No strangers to playing with fire, at least metaphorically, SB19 fans the flames of their success, making sure everyone, the rest of the world included, sees it in all its blazing glory.
Fires don’t always start as that larger-than-life force often portrayed as alarming and threatening in its curious combination of hypnotic allure and crackling menace. It doesn’t even take so much to build, just a small spark, that is all. Starting off as a poetic source of light gently dancing in the pockets of darkness, where it runs its course two ways: either to burn through its vessel in a blink of an eye, or with a mix of wind, motion, and even other solitary flames, it comes together to form something even bigger and much more intense. Stepping closer to the raging aggression, Pablo and Ken of SB19 focus their gaze on the fire, which at this point has colored their faces with warmth and shadows. “Maglalaro tayo ng apoy?” Pablo asks promptly, the fascination escalating. Without missing a beat, Ken swipes the lighter and says, “Alam ko na gagawin ko,” before forcing out a light and bringing it close to his eyes. Para ‘tong anime,” echoes Josh, Justin, and Stell as they assemble in precise formation.
This, of course, isn’t the first time the boys of SB19 are dealing with fire, at least literally in this capacity. One of their hit songs, Alab, draws directly from the temperamental nature of the element, while in their rousing release, What?, flames were a pivotal part of its music video. A striking study of duality, the persistence and passion that as is akin to it seems to parallel the very journey of the crowned kings of P-pop, a more contemporary offshoot of OPM. Just like the fire, Josh, Justin, Ken, Pablo, and Stell are distinct sparks, blazing on their own accord, but together, they are a true force to be reckoned with.
THE STORY SO FAR
But, even the strongest of fires are not absolved from challenges. In fact, just like a lot of things, it is extinguishable, even in the proverbial sense. And SB19 is no stranger to this struggle.
“Our most challenging moments have to be when we were just starting and have no clue on the path we were taking. When we debuted, we were unsure on how the public will perceive and accept our music since what we offer is entirely different. It’s a risk for us to give something new to the audience,” the boys agree collectively, recalling everything from their individual stories to debuting and working to get their sound out there. “Another is when we were slowly getting known. We are not used to the attention—add in expectations, comments from lots of people. We guess it really comes along with it, and as we go on, we are slowly getting the hang of it. We are also thankful for these situations, because it helped us improve ourselves and be stronger in whatever may come our way.”
Besides, as one furthers along in the trajectory of their dreams, one begins to understand that it isn’t decorated with dazzling details or smeared with shine as we were once led to believe. In fact, chasing after what one longs for deep down in their heart reveals a path that is rough. Here, you make the decision to turn the other way or tough it up and endure whatever comes up as you clear the trail. With the skyrocketing success and unequalled domination of SB19, they obviously chose to power through. Charting milestones and cultivating success, the confident stride that they hit was marred by the punishing effects of the pandemic that pummelled through everything in its path over the past year and more.
IN THE ZONE OF SB19
In fact, 2020 was supposed to be a banner year for SB19. After releasing their highly-anticipated debut album, Get In The Zone, there were supposed to be live performances and a concert series, which obviously had to be parked indefinitely because everyone had to both limit physical movements and to stay indoors as much as possible to help curb the crisis. Just as everyone had to not only come to terms with the painful reality we were facing, but also face challenges that would have otherwise been distanced and distracted in the past, the boys of SB19 had their fair share of challenges as well.
“It has been really difficult the past year; it’s difficult to adjust to the new normal. For artists like us, the first few months during lockdown were a struggle. It affected our creativity with the added paranoia on what’s to come for the next months. And as performers, we crave the interaction we get from our supporters and we miss seeing them in person. But quitting isn’t an option,” they assert. “We made use of the time and chance to make art and make do with what we have. We started tapping on our own interests and tried to venture on different endeavors. We also did more songs and did more practice to provide better output for all our listeners.”
This would become the point where we would get to know SB19 outside the machinations of the pop music construct. From game streams, live social media spots, and snippets of their lives, Josh, Justin, Ken, Pablo, and Stell would go beyond being just a boy band and simply just boys who happen to be in a band. As we got to know them more as individuals, so did our awareness for how at the end of the day, they are still human beings with limits. “Each one of us reaches a point wherein we get tired, wherein we wonder what happens if we postpone things for a bit, wherein we want to surrender; but if you choose to stay it means that this is something you want and something you want to fight for,” they share. “And this is definitely something that we want to pursue and keep fighting for. This is our passion.”
