Hans Christian Samson’s guitar riff starts with an F sharp, an E and a C sharp, opening notes that he and Leo Van Lucenara improvised for a tune that had not yet been given a name.
“I was thinking of hope,” Van says when asked to explain the succession of notes after their MTV Shoot for DNX’s Soundbox Session.
A former Communication student now taking inter-disciplinary studies, Van closes his eyes and feels the keys on his electronic organ, as if his fingers can find it by themselves.
“I can feel the notes,” he grinned, his braces gleaming.
Hans, in a denim jacket, sporting a man bun and his guitar slung across his chest nods in approval.
With the melody starting to take shape and bugging them like Mommy Dionisia’s cover of Wrecking Bull (or was it Reeking Bull), Timothy Dela Rama, drummer and rapper, and the band’s lead vocals, Joanne Bernal, started to think of words that can wrap around the tune.
Tim found inspiration for the opening lines when he saw Joanne sitting on a curb and remembered the rough patches she went through.
Raise your head
To the sky
Then the song started to take shape as the band started to improvise during their jam sessions, much like what the Beatles used to do.
Tim and Joanne, in case you haven’t figured it out yet, are a couple.
“He saw the song as a gift to me,” Joanne tells DNX, her voice breaking, her eyes moistening at some point as she recalls “the darkest moments” of her life.
“It came to a point that I wanted to end it all or escape the city and live somewhere else,” she says as Tim, seated beside her, adjusts his glasses and stares at his drumpad.
He did not glance at Joanne as she took a deep breath and leaned back on the chair and composed herself.
She might not have wanted to cry openly, as professional artists do.
Whatever bad things that happened to her she summed up in a few lines: “I was going through challenges.”
She mentioned people “who did not believe” in her relationship with Tim, “personal problems” and “professional challenges.”
Mojo Nova’s sound has nothing to do with bossa nova, that Brazilian evolution of jazz that was popularized by, among others, Astrud Gilberto.
As she snaps her fingers and sways her body to the rhythm provided by the band, one can hear Astrud singing in the form of Adele, if Adele were Asian.
As Hans’ fingers glides over his guitar, almost John Mayer-like, and Van hits the keys looking like Rob Thomas, Joanne hits the refrain:
When they leave you high and dry
Pick the pieces up and rise
Cause soon enough
The sun will shine
And light the way for you and I
And the band says in unison: You’re Beautiful.
All of them agree that Rise is not only their first single but has become their anthem.
“It was a gift to me and now we give it to everyone. A gift from us to them,” Joanne says.
In looking for a perfect Valentine’s Day story, there are elements a writer seeks out.
This one ticks all the boxes. Sadness, gloom, hope, redemption, moving on.
Perhaps, though, in a world where depression and suicide seem to have become “cool,” Rise celebrates the individual’s capacity to overcome darkness.
Suffering, someone once said, is necessary for great art.
To which Tim, who raps like Eminem, agrees though he quickly adds that this is not a reason to go down the rabbit hole of gloom.
To be alive is good but we also have to take in the bad, he adds.
As Tim’s rap interlude says:
bring light in the night
Embrace the positivity
That shines so bright.