Newlyweds Jed and Cilee stay attuned to each other through music
By Fiona Patricia S. Escandor
THEIR kind of experiment has microphones instead of microscopes — and newlyweds Jad Bantug and Cilee Kuizon liken themselves as its guinea pigs, playing with sounds, penning songs, making music to their hearts’ content.
This started sometime in 2013 and had its breakthrough last month, as the two who have since labeled themselves The Labrats, unveiled their self-titled debut album in the weekly music event, Songs of Summer, at Ayala Center Cebu.
Cilee said they worked on the album piece by piece, just by themselves at that, with her writing the songs and Jad with the instrumentation and programming. Plus a little help from Jad’s brother who did the hi-hats for the track Dance Away. “The songwriting was sporadic,” said Cilee, “I started almost two years ago for the first few songs and finished the remaining half earlier this year. The bulk of the recording and production happened in a span of two months, from March to April. We even thought we couldn’t finish it in time for its release.”
Recognized musicians in their own right, Cilee is also vocalist and lead guitarist of indie rock band Undercover Grasshoppers while Jad, a sound engineer, is the genius behind 1032 Recording Studio. The 11-track album is said to have been inspired by the their wide range of influences with some hints of blues, pop, folk and electronic music — marked with Cilee’s soulful, expressive vocals. “Each song has its own theme and we can’t generalize them all in one main category,” she described, “but I guess the whole album has a yin yang feel to it. Half of the songs give off vibrant colors while the other half somewhat have a darker energy.”
Jad and Cilee have been engulfed by music since a young age. Jad said that as a kid he used to have piano lessons at home, and that his dad had introduced him back then to the sounds and styles of the world’s greatest music legends. Cilee, on the other hand, held her first guitar trying to learn a Hanson song in third grade. She said, “I saw my older cousins play the guitar when I was young and I thought it was really neat so I learned it, too — to play songs in songbooks and sing along.”
Cilee went on to study classical guitar under Rene Filoteo, who she said had played a big role in intensifying her appreciation for the art. She later became part of Undercover Grasshoppers, wrote songs for the band and in 2012 they released their debut album Crop Circles.
Jad meanwhile took up other instruments, and has since become one of Cebu’s renowned instrumentalists and musical arrangers. He founded 1032 Recording Studio (named after their house number, by the way) in 2007, first at an extra space at home, that just recently moved to its new location along Escario St. Jad has been praised for his production work with countless Cebu artists, like in the two winning Vispop entries, Jewel Villaflores’ Duyog and Jerika Teodorico’s Labyu Langga, and in You’ve Been Facebooked the Musical, among so many others.
Behind the scenes, Jad also does music production for commercial projects while Cilee is a nurse by profession. They had met because of their passion for their art, and so it felt just about right that their wedding was marked with it.
For starters there was their quirky John Lennon and Yoko Ono-inspired pre-nup, and then culminated with what they love the most, and that is the chance to share their sound at the album launch three weeks late — a conclusion to their “experiment” that couldn’t be more fitting.
Photos: Alfred Gregory E. Bartolome
Make-up Artist: Carlo Damolo
Hair Stylist: Jerwin Bastatas