Singer-songwriter Lian Kyla gives the behind-the-scenes scoop of how BINI’s Kapit Lang came to be, as well as her upcoming self-produced LoFi EP.
Last September 10, rising P-Pop girl group BINI dropped their highly anticipated comeback track, Kapit Lang. The Taglish song served as the group’s third single and second since officially debuting with Born To Win. The uplifting pop track was received enthusiastically for its message and addicting beat. And while it’s so nice for new BINI music to finally be out, sometimes the story of how a song came to be can also be just as exciting—and that was the case for Kapit Lang. We chatted with the song’s writer, Lian Kyla, to talk about how she wrote the song (it wasn’t originally meant for BINI) and the message behind the lyrics. Lian also opened up about her upcoming self-produced LoFi EP set to drop later this month and why people should look forward to it.
BEGINNINGS IN THE MUSIC INDUSTRY
Surprisingly, Lian Kyla has only been in the music industry for just a couple of years. Having released a few solo songs and a couple of collaborations so far, she credits her start in the music industry thanks to meeting ABS-CBN Music’s creative director Jonathan Manalo. “He asked me if I wrote any songs. I said that I wrote poetry but had never ventured into songwriting. He was the one who pushed me and encouraged me to write my own songs.” Lian’s venture into songwriting started more as curiosity and whether she could do it. Ever since then, she has devoted her professional career to songwriting and exploring her musical talents. “During the pandemic, I started writing my own melodies and lyrics. I also started learning about music production last year and was able to make some demos.”
Lian describes her sound as “long, languid, smooth.” She says that she likes using long connected phrases that flow into each other and tries not to use shorter phrases or notes. But given that she’s pretty new to the industry, she also would like to explore her writing talents. “That’s partly why I don’t think I’ve found my sound yet. I’m expanding and learning new things from different styles and seeing what I can come up with.”
THE ORIGINS OF KAPIT LANG
Despite how well Kapit Lang fits with BINI’s style and aesthetic, the song actually was not originally written for the group. In fact, it was originally written for Lian herself around mid-2020 and featured a completely different sound. “Kapit Lang started out as a prompt from Sir Jonathan for a new song for me. It wasn’t initially intended for BINI. We were talking about what songs I could release for 2020 and he was saying it would be good to write a song that was sensitive to the times.”
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Lian shares a story of how she was on a video call with one of her friends when she decided to play a short riff on the piano to accompany the story her friend was sharing. Lian ended up liking the riff and started writing lyrics that went with the riff. “I came up with ‘anong gagawin pag wala nang tama, anong gagawin pag wala nang pag-asa‘ which became the pre-chorus of the song.” Lian soon finished a rough demo of the song that just featured her vocals and a piano and sent it off to her higher-ups. Later on, BINI’s management caught wind of the demo and felt that it would be a good fit for BINI to release as a single.
Lian wasn’t bummed out though that Kapit Lang was going to BINI. In fact, she was excited and curious as to how the song would change. “It was also surreal that they decided to release this as a third single. Initially, I thought it was just going to be part of their whole discography. So, I feel very humbled that they chose to release it as their third single.”
REWORKING THE SONG FOR BINI
The original version of Kapit Lang was a piano-backed ballad that had a very slow tempo. So, when it was decided that BINI would get the song, Kapit Lang had to go through a facelift. “I had to create a demo that was a little bit faster,” Lian explains. “From around 90-100 BPM, it became 123-125 BPM, because it needed to be danceable, too. We were also thinking of adding either a rap part or dance break, so as I was creating the demo, I left in around eight bars of music without lyrics for the girls to write their own rap to.”
Lian Kyla then sent it off to Jonathan Manalo around November-December 2020. Theo Martel then came on board the project to rearrange the song as he was the one who came up with the beat, instrumentation, and dance break you hear in the final song. BINI then recorded their vocals around May 2021.
Lian was originally going to join BINI for a recording session as a songwriter. But sadly, she couldn’t because she was in quarantine. To make up for this, she collaborated with the girls remotely and separately. While Lian did write the whole song, she did leave the rap portion blank for the group to finish. The rap version you hear in the final version then was completely written by Aiah. And despite Lian’s involvement with Kapit Lang, she actually didn’t hear the full song and rap until the music video dropped.
KAPIT LANG’S MESSAGE
When you listen to Kapit Lang, it has a notable message of believing in yourself and rising against challenges and hardships. It feels like a song that was specifically meant for the pandemic era and that was what Lian Kyla was aiming for. “I think part of the inspiration for choosing the phrase ‘Kapit Lang‘ as the hook/chorus was that I was hearing it in conversations between friends. People saying, ‘uy kapit lang‘ and I thought that phrase would be really good as a song. I wanted to express all the frustration and sadness I was feeling about the global pandemic. I guess part of me wanted and needed to hear that everything was going to be okay in the end somehow; that there is some hope to hold onto, even if I wasn’t really feeling it at the time.”
WORKING ON A LOFI EP
But aside from writing Kapit Lang, Lian Kyla is also currently busy putting the final touches on her upcoming LoFi EP, Dream Maker, set to drop later this September. For those who don’t know, LoFi is short for low-fidelity, so it’s music that isn’t extremely polished or pristine. It has a warm, chill, and relaxed vibe to it. They’re most popularly used by people who want chill background music while studying, doing work, or just want to relax.
Compared to her past work and releases, a LoFi EP is a pretty big departure which is something that she agrees with. She first got into LoFi music last year when she would listen to it while doing her work. That then transitioned to creating a LoFi track on Twitch with the help of her viewers live. In 3 hours, she made one and shared it on YouTube and Thematic. The track, called Flower Tea, started getting attention and was being used as background music in people’s videos.
Later on, it occurred to Lian that instead of just using other people’s LoFi music, why not make her own herself. And that was how the EP was born. Dream Maker is composed of six tracks; Dream Maker, Flower Tea, By the Window, Moon Tides, In Amenor, and After Rain. Among the six songs, only Dream Maker has vocals, the rest are instrumental. She describes the EP as “relaxing, heartfelt, soundtrack-inspired, and experimental.”
STEPPING OUT OF HER COMFORT ZONE
While Lian is used to working with other people when making music, she had to rely on mostly herself to make the EP. She only had an audio engineer and her family and friends to give their feedback. This is why she recalls working on Dream Maker as DIY, fulfilling, but also difficult and challenging. Lian was stepping out of her comfort zone as she is a singer by training but couldn’t say with her voice to say what she wanted to say. Because she couldn’t use her voice, she challenged herself to find ways to express herself through composing, arranging, and producing the EP. “I’m new to production so this whole process 10 times my growth. If life were a video game, I think I leveled up.”
At the end of the day, Lian managed to find a way to express her heart without using her voice and do so in a fulfilling way. “Even if most of the tracks here don’t use my voice, I feel like this is my most personal project to date. It has my thoughts, my feelings, and my stories. I felt most ‘me’ making this because I let myself play, which I don’t normally do.“
If you’re a fan or listen to LoFi music, then Lian Kyla’s EP should be on your radar. And even if you don’t, it’s still worth the listen as she explains, “I really wanted my EP to be like an oasis or a safe space where people would put it on and instantly feel like they could let some of their tensions and worries go away and be transported into this other space.”