With cathartic music, Cliff Chang-inspired art, and the honesty of his experience, Zack Tabudlo assembles the cinematic experience with the release of his first album, Episode.
If time and circumstance were a little different, this exposition would begin in the low lights and shadows of Cubao X, the deceptive space that in its heyday would shift from a commercial enclave for economical shoes, retro and thrifted finds, and the legendary Bellini’s during the day and into an oasis of music, spirits, and company at night. Tucked in the compound are chasms of charm that runs the gamut from carved out art bases, unique comic book stores, and storied hole-in-the-walls. From wherever you stood or sat, usually at the curb with an ice-cold beer in hand, there will always be a film peeking reflected on the glass panels and a song finding its way through many conversations. This was a time gone by obviously, because if it weren’t for the rapid urbanization and raging pandemic slowly edging out this defiant community of cool, we would find ourselves there, watching the rest of the night play out like a Zack Tabudlo song.
Despite being 19 years old, Zack Tabudlo is not only proficient and prolific with his music, but also extremely passionate about it. Where his contemporaries are out there experimenting on hobbies and finding themselves, which he has done so too, the young man is decided on what he wants to do for the foreseeable future—making songs to soundtrack the lives of many. As evocative and endearing as songs are, all of which sear right through our facades and into the soul, they are inherently cinematic in nature, as evidenced by its accompanying visual cues and music videos.
Whether it be the emotional roundabout that is Binibini, the tender telling of Nangangamba, or the buoyant Habang Buhay, it all essays itself as chapters of stories told from the perspective of someone determined to not only observe and document, but immortalize all the intricacies of life, love, and loss.
“An album based on so many experiences, and so many emotions. What a journey it’s been,” writes Zack Tabudlo on the imminent release of his first album, Episode. “Poured all my heart and soul in this project for months, and now we’re finally here. My debut Album ‘EPISODE’ is finally coming out on October 15th. Written, Produced, Mixed and Mastered by yours truly. Cannot wait for all of you to enter my music full of different styles from Alt pop, Urban Hip-Hop, to Punk Rock, Alt Rock, RnB, Indie, Soul, Blues, and a lot more. A lot of personal experiences from life, heart break, happiness, loneliness, sadness, and love, were put into stories for all of you to hear and relate to. I can’t wait for you to dive in to my world of music.”
As a kid, Zack Tabudlo always thought differently. Ever since, he knew what path he wanted to take and that meant conquering the world with his dreams and songs will not be an overnight success. After slowly and steadily rising through the ranks of OPM, the highly contested musical charts, and yes, TikTok supremacy, the musical prodigy is inviting us into his world in Episode, the 14-track release threads the story of Zack Tabudlo so far, which is a culmination of his record-breaking and yes, heartbreaking tracks. Ahead of its release on October 15, we’ve already heard of Binibini, Elizabeth, Hindi Ko Kaya, Habang Buhay, and Ba’t Ganto Ang Pag-Ibig, all dutifully taking us to those specific moments in our lives when we have, as the kids say these days, felt all the feels.
In the assertion of himself in broad strokes of confidence in Episode, Zack Tabudlo creates a colorful and compelling cinematic universe inspired by many things, like his music and long-standing love for movies and comic books. Realized early on with the running theme of his song cover visuals, all of which are inspired by comics and graphic novels, the release of Episode includes a tangible expression of the cinematic experience. A brainchild of Enzo Valdez, MCA Music Philippines Managing Director, and together with Chris Costello (art) and John Ed de Vera (design), Zack Tabudlo’s ultimate dream for Episode comes to fruition of a one-of-a-kind physical album that is chock full of nostalgia.
From an abstraction of ideas and emotions, Episode by Zack Tabudlo will not only be streamed and released online, it can also be experienced differently with the album that includes a USB, a mini-cinema (assembly required), 3D posters and glasses, a Binibini comic strip, and sticker set. And you thought the glory days of cinema is gone? Zack Tabudlo is here to bring it closer to home.
