Tuesday, July 23, 2013

SHOWING THEIR COLOSSAL YOUTH, MOONPOOLS AND CATERPILLARS REUNITES AFTER 15 YEARS

Tim De Pala, Gugut Salgado, Kimi Encarnacion and Jay Jay Encarnacion of Moonpools and Caterpillars
photo Vanessa Mougenot
It was 1995 when Lucky Dumpling was released by the Glendale-based foursome, consisting of Kimi Ward Encarnacion, Jay Jay Encarnacion, Gugut Salgado and Tim De Pala, making them one of the most successful bands of Philippine ancestry.  Discovered by accident, it's said that an A&R rep. went to the Whiskey A Go-Go to watch a band perform, only to be blown away by the opening band - Moonpools and Caterpillars who were were signed to a record deal soon after. 

Riding high on the bands popularity, their feel good, pop-alternative songs were  featured on commercials like Volkswagen and films like The Baby-Sitters Club and even made a cameo in Disney's Wish Upon A Star. (cool trivia: Wish Upon a Star was Katherine Heigl's feature film debut)

Unfortunately, when Lucky Dumpling was released, it seemed as though Moonpools and Caterpillars became lost in an industry that was still recovering from the hangover of the ‘90s grunge scene.  The word "alternative" became "mainstream" and Moonpools had trouble finding a place at the big kids' table that already included women-fronted powerhouses The Breeders, Belly, The Cranberries, No Doubt and 10,000 Maniacs.  

But still, fans eventually found Lucky Dumpling, drawn to spark plug of a lead singer, Kimi, and their infectious and sun-kissed melodies which made you want to dance like nobody was watching.   From the sweet, innocence of "Heaven" and "Soon" to the jubilation and contagious sounds of "Hear" and "Colossal Youth," listening to Moonpools and Caterpillars today feels like a reunion of long, lost friends greeting you with open arms and picking up your conversation as though they had never left.    

Moonpools and Caterpillars
Moonpools and Caterpillars band promo pic, 1995
Things were looking up for the band.  They began working on their follow up album 12 Songs and Kimi and Jay Jay were expecting their first child.  But according to Kimi, when their label found out, that's when, without any explanation, their contract was unexpectedly terminated.  Althought 12 Songs was eventually released, Moonpools and Caterpillars found themselves without a label and bleak future as a band.

When Moonpools and Caterpillars surprisingly quit in 1998 it was an unexpected blow, not just for the millions of fans who grew to love their music, but it was also an unexpected blow for members of Moonpools and Caterpillars themselves.

"It was the last thing we expected.  Things went from high momentum getting ready to make this record to being dropped with no explanation.. .It was all quite a blow!" Kimi says. "Looking back it was the best thing that could have happened to me.  When I got over the sting, and believe me, that took a LONG time, a few years, I jumped into being a mother to these 2 boys and have never had a single regret." 

But while the sting of being dropped by their label admittedly took awhile to get over, the members of Moonpools and Caterpillars didn't wallow in defeat.  And even though they moved on with their lives, the group were never far from each other and their fans. 

"We never stopped playing music, being the best of friends and never ever stopped talking about the great times as Moonpools and Caterpillars.  We stayed in touch with fans over the internet.  It was always a teat getting letters and emails hearing their stories.  Even though things didn't go quite as planned, it's perfect, life has been good for everyone!"
Moonpools and Caterpillars
Moonpools and Caterpillars (Gugut Salgado, Jay Jay Encarnacion, Kimi Encarnacion and  Tim De Pala)
photo Vanessa Mougenot
Of the four, Tim now lives in the Bay Area with his family, working in the entertainment industry where he worked on such films like Hellboy and Men In Black II while the rest still live in Orange County. Kimi and Jay, having two teenage kids together have spent time traveling the world.  Kimi currently writes for her lifestyle blog CaliforniaPixie and is starting her own clothing line while Jay Jay invested in real estate.  Gugut, now married, went back to engineering and is now a partner at a small consulting firm while also sitting on the San Clemente Coastal Advisory Commission.  

pic via Facebook/MoonpoolsandCaterpillars
Now, after 15 years since they played their last show, Moonpools and Caterpillars are dusting off their musical instruments and reuniting for a very special cause - Ethiopia Health Aid, a non-profit organization dedicated to improving the health and quality of life in rural Ethiopia through sustainable initiatives.  

The show, being held this Saturday (July 27th) at David Henry Hwang Theater in Downtown Los Angeles quickly sold out with donations ranging from $75-$100; proceeds that will help bring medical supplies and equipment as well as educational resources to Ethiopia's poorest areas. 

