Meet Baguio pride Cup of Joe

Baguio City is being talked about these days not for its cool weather, but for its bands and solo acts.

Cup of Joe is among the bands enjoying the patronage of the Gen-Z crowd, and it’s not for their mysterious name but for their kind of music which, so far, is all in Filipino despite the group’s English moniker.

E majors in college should know without consulting the dictionary that a cup of Joe is a colloquial term for a cup of coffee. None of the six young men who make up the band is an English major, though they speak good English in media interviews and in their concert spiels.

We discovered these things and more about the band at the intimate media conference Viva Music held for them at Boteiju restaurant at Estancia Mall on 20 December, and at the band’s show at Viva Cafe in Cubao, QC on that same day.

Cup of Joe, about five years old now, was signed up by Viva Music before it turned a year old in 2019. It already had a single, “Nag-iisang Muli,” when Viva Music took it in. By that time, the members had already graduated senior high school from St. Louis University. 

Yes, they were just in senior high when they formed the band in 2018 November so they could perform in an event in Baguio. Their parents, relatives and friends bankrolled their first single.

The band is composed of Edgar Gian Bernardino and Raphael Ridao, lead singers; Vixen “Xen” Gareza on keyboards; Antonio Gabriel “Gab” Fernandez on lead guitar; Raphael “Seve” Severino on bass guitar; and Clint Joules “CJ” Fernandez on rhythm guitar. All are in their early 20s.

Cup of Joe was originally meant to perform only in Baguio. They sang in community events, school music festivals and private parties, and they covered popular songs. One day though, they decided to write a song, which they titled “Nag-iisang Muli.” They first uploaded the song on Facebook, then on Spotify where it got noticed by people.

By then, the boys had begun going to college in different universities in Baguio. One got into Dentistry, another into Medical Technology, others went into Business Management or IT.

The boys all studied in Baguio but none of them was born and raised there. Four are from Pangasinan, one is from Abra and another one is from Isabela.

By 2022, the band had composed about 10 songs, enabling them to do sets in cafes and bars without singing covers.

Diverse songs

With Viva Music coming in, their songs got the full studio production. In November this year, Cup of Joe became the most-streamed Filipino music group on Spotify Philippines for the first time.

Billboard Philippines also reported that as of 19 November, the band ranked atop the Spotify Philippines Daily Top OPM (Original Pilipino Music) Groups, surpassing Ben&Ben. The latter spent its 697th day at number one only the day prior, just a month short of spending two calendar years occupying the top spot.

As for Cup of Joe, it climbed several spots to become the number two Filipino music act overall, second only to Hev Abi on the Spotify Philippines Daily Top OPM Artists. It also entered the top 10 of the Spotify Philippines Top Artists for the first time, charting at number eight.

The group’s songs are a diverse lot, from vocal harmony-driven acoustic pop (“Sinderella” and “Nag-iisang Muli”), to retro-flavored pop (“Alas Dose”), mid-tempo ballads that showcase their alt-pop leanings (“Sagada,” “Hayaan”), teasing retro wave influences (“Bukod Tangi”) and neo-folk tinged tracks (“Ikaw Pa Rin Ang Pipiliin Ko”). 

The band’s other songs have such titles as “Mananatili,” “Estranghero,” “Tataya” and “Alas Dose,” which is a countdown to the Christmas noche buena.

Ridao recalled how they wrote “Tataya”: 

“It was written around 2021 during the pandemic. It started with me just playing with my guitar. Then I thought up of a melody, which was the chorus. At that time, we hadn’t really made any happy songs so I thought it would be a great diversion from our usual topics.”

 “Tataya” is a song about holding on to love despite time and distance. It was inspired by a friend of the band who approached them and said, “‘Tol, alam mo ‘yung kahit malayo kayo ng jowa mo, parang siya pa rin yung home mo? Yung kahit ano mangyari pipiliin mo siya over and over again…”

That insight eventually led to the gist of the song: “Tataya pa rin sa isa’t-isa kahit anong mangyari.”

And, per their usual, Cup Of Joe managed to wrap an infectious chorus around that theme, with a final sound that reminds listeners of catchy 80’s pop.

May their rousing songs keep them on the rise in the Pinoy music industry.