It’s His World, We Just Live In It
Already referencing decades past in his music, and not even ironically at that, the obvious influences of the 80s and 90s pop zeitgeist is but natural to the intention of Zack Tabudlo for Episode. Graphic, gritty, and graceful all at once, the compounded undertaking is a nifty way to solidify his imprint on his niche market, as well as expand his reach to a greater audience. With eye-popping art and a tactile texture to the presentation, Episode is quite literally where the dreams of Zack Tabudlo is being built upon. And to make it even sweet and special, the audience gets to be part of it, parallel to the way Zack and his music have been embraced by many.
Instead of wistfully wishing for what once was, like living out his musical chapters like a rom-com or real life episode in a place like Cubao X, Zack Tabudlo has taken matters into his own hand and created his own space where he is free to just be. From the cathartic music, the Cliff Chang-inspired art (see: Wonder Woman, Paper Girl), and the honesty of his experience, this is where his dreams take off.
Clearly, it is Zack Tabudlo’s world, and we just live in it.
Curious to know more about the eye-popping visuals of Episode by Zack Tabudlo, we sit down with the man who brought it to life, Chris Costello. Easter eggs? References? And more of the collaboration? You will want to read on.
How did this particular creative collaboration come to form and what was it like bringing it to life with Zack Tabudlo?
I worked as Creative Director at MCA Philippines last year, under which is the Island Records sub label that hosts a bunch of talented artists. This is where I first heard of Zack and how I ended up working on his branding and marketing. At the beginning, Zack gave us a bunch of specific things that inspired him and his music (everything from albums to TV shows), and we used these to develop the artwork for his singles. As this progressed, Zack became very confident and sure of exactly what he wanted in his single art. It was fantastic to bring all his ideas to life.
Aside from the narrative of his songs, how has his sound and music informed the art that you’ve been working on?
Zack usually sends me a very detailed description of what he has imagined for the single art, quick sentences that describe poses and colors in detail, and he sends pegs of things that he loves that he associates with the song. On my part, I try to basically harness all of his ideas into a singular image and I usually play that song in a loop as I create the artwork. It helps that I’m a huge fan of Zack and his music— He’s a genius, and I don’t say that lightly. His music is beautiful and haunting and heartbreaking and inspiring and romantic—everything wonderful about growing up and falling in love.
As a fan of comic books and graphic novels, what was it like creating the graphics for the album and tracks and the cinematic and nostalgic effort that is Zack Tabudlo’s album, Episode?
When I heard that Zack was a fan of comics, I knew we were going to click. I am a massive comic fan, having actually co-owned a comic book book store in Cubao once, (shout out to Sputnik, RIP) and I couldn’t wait to try to jam on a comic-themed song art. The first one we did in that style was Elizabeth. He wanted it to be a very 80s B-Movie feel, with zombies and a dark circus setting. I referenced a whole bunch of 80s movie posters and comics and slapped on the old comics code logo as a semi-joke. He loved it and he then decided that the comic book cover look would be the theme of his album.
What was the story behind the main visual for Episode by Zack Tabudlo?
The album cover was always going to be a close up portrait of Zack. His original idea was his head literally exploding with ideas and visuals that referenced all his songs. I showed him a few pegs and initial sketches, and we tweaked it to have these things kind of encircling his head instead, entrancing him. He then came up with the idea of making his eyes glow white—another comic reference (The Watcher from the Marvel Universe).
Are there any anecdotes or stories in the process of creating the visuals and posters, like anything to look out for, or in movie-speak, Easter eggs?
Zack doesn’t know this, but I snuck in my son’s name in all the art works. Aside from that, the album art is filled with Easter eggs of all his songs made in the last year. To name a few: the butterflies from Sigurado, a skateboard from Nangangamba, a chinese food box from Hindi Ko Kaya, and whole bunch of other stuff that hardcore Zack fans will recognize.