A VICTORY FOR ALL
“The feeling of pressure never really goes away,” explains SB19. “They say that when you are anxious yet excited about what you do, it’s considered your passion.” This is why to this day, despite not looking it, they still grapple with their own fears. How then do they move forward and well, go up? “It is due to the people who keep on believing in us. When on the verge of surrendering, seeing people who still choose to dedicate their time and choose to support us helps us get back in the game; to get back in the zone.”
It goes without saying that their success is not only of their own, which is something they are humbly upfront about. “Aside from our loved ones and all the people behind this, we consider our fans a big contributor to where we are right now. We dedicate every win and every achievement to them,” they acknowledge in earnest. We are so lucky to have A’TIN who chose to support us and who chose to stay with us until now. They take up a huge part of our lives.”
Also, it helps that they have each other to lean on, especially when times get incredibly tough. They say destiny brings the right people together at the right time, and for SB19, it is truly destiny fulfilled. “With how we are right now, we want to believe that maybe, the universe really conspired us to be together. We are from entirely different paths and even some of us in different parts of the country, yet somehow we met,” they detail. “Being together for so long, we consider SB19 as our extended family. It’s the best thing about being in a group. Of course, as with a normal family there are times wherein we clash or get in problems but we make sure to settle and understand each other. It’s a very nice feeling to have another group of people you go to—when you need help and when you want to celebrate.”
BURN, BABY, BURN
With the new era of SB19 upon us, as heralded by the immensely inspiring and compelling production of What? (which currently has a whopping 11 million views on YouTube and well over 2 million plays on Spotify), as well as of a milestone-making nomination as the Top Social Artist of the 2021 Billboard Music Awards (along with Ariana Grande and BTS no less), there is a lot to celebrate and expect with the five boys. New music? Highly likely, which they promise you will see in their upcoming digital concert, Back In The Zone.
“You will get to witness a lot of firsts in our Back In The Zone concert. There will be lots of surprises in store for everyone, not just for A’TIN, but to the casual viewers as well. You will get to witness firsthand our new songs and our debut performances,” they guarantee. “This might be our biggest event yet, so we hope you don’t miss out on this!”
At this point, the fire that they were playing with in front of the camera went up all in smoke, but the one that is warming up their bellies with so much drive? It just keeps getting bigger. See? A parallel to the initial spark and first burn. “We realized how essential it is to do what you love to do and to build on it. When we were just starting out, having no listeners, fans, whatsoever, and just us practicing and performing since it’s what we want to do…[and to now] be slowly getting recognized not only here in the Philippines, but overseas, is unbelievable,” the boys of SB19 say. “We are beyond elated and proud of where we are right now. Then adding to the massive support we get from our A’TIN, is what keeps us going. We are still far from our ultimate goal, but we are slowly getting there. Hopefully, in years to come, we help build the Filipino music scene and bring it to the international stage. We dream of a time where it is a norm to have our music and culture celebrated across the globe.”
Their story as SB19 may have taken years to come into the light, but now, it is all that we see and hear, and rightfully so. This is barely just the beginning of their domination. The fire has just started, and now, we let it burn, baby, burn.
Creative direction and styling ANGELO RAMIREZ DE CARTAGENA
Photography TOFF TIOZON assisted by KERVS ASTRONOMO
Grooming ANTON PATDU (Pablo, Stell) and JIA ACHACRUZ (Josh, Justin, Ken)
Hair RED ECHAVIA and JERICHO VALENZUELA for CULTURE SALON MNL
Shoot coordination LOUIS ESGUERRA and MJ ALMERO
Sittings editor ELYSE ILAGAN
Videography KIERAN PUNAY
Shot on location at BROOKLYN WAREHOUSE STUDIOS
Special thanks to SHOWBT
CONTINUE READING: SB19 TRANSFORMS INTO REAL LIFE ROCKSTARS