No Rome talks to BP Valenzuela about life on tour and what comes next

No Rome talks to BP Valenzuela about life on tour and what comes next

“Why don’t we start destroying that conservative culture that we had for years?”

Photos by CENON at MAV

 

Guendoline Rome Viray Gomez, also known as No Rome, has been making music since he was in his teens, earlier as a band called Rome and the Cats, formed with his brother Zeon and friend Ethan. The three later became the founders of now-defunct but highly influential electronic collective YoungLiquidGang, paving the way for other bedroom-based electronic artists in the Philippine underground. The collective created a space for young and impressionable teens trying to find wiggle room in a country densely populated with musicians, trying to create a different kind of pop music.

On the heels of releasing the album “Crying In The Prettiest Places” in 2019 and playing show after show, Rome has been writing records and producing for other artists. He brings his signature dreamy sound — think shoegaze R&B with the bounce and fizz of pop — and his sweeping, low baritone.

Earlier this year, Rome became the first London-based Filipino act to sing on the main Coachella stage, performing his song Narcissist with the emo-pop band and labelmate The 1975. I caught up with Rome last Sept. 11 during the Manila leg of The 1975’s tour, in which he showed his support as the opening act.

He combines his music with visual art, having been inspired by artists like Andy Warhol.

BP VALENZUELA: So you’ve been jumping from one tour to another around the world. How does that feel? Is it stressful? 

ROME GOMEZ: It’s very stressful, especially not being able to go on this kind of tour (before), but I love playing. I fell in love with seeing who respects and relates to my music. It’s a lot to do with that. Like the audience, knowing who came out of their houses to come and see me because they relate to it so much. Like, “I really love your stuff!”

Yeah. It’s no joke to go to a show and have to be there in the crowd watching someone you admire, someone you’ve only been listening to. What’s your favorite tour destination so far?

I wanna say Asia but we aren’t finished (touring) yet. So as far is it goes, f*ck, California or Glasgow? Glasgow. But yeah, California is… fun.

It’s… fun. 

It’s fun! 

(BP and Rome laugh)

So you’ve released “RIP Indo Hisaishi” and “Crying In The Prettiest Places.” Are there specific places being evoked in the songs on those EPs, since you were always out and about jet-setting between writing them?

Yes, specific places. “Crying In The Prettiest Places” is meant to be in that kind of form, hence the title. I finished all the songs in different places like Asia, US and United Kingdom. I think a lot of them had to do with stories I’ve experienced in those places but some of them, you know, were like songs I’ve had for ages. I restructured them in format, changed lyrics into what happened, just because I like to write about moments that have happened rather then something reminiscent.

Like a specific mood, or a specific feeling? 

Yeah, like a specific feeling. I’ll write whatever happens when I’m there. That’s why when I get to places I want to be able to make music and make time to actually dwell on things, you know what I mean?

Yeah, exactly! You’re not just there, like, “I’m gonna make a song here, about this place.” It’s just about how you feel when you’re there. 

Yeah. It’s not like, “California, oh wow!”

Palm trees! 

For me it’s kinda like being in that spot and experiencing these kinds of things, like romantically or discovering some sort of outsider feeling. I can write about that even if it’s positive or negative — you know what I mean, right? You do the same thing.

When I go somewhere, I’m always so excited. But then, the things I write always remind me of home.

But it’s in this position where there’s a lot more to talk about, it’s all new. You know what I mean? I’d never been to LA (before, and there was) that feeling or rush — meeting somebody or being involved with somebody.

And you’re in and out, so it feels more…

…Tangible. And… 

…Urgent. 

Yeah, and urgent!

No Rome will be back for a solo homecoming show in Market! Market! Activity Center on Oct. 6.

What’s it like being signed to Dirty Hit and being able to produce for other artists?

Definitely very cool because I think they look out for artists and they sign people that they’re fans of. I think that’s kind of a big benefit because they have high respect for the music.

Especially for your creative freedom too, right? 

Exactly.

