The duo shares how “Sentiments” came to be
Two months before the world shut down in 2020, Noah Alejandre and Reanna Borela created reon. But like many of us, the indie-pop duo based in Ormoc, Leyte, found themselves spending the next two years mostly in the quiet of their bedrooms. But instead of being disheartened to continue reon, Noah and Reanna got to work and countered the blues through music. They escaped into the craft and created songs one can only describe as serotonin boosts, like the cheeky lilt of I Really Like You and the funky rhythm of Got Nothing To Do.
reon also won the grand prize in the PhilPop 2020 Songwriting Contest with their bilingual track, Suyo—a feat to cap off a year one can only describe as crazy. Through lyrics sung in Filipino and Bisaya, they paint the cheeky push, pull and woes of winning someone over despite a seemingly sour mood. Their dulcet and calming vocals mixed with smooth bedroom beats make it a saccharine-sweet love song.
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Through the next years, reon continued to put out singles and tracks. Armed only with social media platforms and their ideas, they made songwriting work even while they were apart. Their efforts culminate in their first-ever EP, Sentiments, released a few days shy of January’s end. But for this era in their musical journey, reon explores softer and more melancholy ground. They traded upbeat tracks that make you feel like floating on air for solemn anthems that take the words out of our mouths. The two embrace the blues and feelings to create music. The six-track compilation features singles such as the ardent A Place I Could Call Home and the nostalgic Back To The Times. But in the same breath, they surrender their all through Remain In You.
Ahead, we learn more about reon and how their latest EP, Sentiments, came to be.
Wonder: Hi, reon! How are you? Have you guys started with any New Year’s resolutions?
Reanne Borela: I guess the New Year’s resolutions we’re currently working on are: self-love, self-improvement and putting your mental health first, above anything else.
Noah Alejandre: Mine is to not be too hard on myself. 2022 is a year where I shouldn’t feel guilty whenever I rest or reward myself for accomplishing something.
W: As a duo, what does your working dynamic look like? Can you walk us through a usual songwriting session?
R: Normally, we would do sessions through Messenger or Discord to talk about the themes or topics we’d like to make a song about. Noah, our producer, would send some tracks, and then we’d brainstorm on what tune or lyrics would fit the most for the song.
N: We usually start writing songs on our own. Then, we would send the ones we made via Messenger to share our thoughts on each other’s works. From here, we decide what songs we’re going to push through with.
W: reon gained many listeners over the pandemic, especially through your uplifting and happy songs like I Really Like You and Got Nothin’ To Do. What does it feel like to create and release music during such a tricky time?
R: Creating music during this pandemic has been difficult in terms of shoots and travels. But for everything else, creating music became a coping mechanism for both of us. Music became our escape from reality, knowing that we’re all stuck in our homes with nothing to do or drowning in school work with no motivation. We [could] relate to what everyone [was feeling], and we let it out through our songs. So many opportunities opened and closed because of the pandemic. But, thankfully, we still found a way to make things possible, and we think that we had a great experience from that.
N: It felt overwhelming that we could get people to listen to the stuff we made, even though we just wrote it from the comforts of our respective homes. I probably can’t count the things this pandemic has taught me in creating and promoting music, and most probably, the music industry as a whole.
W: Let’s zero in on your newest EP, Sentiments. The songs here are slower and more somber compared to your earlier singles. What pushed you to explore this territory for your first EP?
R: We have wanted to make a sentimental EP since the beginning. Our songs, Dreams and Better Off Without You, were supposedly part of the EP. But we also wanted to try something different from our usual happy-go-lucky songs, ones that would resonate with the listeners and tell an interesting story behind them.
N: I guess spending too much time locked up in your room, alone, made me write these things I could never write if it were a normal day. The pandemic brought out the words I thought were better left unsaid.
W: From Suyo to the collection of songs in Sentiments, how has your sound, style and artistry grown? Are there any pivotal moments that affected how you made your most recent works?
R: I think we’ve improved a lot ever since Suyo. We gained a lot of influences from the people we’ve met, which helped us bring a little spice to our sound and style.
The creative process in writing Sentiments was [a product] of being inspired by the pandemic. People nowadays experience a lot of silent battles inside their rooms, which made us think about many things. So we wanted to translate that feeling into a compilation of songs, creating something as if the EP was their story.
N: The pandemic made all of us try out new things, and I guess we weren’t an exception to that. I tried a lot of sounds that we could potentially make into songs. These vary from jazz, folk, pop and soul and many more.
W: We saw your music videos for A Place I Could Call Home and Back To The Times—the place looks like such an oasis. Is the location integral to the stories you want to tell? Got any favorite moments while shooting?
R: It really is! When we made our songs, A Place I Could Call Home and Back To the Times, all I could imagine was this scenery by the river or a giant field of grass. I was so glad that we shot the music video exactly where I imagined it. My favorite moment while shooting was definitely the part where I had to go to the other side of the river. I love taking risks, especially when it’s an adventure.
Another favorite is the table scene where I was presented with a table filled with food. It would’ve been great if everything there was edible.
N: The setting is an important factor in the storyline’s flow. The fact that the location was ethereal in real life made us feel like we were living the story portrayed in the music videos.
The best thing that happened for me through the course of the whole shoot was being able to experience the different kinds of delicacies Cebu has to offer.
W: Sentiments marks a new milestone for both of you. What else can we expect from reon in the coming months?
R: We can’t say what’s next, but definitely still great music from the both of us.
N: People could expect new things from both of us, that I can tell for sure.
Sentiments just marks the start of a new era for reon, whose raw emotion and empathy lead to sounds that take on multiple shapes. They’ve brought listeners joy, validated their feelings and shared their stories. This is just the beginning, and we can’t wait to hear more.
Listen to reon’s newest EP, Sentiments, on different streaming platforms.
Art Alexandra Lara