The band chugs up breakthroughs after more than a decade of grooving with metal.
Vie is a testament to living according to their name, striving for supremacy in their chosen endeavor for almost two decades.
This groove metal act is composed of Rod Rodrigo (vocals), Imman Tarroja (guitars), Mickoy Mariano (guitars), Ramon Isungga (guitars), Joma Caluag (bass), Patrick Bengullo (drums), and current sessionist Jeff Garcia (drums).
As of the moment, they are eager to compete for ascendance. Their songs “Ganid,” “Jomaica,” and “The Pull” have been mosh pit staples for some time. As they continue to break through the metal scene, they headline for legends, such as Queso, Greyhoundz, Saydie, and Valley of Chrome.
So, we asked them for a curb-side drink to see how they had progressed over the last 17 years.
Vie was formed at Jose Abad Santos Memorial School (JASMS) in 2005. At first, there were two bands. Caluag, Tarroja, and former drummer Mikey Cayaban (RIP). On the other hand, Rodrigo and Mariano have their own band.
“That was around 2005 in JASMS. When Imman and I were wannabes who [thought] that we [knew] how to play instruments,” Caluag wits out in nostalgia.
Mariano and Rodrigo were in another band at that moment.
“At that time, all I did was cut classes so that I could jam with my classmates,” shares Mariano.
“I was playing air drums when Mikey approached me,” quips Rodrigo. “He asked me if I was a drummer, too. I told him that I am a vocalist for an emo band.” Cayaban asked him for a talk over cigarettes. This created another venue for friendship and the band to be established eventually.
After that, Rodrigo was introduced to Tarroja. Two bands joined forces and became what headbangers know these days as Vie.
“Imman and I had differences in music back in the day. He was into bands with [a] heavier sound. I was into emo and post-rock. Saosin, Thursday, Typecast, The Used,” shares Rodrigo. “I was lucky. I was able to impress him.”
Tarroja sees this partnership as an opportunity to grow as a musician. He says it opened his ears to a spectrum of sound that can be applied to his melodies.
“I was into heavier sounds before. Something like Rage Against The Machine, Lamb of God, and Pantera,” Tarroja points out.
They decided to jam in a studio. Their song of choice was Rage Against The Machine’s “Sleep Now In the Fire.”
“Rod was supposed to sing to Zach dela Rocha’s lines, but he decided to scream. Scream like how screamo bands do it. I looked at Mikey and Joma, then we told ourselves that this might be it,” narrates Tarroja.
Their first efforts were fueled with emotive tunes, heavily influenced by bands like Typecast and The Used.
“When we were just starting, we used to play emo songs,” says Rodrigo.
Caluag also shares that they won an inter-school competition covering an emo song. “Typecast yung tinugtog namin. ‘Breathe Through The Glass,'” he reminisces.
Their pilot genre gave birth to four recorded songs. Then they indulged in Lamb of God tracks, creating an even sharper and heavier voice to their music—this time, with groove metal.
Ticket selling was a thing back in the day, where production would tell bands to sell tickets to be under a bar’s spotlight for a certain time. It was the only and easiest avenue in the mid-2000s.
Vie shared the same experience. Their first underground gig was at Freedom Bar.
They used to sell around 20 tickets just so that they could play. Another catch was that they usually were the last in the lineup. This meant they barely had an audience at all.
They also mention that financial issues became one of their problems. They had to borrow equipment, such as effect pedals, to achieve the sound they wanted whenever they played on small stages across their city.
Another constraint over the years is that they faced creative and personal differences.
“Alam mo yung mga suntukan sa banda?” Rodrigo asks. “There were times that this happened to us, too.”
Rodrigo mentions that these are instances that make a band bond tighter when playing live. These instances create opportunities to know and understand each other better.
Then Mariano left for personal endeavors, and Isungga took his place. He became responsible for the guitar parts that Mariano executed. Then Tarroja needed to go overseas. And upon their departure, Vie’s main challenge in sound arose.
“It was hard to mix three guitars. Especially [to] create harmony for songs written in only two guitars,” shares Tarroja. “But we rearranged it to work for the three of us.”
Vie currently has three guitarists now. Tarroja shares that, at first, it became a major challenge for them to equalize the guitars. Their solution was and is to yield sound to each other. Lessening distortions and dissecting parts so that they can each have specific purposes.
Less is more
“Less is more” is how Isungga describes their sound these days. According to Tarroja, this technique creates simpler tunes. It’s their secret to making more effective hooks for their listeners.
“Before, we used to overload songs with many chords and riffs. We try to keep it short and simple these days,” adds Tarroja.
Lessening distortions also creates a less saturated sound. This then makes their music more dynamic and their guitars more audible. Tarroja also stresses that when there are three guitarists in a band, it only sounds odd if each member’s complicated notes are added.
“One guitar would have more bass in it. The other is in mid. The third one [focuses] on the treble. This way, the audience can hear balanced tones,” emphasizes Tarroja.
The band also gives all that they have when practicing. This way, they can be connected when performing live. It creates tighter sounds that resonate with their audiences.
Their songwriting starts with Tarroja and Mariano working with the structure, explains Rodrigo.
“Mickoy and I create riffs. Then we also send ideas to each other and modify them. We make sure that we lessen redundant progressions and add what is needed,” shares Tarroja. He also emphasizes that they have their pegs and inspiration with this.
Once Mariano and Tarroja are satisfied with the rough draft, other members join them for a studio jam.
This is when they add their touches to a track accordingly. “We usually jam until we are satisfied with the output,” adds Mariano.
“Anger and sadness” are key components that Tarroja uses to write structures. He sees music as an emotional outlet to paint melodies with the song as its canvas.
On the contrary, Rodrigo shares that this was their foundation in songwriting back in the day. As of the moment, he sees his lyricism flow depending on the mood when composing.
The band needed a leap of faith to level up their game, and Vie then decided to join Red Horse Muziklaban. This created a fractal of possibilities for the band.
“We joined Muziklaban. I think that is how we were able to connect ToIan [Tayao] and Reg [Rubio],” shares Tarroja.
From there, they were able to be in the spotlight as one of the semi-finalists in one of the biggest band competitions in the country.
Vie also shares that they could play with known rock bands in the country. Acts they now refer to as “kuyas.”
“They started lining us up for Brgy. Tibay gigs,” adds Caluag.
Their constraints have garnered experiences giving birth to a full-length self-titled album. As of the moment, they are under the management called Numinous.
Their journey has led them to this, paving the way for them to showcase their talents more as friends who started with humble beginnings. They continue to strive for supremacy, making their dreams become a reality.
Words and Photos Aram Lascano
Featured Image Paolo Correa
Special Thanks Numinous Productions and Jeff Keenan