Manila Killa has been through a lot.
The youthful producer takes his name from the Philippine capital where he spent part of his childhood. A roving family brought him to Indonesia, as well as the United States, exposing him to a variety of cultures and sounds, but it was in high school when a friend introduced him to electronic music via Daft Punk and MSTRKRFT that his life took direction. He dove deep into that world, and about a year later, he was glued to his computer screen, working the ins and outs of his own nascent productions.
He released songs on Soundcloud, finding there a group of friends who became family in the form of the Moving Castle collective. Their sound and direction became a face for a new generation of music makers, idealistic and wistful in airy textures and colors. For years, Manila Killa split his time between solo works and the duo Hotel Garuda, but in 2018, he left that project and refocused his efforts on the melodies in his head.
His journey culminates today (Feb. 22) with his debut EP 1993. It opens with an emotional synthwave fantasy and moves through sultry moods, bright bounces, future textures, and grand, cinematic vistas. It’s cute, at times deviously alluring and outight joyous, but mostly tinged with a sweet kind of melancholy. It pushed him creatively, seeing him finish tunes he made back in college and step to the mic for the first time. Billboard Dance caught up with the Killa kid to hear the full story behind each of the EP’s seven tracks.
The intro track is titled “1993,” the year I was born. It’s an homage to the first “dance music” song I ever felt extremely attached to — Daft Punk‘s “One More Time.” It’s a classic that I don’t think I’ll ever get tired of hearing, and I wanted to replicate that feeling “One More Time” gives — a moment that you’ll most likely never live again, but always remember as being beautiful.
“Wake Up Call” Feat. Mansionair
After hearing [Australian band Mansionair’s] collaboration with ODESZA in 2017, I was eager to work with them as soon as the opportunity arose. I heard the “Wake Up Call” lyrics, and my first thought was that it was haunting and beautiful at the same time. I knew I wanted to expand and see how far I could take the track, while maintaining the integrity of the original demo.
“All 2 U” Feat. Sara Skinner
This is a song with a simple message — the acceptance of leaving everything on the table, whether it be the good or bad. I took a lot of time with producing the track, because I wanted to make sure that the production took the roll of supporting Sara’s voice. I wanted to make sure that the instrumental was as hauntingly pleasant as the lyrics. It wasn’t until right before I submitted the song that I had the idea of having my friend Brenton Duvall played the guitar parts of the song. This is what I felt was the missing piece to such a raw and emotional song — an organic element as simple as the guitar.
“Atypical” Feat. GiGi
“Atypical” is a song centered around realizing one’s own bad decisions and trying as hard as they can to improve on themselves — but they always find themselves slipping back. I feel that this song represents the struggle in finding a path to happiness. Gigi and I tried to encapsulate [this] not only through the lyrics but with the production itself.
“Run Away” is the first song I’ve sang on, written, and produced entirely on my own. It represents the fleeting feeling [I get] whenever I look out the window of a plane. Sometimes, I get so mesmerized looking down on the Earth, and I imagine how beautiful it would be to be able to fly wherever I wanted. That’s the kind of feeling I tried to recreate with this song.
“Skin” Feat. outsideOUTSIDE
I started this song in my college dorm room in 2013. It was just a few chords and piano riff I recorded, but I knew it was something special. That’s why I kept it so close to me for years. I wanted to make sure that when this song came out, it would be the best it could be. I was introduced to outsideOUTSIDE by my manager, and after hearing the initial demo of the lyrics they wrote over my track, I had a feeling that this was what the song needed. After months of revisiting, re-recording vocals and re-listening over and over, we finally brought the track to a place that I was happy about.
This is the piano riff that I recorded along with the original demo of “Skin” back in 2013. I played it freehand with no metronome and never bothered to “fix” the timing of it, just because I wanted people to feel the exact emotions I felt at that time. It was a part of my life where I felt very lost but had the strangest feeling that everything was going to be okay in the end. It’s the last song on the project, and serves as the closing of a chapter, and beginning of a new one.
1993 is out now on Moving Castle. Manila Killa will support the EP with a North American tour running late April through June.