 

You’ve been doing new stuff. For example in the video (for your song Seventeen), I saw that you had your project up (as a production design set) — the rig with the LED lights and garlands of flowers. They’re supportive of out-of-this-world things like that, in a sense, (because) you marry your visual art with your music, right? Anything you do is always so visually intricate. You’re not a minimalist but you’re not a maximalist either. Do you incorporate that into your live shows?

I do incorporate that into my live shows, like how does this song function if it were played by a band? And that’s kind of what I wanted to do all my life. There’s a purpose why we translate the songs into a full band setup rather than just having a DJ and the interpretation of how it would be if we played it live, aside from the fact that I’m heavily inspired by bands more than solo artists. I’d have intentions in my head of writing the song as if it were (played by) a band instead of one person, and now we’ve got four people. (Editor’s note: No Rome’s touring band consists of longtime friends Marty Carsi-Cruz, Mark Paredes and Lean Ordinario.)

It’s immersive, and you’re bouncing off each other, too. It doesn’t feel as isolated, like you’re playing a show and people are, like, looking up and watching you and just you. And I’m digressing, but your bandmates are people who have been hanging with you since way back.

Yeah, since forever. These people, I’ve always jammed with them. Lean has always been part of the band. It’s also a really cool feeling to be able to do that with your friends — traveling, going all around the world. It’s different.

 

“I’m generally in love with the feeling of making music and being around people who made you feel like music — it’s an amazing thing,” says No Rome.

 

I’ve always wanted to ask you this question. The first song I ever heard of yours was Dance With Me, and it reminded me of the Manila we grew up in. I met you (at a shoot for The Philippine STAR’s Supreme) in 2012 and it’s been seven years since then. What’s your favorite song off your new record “Crying In The Prettiest Places”?

I’m gonna say All Up In My Head. I think that’s what spoke to that whole record coming together, ‘cause I was stuck up in my head. I was in a rut, and there was no way but to sing a redundant song where I’m singing “I’m all up in my head” because I was…

Yeah, ‘cause you’re a Virgo. 

(BP and Rome erupt in zodiac-induced laughs)

Yeah. It’s cool because it’s a pop song but then the progression really takes you aback.

And I think it’s kind of me reinterpreting my move to the United Kingdom. Not that I was culturally appropriating it, but in a way, me hearing that sort of music hanging with friends in the UK, that’s how I interpreted garage music in my head, like this Filipino dude doing a garage song.

It’s dope. You think it’s a pop progression, then you throw in the chord that’s sort of dissonant, very London. But the structure of the song, it’s still very you. You’ve had remixes by amazing London artists like MJ Cole and Alunageorge. Who would you love to do a remix with? Not to preempt it or anything.

Honestly, right now? That’s such a tough question, because I’m a fan of everybody nowadays. Not everybody, but you know, I like a lot of music. I kind of wanna do Cupcakke, imagine! Just her kind of harsh (flow), or Rico Nasty…

Or Tierrra Whack!

Like a Rico Nasty No Rome remix. Who would think that would happen ever?

But I think that sort of element of yours, poppy, swoony, jumpy, and then —

Yeah. Like aggressive female MCs. That would sound amazing.

“There are years and years of culture we gotta destroy. Why don’t we start now? Why don’t we start destroying that conservative culture that we had for years?”

Imma segue into something more personal. Seventeen has been sort of an underground hit over here in all its incarnations. When you released it while you were still in Manila and you hadn’t (yet) moved to London, what were you doing when you were 17?

I was in college meeting you guys, but yeah, that was what it was. I was making art with friends and skipping school. In context, it doesn’t sound advisable but it’s something that helped me get to where I am now. Not that it’s far out, but if I didn’t meet these friends, I wouldn’t write those songs or I wouldn’t feel so enthusiastic doing music.

 

Did you feel that then when you were hanging out at Taft, doing whatever? Did you think you would play an (expletive) arena?

No, I never did. I loved music ever since, but I never really came to the point in which I thought that I wanted to be big. I didn’t know that it was gonna happen. I think it’s every musician’s dream to be able to play in front of a big crowd, and I was kind of blessed with the opportunity to come with The 1975 on tour and experience that firsthand, in front of massive crowds. In a way, though, I was just generally in love with the feeling of making music and being around people who made you feel like music. It’s an amazing thing. Music brings people together.

