The Juans is here to inspire with “Liwanag”
Like many of us, the pandemic allowed musicians to turn inward. Sometimes they provide entertainment or air out their own trials and tribulations over the past two years. But whether or not it was intentional, artists continue to offer a sonic space of comfort that their listeners turn to. And for pop-rock band The Juans, Liwanag was made to lead their listeners to the light at the end of the tunnel.
“We only get to appreciate light in [the] darkness. The light that guides, that never gives up, never fails and the light that will lead us to the right place,” express The Juans, describing their new album Liwanag. In all shapes and forms, the light continues to be a recurring image throughout their first full-length record. Liwanag clocks with 15 tracks, which include well-loved hits such as Sabik, Dulo and Anghel. Frontman and keyboardist Carl Guevarra, lead guitarist Japs Mendoza, bassist Chael Adriano, acoustic guitarist RJ Cruz and drummer Joshua Coronel make up the band.
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Through Liwanag, The Juans showcase a wide range of skills by touching different genres of music. When asked if these musical explorations were intentional, the band shares that the other sounds result from their individuality. Frontman and keyboardist Carl Guevarra explains, “One of the major things that happened for this album, because usually, kami ni Japs yung nagsusulat ng mga songs. (Japs and I write the songs.) But now, Chael, RJ and a little from Josh wrote songs for this album. So it’s only natural that the sound would be different because iba-iba kami ng [musical] influences (we have different [musical] influences). ”
The album kicks off with the gleaming introduction of The Juans that seamlessly transitions to Liwanag. Ladled with harmonious choral backing vocals, soaring synths and tinkering warps, Liwanag sounds a lot like its namesake. It’s an optimistic, bright and hopeful anthem, setting the tone for the coming tracks. Then, Pangalan opens sweet and smooth like an 80s city pop track, and is enough to transport you to the giddy stages of an early crush. The crescendo for romance peaks at Pinakahihintay, another upbeat anthem with a soaring hook that lets you feel the joy of time well spent.
However, The Juans don’t purely tread around the exciting waters of romance for this album. In fact, Salamin explores self-image and is an uplifting song about finding things to love about what’s in the reflection. Meanwhile, Love You navigates a relationship—platonic or not—of asking a loved one to let you in and help them. But one of the most exciting melodies and most relatable songs out of Liwanag is Kahon. It perfectly describes the times we get stuck in our heads and the call for help we try to verbalize. The track opens with guitar plucks before transitioning to a punchy rap flow by Japs, carrying a somber but aggressive mood throughout.
At their core, The Juans create music as a worship band. Through Still Standing, the band sings about withstanding a series of lows—a testimony of their faith and strength. An emotional and piano-led ballad, Kuya is a letter to a higher being or a lost family member. Finally, Nandito Na closes Liwanag on a lighter note as a song of gratitude and praise. The Juans sing about the happy ending after a storm, the treasure of love after a long, arduous journey. It’s reveling in comfort and safety, knowing that the hard part’s over. We’re becoming more familiar with this scenario as the world slowly returns to normal.
When asked about the band's goal for Liwanag, Guevarra reverts to The Juans’ core. He expresses, “If we have one single goal for this album, [it] is that listeners will be able to connect with [a] song. That’s what The Juans is all about. We’re all about connecting to ordinary Juans, na yung pinagdadaanan nila ay hindi iba sa pinagdadaanan namin (that what they’re going through is no different than ours).” After all, the songs off Liwanag validate many of the complicated situations we’ve all been through as we continue with life’s ups and downs. Guevarra adds, “And if there’s one thing that we want to resound sa mga (to the) listeners is that they’re not alone.”
Stream The Juans’ newest album, “Liwanag,” on Spotify and other streaming platforms.
Art Alexandra Lara