What makes everyone associate him with the word cool isn’t because he kicks it back with the international music scene movers and shakers. It’s not because he’s what Bart Simpson aspires to be. And no, it’s not because he’s incapable of giving any fucks. What makes him the epitome of cool is the exact opposite of that. EYEDRESS could deceive you with his laid-back demeanor and a face with a metaphorical, glowing vacancy sign hovering over it. But he’s one of the few musicians in the nation who is willing to show the rest of the world that Manila is burning and there’s not one ounce of chill in him for that.
Listening to his tracks will give off the impression that he’s not your average Filipino producer. He doesn’t go off or go hard in a way that’s expected. Rather, he goes in easy with his relaxed beats and melodic sunny disposition. But as you’re hypnotized by the instrumentals, the weather turns cloudy as his lyrics places in the weight you’re looking for in his beats. Idris Vicuna being paradoxical in nature is what sets him apart from all the other producers that the country’s music scene fosters. Casually opening for Grimes, cooking up collabs with King Krule, and kicking it back with Mac Demarco helps a lot in building his cred too. But the sweetest deal he ever got from this is having a platform to get his message out there.
Manila Ice is probably the unexpected, smooth listening wake up call on how the nation’s capital is FUBAR’D at the moment. Rather than subscribing to the p33n0y pr1d3 mentality that the nation wants from its exports, what he had shown in his album is our shame and he let the rest of the world hear that. Apart from the nation getting recked by it’s leaders, he also tackles his own inner demons embodied by the city that he rooted from. Now back in Manila before his big UK tour; we thaw Eyedress’ as he breaks down his thoughts on the city’s creative scene, dropping out of film school, and channeling Manila’s negativity into something positive.
Give us a little recap of your day before this interview and how’s the future looking for you?
Eyedress: I had food poisoning for four days and was really stressed doing a lot of things to prepare for my tour. I was mainly stressed about my visa, but it all worked out.
“Think for yourself and just be whoever you wanna be. It doesn’t matter what your sexuality is or the color of your skin or your religion. I hope my music encourages people to just be themselves.”
Take us to your early beginnings. Walk us through the culture you grew up in, and how it influenced you? What helped shape your passion for music?
E: Well, I was in a band before called Bee Eyes, we’ve been around since 2006 but we parted ways when our bassist moved to Spain in 2012. Around then, I had enough time to myself and that’s how Eyedress started. I grew up mostly in the states. I was born in Makati and then when I was six, I moved to Arizona. It was pretty ghetto where I grew up. I lived in several apartment complexes, before I moved to our first house in Phoenix. It was tough, you know?
There were certain blocks I couldn’t walk down ‘cause people would wanna start shit with me. There were lots of gangs and I got jumped a few times growing up. I also got robbed by knife point all before I was a teenager. Because of all that negativity, I started skateboarding to get away from all that bullshit.
What do you think of the music scene here back in your home turf? How does Manila affect your creative sphere?
E: Manila’s creative scene is really chaotic and cliquish. At times, it feels really divided over the littlest most petty things. It just made me wanna focus more on myself and just the friends around me. I guess it made me more socially aware. Growing up in America, I didn’t really witness poverty or anything like that so it’s definitely been humbling. It’s just kept me grounded all these years knowing that most people have it way worse than I do.
Tell us more about Manila Ice. What’s the collective narrative behind this album? What inspired it?
E: I wanted to work with all my friends in Manila and do like an album featuring them. It was inspired by being away from Manila. Two or three years ago, I was living in London and I really ended up missing everyone. When I got back, I started working on Manila Ice and just collaborating with everyone I knew who was down with the music thing. Also had my first baby in the making of this album, so it was definitely a life changing experience for me.
What would you say is your favorite track in Manila Ice?
E: Some real shit. My favorite song is Separation Anxiety. It was in the New Balance skate video Tricolour too. Dream come true for me, hehe!
We know you channel our country’s negativity – this police brutality, war on drugs, all that’s going on really to your music. How does it affect your creativity?
E: It makes me wanna acknowledge what’s going on. The more I’m surrounded by the negativity, the more I feel I have to say something to clear the air and turn it into something positive.
Any other local artists you look up to or would love to collaborate with?
E: I’m kind of done collaborating with people right now. I just been focusing on myself and getting my next album done.
We know you direct other music videos as well. Tell us about this creative process.
E: I went to film school for half a year at this place called Asia Pacific film institute then I dropped out and just kept partying. Eventually I would meet my mentor Adrian Calumpang who directs Globe commercials and stuff like that. Anyways when I was still a teenager, he agreed to produce a skate video I made called “Awesomer” so we did that for two years. That was a great learning experience for me as a director/filmmaker. I picked up everything just from being out filming my friends skate around the Philippines. That was my film school for me.
A lot of your music videos feel sort of ironic somehow – especially High Street Drive By. What’s your vision for this? And what would be your favorite music video you guys made?
E: Well, the director, Julius just wanted to keep it [the local music channel] Myx. Since our music would never be on there, we kind of flipped the whole Myx format and made it our own thing. But yeah, we were just trying to make shit look local. My fav video is used to be Good Friends. It’s not out yet, but I shot it with my friend Angela Stephenson who’s half Filipina/British and Sonny Jake. We filmed it in Lithuania and it’s really beautiful it’s coming out soon, so look out for that.
What message do you think your music has that speaks to a lot of people in this generation?
E: To think for yourself and just be whoever you wanna be. It doesn’t matter what your sexuality is or the color of your skin or your religion. I hope it encourages people to just be themselves.