 

If you could work with three people — living or dead, here or elsewhere, like no limitations — who would they be?

Oh, this question. No….

I’m gonna give you like three minutes to think about it. No worries.

One answer I’ll always say is Young Thug. It still hasn’t happened, and I’m waiting for it to happen.

Yeah, you guys are kind of the same in the way you interpret visually how you are. That semi-androgyny, being eccentric?

It’s kind of like that strong fear of being yourself. There’s an interview we watched, me and my brother (Zeon Gomez of moonmask), about everything he was doing. Like “This is just me, I’m just a weird guy, like I never thought he was a weird guy until someone told me,” you know what I mean? That was it. I never knew that I was weird until someone told me. “Damn, dude, you’re (expletive) weird.” And it’s inspiring, you know. He’s just doing his thing. He knew what he had to do. There were some things where he knew what he had to do because he was thinking about pushing that art form further, not just like music itself. He knew that, all right, this music is the best platform I’ve got and I wanna make the most out of it. That’s really cool.

Second: Thom Yorke (of Radiohead)

He has some really good new solo stuff out.

And Kim Gordon. 

What? Kim Gordon?

Of Sonic Youth. 

Yeah, but hmm… what would you guys do? Something noisy…

I don’t know, but imagine though! 

(BP Laughs) 

I mean, you asked me the question.

That’s true, that’s true, that’s true… (laughs)

I don’t know what I’m gonna do with Kim Gordon but when I’m in the studio with her, it’ll work out.

 

What is your favorite thing about being home?

Family, friends, and food. There’s just a different feeling of home. Home is home. I’m from here, I grew up here, and that’s what it’s always gonna be whether or not I move anywhere else. There are some people who hate where they come from; I don’t. Even if it’s in a state that you don’t like, you know that it’s where you come from and that’s what matters.

And you never forget your roots, right, and after every leg of a tour, you come back anyway. 

Exactly.

Stuff’s going down here. Is there anything that particularly riles you up, not being very specific but also, you know…

Well, right now, just ‘cause we conversed about it a while ago (before the interview), I would always hear about it but I never really had a chance to read about that new bill that they’re trying to get passed… 

The SOGIE bill.

Yeah, the SOGIE bill… My only thing is, I hate the fact that people say, like, “Oh yeah, I got friends who are gay, BUT—” That’s it. If you’ve got friends who are in that position, why wouldn’t you give them the right to just be themselves. Why is it that hard? Why are you saying “but” then? You gotta realize why don’t I want my friends to have the same rights I’ve got? That’s it, period and done.

Yeah, you’re not taking (the rights) anyway from anyone else.

Just for me, there are years and years of culture we gotta destroy. Why don’t we start now? Why don’t we start destroying that conservative culture that we had for years?

 

It can be said that your vision combines music with your visual art, or how you see things — you were always into visual art. You even took up industrial design and stuff in school, so it’s pretty multidisciplinary. What inspires you lately? Or what inspires your music? It could be anything at all.

I think (me being visual is) because I’ve always looked up to artists before. My idol was Andy Warhol. Before like Sonic Youth or Nirvana, artists were my first idols. Andy Warhol painted his whole life. He probably wasn’t the best guy, neither was Pablo Picasso, but these guys kind of painted their way out of things.

Like sort of… art rebels.

Hence everything being visual, and wanting to filter life through a visual aspect. They found this box of pictures by Andy Warhol that he never (published). Because he was just so particular about what he wanted, he shot his whole life in Polaroids, and you can find it. But his whole idea of knowing that when he was famous, people were gonna find his stuff, and he wanted to be seen in this form. He knew he was gonna document his life this way, and that’s what he did.

Like tangible memories… 

And it’s a way of saying, “If I die, this is how I want to be seen.” That inspires me.

 

 

No Rome will be performing at the Market! Market! Activity Center on Oct. 6.

Photos by CENON at MAV
Styled by NEAL P. CORPUS
Makeup by CELEST LAVINA
Produced by TIN SARTORIO, MAINE MANALANSAN and GABY GLORIA
Special thanks to NIXON SY of MMI LIVE
Tags:
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