――Hello? Where are you right now?
No Rome: “Hello! I’m currently in Virginia. I just finished playing the set. I’m touring with the 1975 right now.”
――Thank you for your time when you are on the road! First of all, how did you get into music?
No Rome: “I’m from the Philippines. My parents are very well into music, my father as a hobby and my mother as a part-time vocal coach. So music was a very important part of our family which kind of inspired me to keep making it, doing it.”
――When did you start playing music?
No Rome: “I started playing music when I was in 5th grade. I was into playing basketball, but my dad started teaching me how to use the software where you can make music. I got into it and started getting obsessed with it. I had piano lessons when I was younger, but I never really took it seriously. But when I started writing music, I figured that learning more about the instruments would make me a better musician. So I got into that and it became my everyday thing.”
――What sort of music did you grow up listening to?
No Rome: “I got exposed to new wave and the 80’s dance music first. My father used to have vinyls. New Order was one of my favorite bands and Joy Division, David Bowie, Naked Eyes… And then I started to discover the music I personally like. I started to listen to bands like My Bloody Valentine and Slowdive and fell in love with them. I think they kind of inspired me to start writing.”
――I heard you are based in UK now?
No Rome: “Yes, I’m based in London now.”
――What brought you to London? Did you always want to get out of your hometown?
No Rome: “It wasn’t getting out of Manila, but it was more of branching out artistically, musically. I always liked London because most of the musicians and artists I respect were from there. So when I was younger I always wanted to go there, then I got the record deal. I had a chance to fly to London and see it for myself, and I stayed there for a couple of month. I just fell in love with the whole art scene. I liked London a lot. I’ve been there for about two and a half years now.”
――How old were you when you got the record deal?
No Rome: “I got it when I was about 19. It was because of the Internet. My music was on the Internet but it was never really out there yet. But as time went by, people started to hear the music, and I was able to meet Matthew Healy from the 1975. I respected the artists on the label, and thought it was brilliant to sign with them so I did.”
――Congratulations on your new EP. Why did you name it “Crying In The Prettiest Places”?
No Rome: “For me, most of the songs kind of felt like they have bittersweet feelings. Plus, it was a personal response to me writing these sad songs in pretty places, like places that are very nice but I wasn’t myself most of days. So I felt like I was crying on paper in the prettiest places. I think that’s how I came up with the name. ‘Crying in the Prettiest Places’ is a bittersweet expression like, ‘why? Why are you crying in a pretty place? You are in a pretty place you should be happy.’”
――Did you have any particular places in mind?
No Rome: “Honestly, Japan is amazing. Besides the Philippines, that’s my pretty place. I love Tokyo. I shot a music video in Tokyo for a song called ‘Do It Again.’ I had fun there and I’m looking forward to going back someday.”
――It’s been about a year since your first EP. I imagine a lot has changed in the past year, but what were some of the inspirations for this new EP?
No Rome: “I think my inspiration was me growing up musically and artistically. The first EP was like an introduction, and now I feel like I’m able to do more stuff. I think the best part of being an artist is that you have room to grow. Also, I felt like this EP was a bit more personal and emotional. There are more guitar-driven tracks with acoustic guitar, and I love the whole vibe of it. I loved working on this record so I’m glad it’s out.”
――Is there anything new that you tried on this EP?
No Rome: “I think the whole thing is new. I just love making new sounds. I absolutely love the song called ‘Rimbaud, Come and Sit For a While.’ It’s in a newer style and more acoustic guitar driven. It’s quite new to me. I’m in love with that song [laughs.]”
――How’s the reaction to the new songs on the tour?
No Rome: “It’s great, especially going on tour with the 1975 right now, it’s so much fun and there are so many people. It’s very surprising that a lot of these people actually know my songs. These are the places I’ve never been to or have visited once, you know? So it’s definitely inspiring to hear people singing my songs.”
――I heard you joined the 1975 at Coachella Festival?
No Rome: “I did play Coachella and it was amazing! I guess that was my biggest show.”
――How did you feel?
No Rome: “I felt honored that I was able to join the stage. I did one song but it was amazing. I can’t agree with the concept of Coachella being in the very right field and homophobic, but it’s definitely a good experience, and I really enjoyed playing there.”
――You started making music in your bedroom and now you are touring the US. How has this journey been for you?
No Rome: “It’s overwhelming, but I guess I’ve always been making music in my whole life. These chances came at such a right time, and I was able to really develop my sound or what I wanted to do as an artist. Yeah, stepping into Coachella from my bedroom was big, but I still like my bedroom and love doing that stuff. I want to keep doing it and I hope one day I get to do be on my own slot. It should be fun.”
――Your family must be proud. Have they seen your shows?
No Rome: “My family is proud of me. My dad is a big fan but he is also my biggest critic [laughs.] That’s what dads are though, aren’t they? But I’m really lucky they support me. They haven’t seen my shows outside the Philippines. So we are trying to make that happen. But they used to see my shows all the time. I think I started playing shows when I was 13 years old. I was in this punk rock band, and I played guitar and synthesizer as well as vocals. My dad actually stopped watching when I was younger. He was like ‘I’m done bringing you to your shows, so get your own car! I don’t want to watch your show any more’ [laughs] He was always my ride to the venue.”
――What’s next for you? Are you planning to release your full album anytime soon?
No Rome: “I can’t speak of anything about the album yet. But I can assure you that this year, I do have a lot of material coming out. I’m working on a mixtape at the moment, which is going to be very interesting. That’s all for now [laughs.] But I’m writing. This tour has been me half writing and half playing shows, so there is going to be more material this year.”
text Nao Machida
edit Ryoko Kuwahara