Recently, Kimi and Gugut took time out of their busy practice schedule to answer a few questions from Picksysticks about life after Moonpools and Caterpillars, their opinions on today's music, re-learning lyrics and why, after so many years, they decided to reunite for one special charity.

First off, thanks for doing this interview and answering some questions.  Tell us about this charity, Ethiopia Health Aid.
Kimi: Gugut's sister was already working with Ethiopia Health Aid (EHA) and had gone with them to Ethiopia so it was already part of the family.  This group of volunteers, mainly doctors, go over to a small village they've taken under their wing and perform much needed reconstructive surgeries.  People there don't have emergency medical care like we do.  Many are maimed and scarred in accidents and fires. Injuries that we tend to take the treatment for granted leave them with life long difficulties and contribute to social barriers.  It's quite a miracle that doctors give up their time and resources to travel the globe to offer their services.  EHA also has started a high school offering an education we also take for granted that is a rare gem for these kids!  The money we've raised for this Moonpools show is going to help ship 4 donated ambulances to the village.  With their arrival, life will never be the same.  (Read more about EHA right HERE.)

Who's idea was it to reunite after so many years?

Gugut: [My] wife...was so sick of hearing us talk about the Moonpool glory days and talk about playing instead of actually just getting up there and playing.
Kimi: We talked about for years.  Seriously, years.  We booked a [Whisky A Go-Go] show last year but cancelled it.  Gugut's wife went to this awesome seminar called Landmark and needed a community project.  She had heard us talk and talk all these years and decided to put an end to it and make this he big event!!!  Having the proceeds of the show go to a great organization made all the difference for us. We were all in!!! Pretty, cool, huh?? 
Gugut: They really make a difference in people's lives and we couldn't pass up  an opportunity to be a part of that. 

What can we expect from your show on July 27th? 

Gugut: Food, Fun, Friends, Family and good music.  Same as always.
Kimi: Ha!  Expect nothing but an adventure!!  It isn't like a normal show.  The event kicks off at 3:30 with an hour long social gathering.  Food and chatting.  The band will all be there mixing it up with everyone.  We are gonna rock for an hour then more hanging out afterward.  It's going to be a blast!!!!  

Moonpools and Caterpillars performing in Albuquerque, New Mexico in 1995.
photo via Facebook/MoonpoolsandCaterpillars
Are you singing songs from both your albums, Lucky Dumplings & 12 songs?

Kimi: YES!  We are playing a set packed with favorites from both albums.

And are you nervous about playing after so many years?

Gugut: Yes...as it should be.
Kimi: I was until we practiced a month ago and it all came back!!!  And now that I have an awesome dress all ready to go, I'm totally in!!!  Still working on remembering all the lyrics but I never knew them all in the first place, right??  The show is gonna be great!!!

How’s practice been going after years of not playing and what was it like the very first time you guys met up and started playing your songs together again?

Gugut: Like riding a bike...little shaky in the beginning, but pure bliss once you start cruising.
Kimi: Playing all together again feels exactly like it did.  NOTHING's changed!!!  The boys are my favorite people!!  When we're all together, that energy fills up the room, we crank up the amps and it's like time has stood still!  We all get chills!

Moonpools and Caterpillars (Jay, Tim, Kimi & Gugut)
photo via facebook
Did you have to re-learn playing the songs?

Kimi: Ha, ya.  I have a tenancy to cut everything short.  Man, we had some long endings on those songs.  We loved to rock everything out.  It's going to sound just like that at the show!!!  We are READY!!!

Did you miss performing and playing? What did you miss?

Gugut: Yes. Being together.
Kimi: The highlight of Moonpools for me were the fans!!  Fans that turned into friends.  We looked forward to seeing everyone when we toured.  We'd get to a city and know people already.  It also kept our huge group of friends together.  We still have an annual Christmas party that's been going on for over 20 years.  We were all teenagers or in college when it started.  The band was a big part of that bond.  Of course, I LOVE performing!  I miss that like crazy!!!!  Working a crowd is one of the best things on the planet!!  Especially in those little towns where they didn't know what to expect from us.  I gladly dove into that challenge each night.  It was such a rush for me!!!!

Moonpools and CaterpillarsKimi and Jay Jay Encarnacion of Moonpools and Caterpillars
Moonpools and Caterpillars practicing for their reunion show, first time since 1998.
photos via Facebook

Do you still encounter fans on the street recognizing you? 

