British Band Prep Talks City Pop, K-Pop, and Their Filipino Fans
A city pop band is rare to come by nowadays, especially in a live local setting where Japanese classics like Tatsuro Yamashita, Mariya Takeuchi and many different more stylistic pop music are on the radio.
U.K.-based outfit Prep is the type of band whose finesse, aesthetic choices and technical tightness rings just as true as their album recordings. Composed of lead singer Tom Havelock, guitarist Dan Radclyffe, keyboardist Llewlyn Myrddin and drummer Guillaume Jambel, Prep made sure that their fourth visit in Manila is filled with four times the charm than their last.
Prior to the sold-out show at the Samsung Hall at SM Aura, the band performed a more intimate set at Picasso Boutique Residences in Makati. Esquire Philippines was able to sit down with the band about their Southeast Asia tour and releasing more music in the future.
Playing in Manila
In between discussions of picking the best Portishead album and other various music references that are in their DNA, the four-piece talked about what it was like to play in Manila for the fourth time. The band’s last headliner show was in 19East Muntinlupa City in 2018 and then playing alongside a roster of international acts at Wanderland Music Festival in 2019.
“It was one of the most loud and vibey gigs where people were singing along with every lyric,” said keyboardist Llywelyn ap Myrdden.
“The crowd at our previous Philippine shows have been pretty amazing” drummer Guillaume Jambel added. “Like singing the whole songs, not just the choruses, verses, all the way through the show, you got this rowdy excitement that was so nice.”
“The show is going to be wicked,” Guitarist Dan Radclyffe interjected. “And to answer your question: the traffic was atrocious.” The band laughed.
Prep also brought up Terno Recordings’ head honcho and show promoter Toti Dalmacion and his wall of records.
“He’s a music fan,” said Radclyffe. “He loves city pop and we talk a lot about buying records in Japan. It’s a good match.”
For some music aficionados, Dalamacion was not only responsible for fostering a lot of music communities in the past but also bringing indie pop acts from Japan and the United Kingdom to Manila. Some say that his own personal record collection is to die for, and his independent record shop called “This is Pop” is a music haven.
“It was pretty much the first thing we did,” vocalist Tom Havelock said. “He took us to his shop and we spent a couple of hours there and everyone was choosing from the wall. Toti’s the man.”
Music for headphones?
The Prep boys said they never expected that their music would ever come to life and be heard by audiences across the globe.
“I guess the really huge thing is that we learned to play live,” Havelock said. “We had no plans at all for it to be other than a studio project. It would be almost impossible to take out of the studio and put on stage. I mean, we all got to experience playing in other live bands, but Prep really felt like it was some studio music.”
“It’s music for headphones,” Jambel said.
“We had to learn how to do it properly,” Myrddin added. “I mean, we are in the Picasso right? Like we had to learn how to do it properly by just breaking it down at first.”
“In a way, to make any kind of original music in this day and age, you need to sound like you don’t know what you’re doing,” said Radclyffe. “That’s it. That’s what sounds fresh to people.”
After a short discussion on their process, Prep’s remixes aren’t hard to miss when you’re a massive fan of the band, especially for followers of K-Pop. Not too long ago, the band made a remix of "Bad Boy" by Red Velvet, revealing that one of their favorite members in the girl group is Wendy.
“She’s probably the one who made it happen” Havelock said. “She’s the one who’s into Prep.”
“We had a really funny evening having Korean barbecue with her,” said Myrddin. “She bought Guillaume a birthday cake”
“She sang me Happy Birthday!” the drummer said.
Havelock has been known to mesmerize crowds with his androgynous voice. Along with Jambel’s tight drumming, and Myrddin and Radclyffe’s instrumental chemistry, the boys of Prep are certainly a force to be reckoned with. Besides Wanderland, they have performed in other festivals across the globe, including JOYLAND Festival with headliner Japanese Shibuya-Kei icon Cornelius and jazz-R&B outfit Thundercat. Although the band missed out on the aforementioned acts, they did manage to catch Thailand’s very own Phum Viphurit right before their scheduled calltime in the said festival.
While the band admits nerding out to other British music in the past, there were a couple of new bands that the outfit was able to support in their hometowns, such as Windmill scene’s very own Black Midi and Jockstrap, both of which offer one of the most out-there experimental music ever since the start of the 2020s in the U.K.
“I love Jockstrap,” said Myrddin. “I am going to be honest. Those two bands are the most exciting bands in the U.K. right now.”
“That mad venue has a dog on the roof,” Radclyffe brings it up in the conversation.
“I went to see my friend in the Windmill,” Myrddin explained. “And I didn’t know where it was so I was in Brixton and I went to the nearby pub and I asked the barman where it was and he told me, ‘Hope you brought your stab vest!’”
The band says they’ve always been proud of where they are in the current British music zeitgeist. Having to play around the world as well as writing new music almost every after tour, they’re looking forward to taking a unique direction shortly after the year’s over.
“It’s genuinely hard to say,” Havelock explained. “We’ve got to the point we’ve been very confident in our identity, we have a sound. And that’s something that I've definitely never had in any band I've been in before, it’s always all over the place. Prep does have a sound and that gives us an opportunity to play with it. As you know we’re going to write some new stuff, record some new stuff quite quickly. And I thought we're probably going to do a bit of experimentation, and let’s see what we can do. That said, I love the kind of world our music is in [at the moment].”
The sold out show itself was packed to the brim, with everyone in the audience dancing along to nearly every song.
The band members said they were able to listen to other local acts during their stay here in Manila. Some even caught their attention.
“I was looking at the other day and I discovered Frank Ely and his new stuff, he’s really cool,” they said. “I think there’s something Sunday, Yugen Sundae? Yeah, they’re really nice.”