We may have said so-long to the band Farewell Fair Weather, but Isagani Palabyab, one of the band’s members, continues to live his dreams by working closely with another musical team, Careless Music Manila (CMM). The full-time freelance music producer started working with CMM earlier this year on a few projects, and eventually, Nadine Lustre’s latest album, Wildest Dreams. The album, which he co-produced, was released last Oct. 31, and Palabyab shares he’s proud of it.
“The Wildest Dreams album in a sense is very universal but personal at the same time. The album is Nadine’s, the team’s (from music to visuals to marketing) and the listeners’,” he says. “This album is very special because it came very unexpectedly, during a time where everyone, Mic (my wife) and I included, was going through a hard time. Like the album’s vision, the process entailed pushing boundaries, being vulnerable in creation and growth not just musically but as an individual.”
We caught up with the Garage Young Talents alumnus together with his wife, Mic Manalo Palabyab, Lustre’s vocal coach. They spoke about the process behind making their Wildest Dreams come true.
As a co-producer and in charge of arrangement, how is it working with the team? With ‘Wildest DREAMS’ specifically?
Wildest Dreams was made during the lockdown, I came up with the music based on how Nadine [Lustre], Bret [Jackson], and James [Reid] described the song was going to be about. Visually you can imagine me on the keyboard interpreting whatever they have in mind. If I see Bret and Massiah [Haissam Morton] stand up and dance to it, that’s it! I got it right. I also recorded the vocals alongside James and Bret. The vocal recording process eventually became like this for the majority of the songs. Mic was also there to guide Nadine on vocal technique.
Tell us more about the single. What is it about, what’s the inspiration and the total vibe?
The song is based on a hiking trip Nadine went on. In terms of music, we approached it from the angle of a dream which gave us the ability to be more creative with the story telling. One fun fact—when Marcus Davis heard the first draft, his initial reaction was “Where is this going?” Bret’s and my reply being was, “Exactly!”
On a serious note though, it’s a dream, and you don’t know where dreams are headed. Most of the time, there is no resolution on where the dream ends. We also tried to make the music as dreamy as the lyrics through word painting. As if you were entering different levels of sleep. There is a sense of calm in the beginning, which turns into a downward spiral and progresses into much more throughout the song. Wildest Dreams is simply its own vibe.
What was the production process like?
The whole process was exciting and tiring, but really fulfilling. I would get a lot of questions about what it’s like working with the CMM people and, to be honest, it was great. A lot of people I would talk to were expecting it to be intimidating to work with them when, in reality, the project itself is what was intimidating. It was really easy communicating with them, and although there were times where I couldn’t understand what they were describing creation-wise, everything aligned later on, and the “Oh that’s what you were talking about” moment would come. When Wildest Dreams was finished, we realized a lot of the songs’ current arrangement should sound like “Wildest Dreams.” This brought us back to the drawing board for a lot of the songs that were already done. Having said that, we had to re-prod some songs so that they all sound like the theme of the album. This also meant pushing more boundaries in creation.
How about recording-wise? How is it especially working with your wife, Mic?
For the recording process, Nadine was very easy to work with, specially because she has a very unique tone and has experience in singing and recording. According to Mic, it was really easy communicating with Nadine because she’s so well-grounded. Mic’s main goal was to make Nadine get used to the technique, which is very important because live performance and recording performance are very different styles. In my experience, you usually have to give twice as much effort and emotion when you are recording compared to live performance, where your energy is fed by the audience. Also, the “red button syndrome” is real. I can say Bret and James really pushed the best out of Nadine. James also made a lot of the harmonies for all the songs. We would spend hours on recording sessions per song to get the emotion right, and this lasted for around three months. It wasn’t easy, but because of the teamwork and synergy, it was fun and everything paid off.
Aside from ‘Wildest Dreams,’ what other tracks did you produce in the album?
For the album, aside from “Wildest Dreams,” I also did “Intoxicated,” “Glow,” “Natural,” and “Grey Skies.” I also did the score for the beginning of the visual album.
For “Intoxicated,” we actually recorded Mic’s vocal chants and chopped it up to make it a sort of hook in the song. For “Glow,” I used actual kulintang samples performed by Tusa Montes. “Natural” was another song where I added beach sounds I recorded a long time ago in Calatagan, Batangas. And lastly, “Grey Skies” was a song I collaborated with Marcus on. They wanted a vocoder sound on the track, which is something I would do occasionally with my band live. I did it in our album too. It felt good putting that sound on because I feel it is a big part of my sound as a performing artist. Marcus brought the song to a whole new level in his production.
For the visual album intro, I word-painted the music towards the poetry. I also tuned the score to the frequency of the earth, which is 432Hz. Yes, you can say that I really geeked-out on this album.
What can we expect from the album?
Expect the unexpected. The album speaks for itself and is true to its very core.
Watch behind the scenes of Wildest Dreams album here