Kimi: Sometimes.  Here's a couple of my fave stories. Me and Jay and kids were headed to Oaxaca, Mexico a few years ago and the girl checking passports in security at LAX said, "Are you in a movie?"  She recognized me from the movie "Wish Upon A Star".  She said, "I LOVE you guys!!!!"  Then she whipped out an autograph book and had us sign it!  Obviously we're no big deal to our kids.  They were baffled by the experience. Pretty sure me and Jay Jay were bumped up a notch in their eyes that day!
Gugut: Me...no.

Do your children listen to your music?

Kimi: I was driving them to school one day and "Summertime" came on the radio.  They thought it was the coolest thing to ever happen.  They've both told me that after hearing us rehearse so much these past couple months, they have a lot of respect for us as musicians.  They're really getting into the songs!!

I listen to your songs all the time and they don't feel dated, like they can be played on the radio today. Why do you think your music has stood the test of time? 

Gugut: Wow...that's quite a compliment.  I think its because whatever song we wrote, when we put it out there, we really liked it...100%.  We never put anything out there we didn't feel good about.
Kimi: Our 16 year old said the same thing.  He thinks we should re release everything!  You know what?  We weren't trying to sound like anyone else.  Maybe that's why?!  When we started playing live, we were sandwiched on stage in-between late '80s hair bands  Loads of spandex and tons of hairspray.  There we were in our Joy Division t-shirts and my girly dresses. We weren't trying to fit in, we were all about the fun!!!

Moonpools and Caterpillars (Hollywood Hills, 1994)
photo by Lena Watanabe
How old are your kids now and are they interested in playing in a band themselves?

Kimi: Tim has a 3 year old.  My boys are 14 and 16.  The younger one sings.  He has a great voice!  He loves to program digital music, too. The 16 year old can pick up most anything and play it.  He's got a real talent.  I find him in the studio programming and playing Postal Service and Daft Punk songs.  I would love for them to experience what we have...and maybe even bigger!!

What do you guys think of today's music?

Gugut: Some good some not so good.  The '80s stuff is really cool.  Maybe that's why Moonpools sounds not so dated.
Kimi: I'm still the same music snob I've always been.  I have my new favorites.  Hot Chip, Grizzly Bear, Phoenix, Neon Indian, Little Comets, Empire of the Sun, The National, IO Echo, Local Natives are a few that come to mind right off.  I am loving the new Daft Punk record.  Doin' it Right sounds explosive on our speakers! Shakes the house down. I think it's in my top fave group of all time songs. Ha, right up there with I'm burnin for you by Blue Oyster Cult!  Of course, then I've been listening to The Smiths consistently since the mid 80s.  I'm a junkie!!

Have you guys wrote any new songs and can we expect a new Moonpools and Caterpillars album? What can we expect from Moonpools and Caterpillars in the future?

Gugut: Stay tuned.  It may depend on how Saturday goes.
Kimi: We haven't written anything new as a band.  The thing we're excited about is that we own all our songs again.  We can re record them and do whatever we want.  We have some ideas.

I'm sure you guys have been hearing from fans all these years, wanting you guys to tour again and release new music. How did that make you feel?

Gugut: Good.  Grateful.  Humbled.
Kimi: That is my fave thing about social media.  That fans have easy access to us.  I have LOVED all the notes I've received over the years.  I'm sentimental so I eat it up.  LOVE it!

Moonpools and Caterpillars
Moonpools and Caterpillars (Tim De Pala, Jay Jay & Kimi Encarnacion and Gugut Salgado)
photo Vanessa Mougenot
After Ethiopia Health Aid Benefit concert, can we expect more shows? Possibly a comeback tour?

Kimi: This is it for now.  There are some other ideas in the works...stay tuned!
Gugut: Possibly a comeback tour?  Ummmm.....

Lastly, do you have a message to your fans who have been loyal for all these years? 

Kimi: YES!   Knowing we made a difference in your lives in little ways has been so rewarding. Our journey with Moonpools has always been about relationships.  That's why we did it.  Our goal was never to be rock stars.  We did it cuz we loved playing together!  It was fun and to know that some of it spread into your lives is icing on the cake!!!  THANKS for every minute of it!!
Gugut: "If you ain't got a car...then stay far".  [lyric from "Buick"]
Kimi: Nobody's ever really heard why we stopped playing.  I am completely sincere when I say I've had no regrets.  That's why this show is so awesome....I didn't think we'd experience it again.  I've had such a great time raising my little family, I didn't think I wanted it anymore.  So this concert is super unexpected and quite a gift!!!  It's as exciting as Christmas eve when I was a kid!!!! 

Moonpools and Caterpillars reunite for a special sold-out performance this Saturday at David Henry Hwang Theater to benefit Ethiopia Health Aid. The all ages show begins at 3:30pm and will include a reception with the band and refreshments.  
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