Anong gusto n’yo sabihin sa parents n’yo?’” Justin retold.
(We used to live in a condo together during the “Mapa” production. Pablo asked us, “What do you wish you could say to your parents?”)
According to him, “Pagsibol” was pieced together throughout the years, but each track is connected through a common theme that ties it all into this neat collection of songs: their roots.
For example, if “What?” is the pop rock-inspired older sibling, “Mana” (short for “manananggal”) is the EDM-infused piece that complements it. The two exemplify the interconnectedness of the EP’s music that the group had been striving for, with “Mana” talking about “reaching high but keeping your feet on the ground,” as compared to the anthemic ode to individuality of “What?”.
The fourth track “Bazinga” is an English-language, reggaeton-esque bop that the group recommends for more casual listeners. It takes a swipe at their vocal naysayers, who have, in a way, become a motivation for SB19 to aim even higher.
The next song “Ikako” is a break from the headbangers the EP has offered us, which is a ballad dedicated to frontliners. “Pagsibol” is driven home with its final track “SLMT,” a piece that gives thanks to no one other than A’TIN.
Personal growth and P-pop’s next gen
The group’s growth and roots are the foundation of the EP. But when it comes to developing as artists, the members think they have more ground to cover.
“Kahit feeling mo magaling ka na sa isang bagay, darating ’yung point na may matutunan pa pala ka. Ang hirap i-gauge ’yung [growth as an artist], kasi kahit ngayon, marami pa rin akong natutunan. Hindi ko alam kung kailan ako titigil,” said Pablo.
(Even if I feel that I’m already good at something, there comes a point that you’ll still learn more things. It’s hard to gauge our growth as artists, because even up until now, we still have a lot to learn. We don’t know when we’ll ever stop.)
“Every day is a learning process,” added Stell. “Ngayon, sa tingin mo okay ka na, kinabukasan mari-realize mo na kaya mo pa. I can give more, I can do more.”
(You could think you’ve done enough today, but the next day, you realize you can still do more.)
Despite the endless voyage to self-discovery, P-pop’s next generation now looks up to them as their own sources of inspiration. To Pablo and Josh, this isn’t something that’s pressure-inducing, per se. It’s simply a natural course of the industry and pop culture at work.
“Personally, hindi po ako pressured. When we step up on stage, lagi namin pinapakita ’yung truest self namin,” said Pablo.
(Personally, I don’t feel pressured. When we step up on stage, we always show our truest selves.)
“Isa sa mga main goals namin na magbigay inspirasyon sa mga new generation na gustong sumubok [sa P-pop]. [With] SB19 alone, hindi naman kaya namin ma-establish ’yung pop culture dito sa Pilipinas,” said Josh.
(One of our main goals is to give inspiration to P-pop’s next generation. With SB19 alone, we won’t be able to establish pop culture in the Philippines.)
“Music is universal”
And while some may cite the influences of Korea’s music industry in their work, the members consider what makes a song Filipino: the soul they pour into it, which, in their case, is undeniably homegrown.
“We believe that music is universal. ’Yung hip-hop, hindi naman galing sa Philippines yan. ’Yung mga kanta ng VST & Co., disco ’yan, hindi rin galing sa atin ‘yun. Pero it’s called ‘OPM,’” said Pablo. “’Pag nandito na siya sa atin, nilalagyan natin siya ng soul ng pagka-Filipino. Music is universal, and anyone can utilize it as much as they want.”
(We believe that music is universal. Hip-hop didn’t come from the Philippines. The songs of VST & Co. are disco, which also didn’t come from here. But it’s called “OPM.” If it’s with us, we pour our own soul into it, and that makes it Filipino.)
As they grow as artists, their to-do list grows alongside them. Among their goals include helping the local economy by enticing international audiences to flock to their concerts, planning world tours when all is well, and the ubiquitous question of dream collabs. (In Josh’s words, “Twice po!” in a “JK but not really” sort of way. But, of course, they’re quick to add that they’re open to anyone.)
The near future has a virtual concert on their and A’TIN’s cards (Aug. 1, to be precise), which the group thinks is bound to be “explosive.” Whatever they got going on now and on the horizon, rest assured, they’re going all out for it.
Listen to “Pagsibol” below.
Art by Yel Sayo, photo courtesy of SB19