Jeremiah: Poster Boys Preach Pop
by: Maya Uno Martin

It was one of those post-summer afternoons, overcast and muggy. I had just walked a kilometer and a half from the wrong side of Camp Aguinaldo to the AFP Theater, which, in a couple of days, will be hosting this year's Metropop Song Festival. Awwrrright, I say to myself, as I enter the lobby. I get verbally harassed at the main gate for having one bulk of a knapsack and suspiciously excessive facial hair, and this is what I'm getting a sneak preview into the most prestigious assortment of Pinoy mush that would've made Valentino blush. Inside, I settle down as inconspicuously as possibly while Jeremiah did take two of finalist Vehnee Saturno's "Ganyan Ako." As they hit the high notes, I couldn't help but flinch. It wasn't bad, believe me. It's just I haven't heard guys shrill like so since that guy in Mariah Carey's "I'll Be There" video. I was obviously in the presence of male pre-pubescence at its finest. I catch up with the group later at the backstage as they were discussing the finer points of choreography. You could do something with the mic stands, a production assistant suggests. You could come down the stairs for a grand entrance, another one chimes in. Someone suggests they buy a whole bunch of boyband videos. Them pretty ones look dazed as a couple light some Marlboros. For all my preconceived notions of pampered pop music celebrities, this wasn't my idea of glitz and glamor.

"Being included in the finals, from over a couple of thousand entries, is an achievement in itself," confides Symon Soler, erstwhile matinee idol and newest member of the fab five. "Still, we're up against the best."

Despite having three chart topers from their first album as well as hordes of adoring, nay, salivating fans, Jeremiah are still relatively greenhorns. Composed of Olan Crizaldo, Glenn Gonzalez, Piwee Polintan, Froi Calixto, and Soler, the group has been around for two years, which isn't really saying much in an industry that thrives on endless FM radio rotation and noontime show exposure. What makes it doubly hard, though, is that they don't have a manager for such paper pushing.

"There are advantages and disadvantages," Symon says. "Mahirap na ikaw na yung artist, ikaw pa yung magbebenta sa sarili mo. Unlike `pag may manager, siya na ang magpa-package sa `yo." "Minsan `pag concert, kami pa ang maghahanap ng mineral water," adds Olan. Nothing shocking, actually, for most rock bands that thrive on do-it-yourself ethics, but well, this was showbiz. Mundane things like haggling for talent fees and scheduling gigs weren't supposed to be part of the act. "Still, we like it as it is," Froi clarifies. "It's a group thing and we get to do what we want to do."

Rewind to 1998. Star Records was setting up a boy band. It takes a couple of That's Entertainment talents, a former theater actor-cum-commercial model, and a frontman for a obscure showband, and the stage was set for what could possibly be the next big thing. After passing de rigour auditions, the quintet christened themselves Jeremiah. "We took the name from the Bible," explains Piwee. "He was supposedly the Weeping Prophet. It seemed adequate since most of our early songs were ballads." Well, sales of the first album were nothing to bawl over, having reached double platinum faster than you could say "Westlife." This was also partly due to the fact that the first single, "Nanghihinayang," was also the theme song to a particular Jolina-Marvin blockbuster flick. However, brewing financial conflicts with their manager came to a head after several radio stations banned them from airplay. Consequently, the latter got the boot and the guys were left to their own devices.

Right now, everything's water under the bridge. Sort of. The boys are coming up with an eponymous album under Estilo Records, which is still under the Star label. Produced by Saturno, Jeremiah is composed of 14 cuts, including three revivals. "Nag-improve yung musicality," says Olan on their sophomore effort, where all of the songs were penned by the boys themselves. "This has more variety unlike in the first album," declares Symon. "Basically, the whole album's lighter. Hindi lang kasi kami nag-focus sa dating fanbase. We tried to reach the AB crowd." Froi adds that at first, they had wanted to totally change their sound but reconsidered it for the followers of their first album. Fewer mush and more muscle, eh? Symon grins mischievously. "Sumalbahe kami."

Despite such rhetoric, there's nothing intimidating about this bunch of early twentysomethings who listen to Boyz 2 Men, Babyface, and the entire spectrum of sentimental drivel. Well, they have stopped studying and excessive drinking's a given. Sex? This, as expected, elicits howls and cheers. "We luuuv sex!" they proclaim in unison. All of them are still single. Committed, as they say, but single. "Mahilig si Olan sa mga 7-8 year olds! Basta out of town, si Olan ang hari." "Off the record `yon!" the poor guy pleads. Half-jokingly, I think.

Despite everything, you have to give them credit. For one thing, all of them are self-styled entrepreneurs. Symon, who's also a self-professed computer geek, continues to live with his parents and helps out with their business. Glenn sells balls the edible variety, that is in a couple of malls. Piwee has a recruitment agency while Olan is venturing into show production. Froi has his, get this, funeral parlor. "Lorenzo Funeraria, kung may madidisgrasya, mabibigyan ko kayo ng discount," he says with a deadpan face.

When they're not rehearsing, they're usually at some billiards hall, a current past time for these "superfriends." "Parang kami-kami na lang ang magkakasama palagi," says Froi. "Well, Piwee has a super community. Assistant tanod siya sa kanila," he adds, provoking more laughter from the rest. I force a smile. The posterboys are finally loosening up and I am totally lost.

Someone barges in and announces that the mic stands they've requested are now available. I hastily excuse myself and leave them to decipher the basic principles of mic stand manipulation. They've got a long night ahead of them. And pretty much the rest of their boyband lives, at least until the testosterone kicks in and they start sounding like Tom Jones. Nevertheless, there'll be no major epiphanies for Jeremiah tonight, I contemplate while stepping out into Camp Aguinaldo's pristine streets. It's all endless, mindless drudgery, I remind myself, despite all those starstruck ogling chicks.

Chicks. Hah, who was I kidding?