Keeping an eye on Wide Eyed Records

(Courtesy Wide Eyed Records)

In the advent of internet streaming, everything we’ve ever wanted to listen to is just a click away. Actually, I’m sitting at the shore of a beach right now, writing this story while streaming Ang Bandang Shirley’s “Tama Na Ang Drama” on Spotify. That says a lot about the state of the music “industry” doesn’t it? Accessibility is a debatable issue, especially when quality is concerned. You have the crappy songs in the radio, and the songs you want — but only available online or through records. That being said, listeners like me are grateful for the actions of one particular music collective. For a small, traditional indie label like Wide Eyed Records to release physical copies of CDs, something that is fast becoming obsolete, is quite commendable. Especially in this era of downloading and streaming.

A labor of love, Wide Eyed Records was spearheaded by indie scene stalwarts Kathy Gener and DJ Joey Santos. Kathy brings a monthly production called Attraction! Reaction! (famous for its “mush pits,” an aggressively, hug-centric version of a mosh pit), while Joey sings for indie band, Halik Ni Gringo, and is the audio engineer of one of the metro’s top recording hubs, Love One Another Studio. If it wasn’t for them, the critically acclaimed “Tama Na Ang Drama” from Ang Bandang Shirley wouldn’t be stuck in your CD players or streaming in our Spotify accounts, particularly mine. And there’ll be no drive to go on with the story I’m trying to tell.


Looking wide right at the present

Self described as “pioneers of nothing new,” but also quickly quipping that they are “true believers of great music from local artists that need to be heard,” the duo have come a long way since their inception three years ago. First releasing “Jesus Camp EP” by garage rockers The Strangeness – recorded in Santos’ Love One Another studio– it was a bold step for a label to hedge their first bet with the somewhat cult heroes, a risky gamble that paid off.

Known for their eclecticism, more than a year passed before Team Wide Eyed saw its second release with Ang Bandang Shirley. Newly departed from Terno Records at the time, Wide Eyed swooped in and made a big deal out of their second release. It may have been released late in that year, but the anticipation that it built made sure that it would be part of people’s best of lists — and indeed it was.

Now it’s 2014 and the label saw to the release of Joey Santos and company’s Halik ni Gringo album “Call of Booty,” a record five years in the making filled to the brim with cheese and unadulterated fun. With gems like “Release the Golden Eggs,” a song they admittedly say is about masturbation, these merry pranksters are a great addition, albeit an obvious one, to the Wide Eyed roster of artists. They’re Gringo Honasan-approved, the bigote himself, so that doesn’t hurt the well deserved hype they’re currently enjoying now.


Glaring red eyed at the future

And speaking of adding to their roster, Wide Eyed has also recently acquired newly christened indie pop band We Are Imaginary (formerly known as Your Imaginary Friends) to their line-up. The dynamic band is recording their album as we speak. This future album is going to be highly talked about once it comes out, if not part of everyone’s best of the year lists.

What the label has achieved with its short life span, meager budget and small roster is already far greater than any of the fly by night record labels achieved in the past. It might sound righteous, but for someone who has been running his own record label, I can say that these guys know the aesthetics and qualities they aim for, and they know how to turn it into something that will give the masses a musical daydream.Unlike record labels who dictate, Wide Eyed Records let their bands be, giving them freedom and judgment-a kind of creative indulgement that comes rare these days. They already have their niche market and cult status, capturing the hearts and minds of their fast growing audience so there’s no way but up at this point.

So what could be next for Wide Eyed Records? World domination? Hardly. That comes later. For now they are they are dead set to make waves and conquer the local indie scene, if not already cementing their place in its pantheon of greats. Soon it would read: The Dawn, Eraserheads, Wide Eyed Records.

When that day comes, and trust me it will, I’ll be standing in the middle of Attraction! Reaction!’s mush pit screaming out “I told you so.”

 Eye to eye

A conversation with Wide Eyed Records’ founders.


What made you decide to start the label? How did it all start? What were your primary goals?

Kathy: Individually, we both wanted to have our own record label someday and it just so happened that when we met (through the recording of Ang Bandang Shirley’s 1st album Themesongs in 2008 at Love One Another Studio — Joey owns the studio and also engineered the album. While I was the manager of Ang Bandang Shirley) we discovered that we shared the same nagging frustration with the kind of the music that is being thrown out there and supported by the big labels and big companies through their sponsored battle of the band contests — so we decided to make the label happen backed up by our shared music related ideals and musical taste and our combined experience in the indie music scene.

Joey: In 2011 we just wanted to put out music we thought was good, and that’s still one of our core values today: Both of us have to like a band to release their music on our label. If either of us disagrees, it’s not going to happen.


What are the challenges that you faced starting up and what are the challenges now that you have been operating for 3 years?

Joey: Financial challenges regarding operations will always be there, as in any music-related business locally or internationally, but the crux of the problem lies in generating revenue through sales and performance/publishing royalties based on the music that we release.


How do you operate the label exactly? Do you give your artists the same deals or are there differences between them?

Kathy: It’s just me and Joey and the band. The set up works in a way that we make the bands in our roster understand that this is a partnership and for it to work (despite our monetary constraints) we have to all do our share. Joey is in charge of all the music production/recording of the album stuff while I take care of the sales accounting and paper work for distribution, legal stuff, etc. and the band helps us with the promotions and other marketing stuff.

Joey: We only have four bands on our roster: Ang Bandang Shirley, Halik Ni Gringo, We Are Imaginary and The Strangeness. Every band gets a different deal according to the way they want to work and/or release their material.


What qualities do you look for when signing a band? Because so far, your roster has been pretty eclectic.

Joey & Kathy: We get bands whose music we both enjoy and believe in and members we like to work with.


What are your ultimate dreams for the label?

Kathy: For all our bands to succeed individually not only musically but monetarily. The label to be financially stable so we can help a lot more bands that we believe in and to provide them with all the media promotions that they deserve.


Where is the label heading now? Where do you see Wide Eyed 5-10 years from now?

Joey: We just signed We Are Imaginary, and personally I’d like to have a few more bands in our roster, and then produce a show with our roster fronting for one of our favorite international acts.

Kathy: For now the plan is just to help the bands in our present roster as much as we can. Garner as much sales as we can so we can produce more albums and to continue to put out our share of quality music here in manila and abroad. I’d like to see Wide Eyed Records Manila as a label known for quality music more than anything else.