Like his bandmates in Dicta License, Pochoy belongs to a generation weaned on grunge music. And a lot of Rage Against The Machine, which, by his own account, propelled him to write songs during his college years. Now studying to become a lawyer, he still writes songs although he must’ve realized he need not scowl, spout fiery lyrics or most obviously, wear dreadlocks (if not tattoos and all sorts of insignias) like Zack Dela Rocha in order to get his message across.

In fact, for a band that’s heavily influenced by the political rock of Rage, you wouldn’t imagine them looking quite preppy, dressed in the Abercrombie and Fitch kind of way. But then again, the boys of Dicta License would rather let their music speak for itself. Plus, really now, flannel shirts are so 90s.

“We’re not out to make music that’s been done before, that speaks of activism. With our own kind of music, we’d like to think we care and we have something to say. Even if all of us grew in subdivisions, in the city,” Pochoy says earnestly in an interview.

The shift in his songwriting is never more evident than in the band\’s debut album titled “Paghilom”. While the title alone may invoke political and social undertones, the band readily tells me there is only song in the album (“Demockracy”) they consider political. Rather, they describe the rest of the songs as positive in tone, in tune with the album’s title itself (which means “healing” in Filipino).

According to the band, the album’s carrier single, “Ang Ating Araw”, speaks (or maybe dreams) of national healing. Dicta License fancies itself apolitical, not taking any sides; preferring instead to spark social awareness and consequently, let their audience decide. “It was a conscious decision for us to make songs in Filipino because we wanted to connect with our audience. For us, it was more fitting to write in our native language because we want to understand what we are saying ourselves,” says bassist Kel.

It may have taken the band past their high school and college years to realize that even with the kind of music they play, there is nothing more powerful than playing a song in your own language. But it just times itself well enough for their first real Dicta License album, with song titles like “Daloy ng Kamalayan” and “Alay Sa Mga Nagkamalay Noong Dekada Nobenta”.

Pochoy himself admits his songwriting has also somehow simmered down – from being angst-ridden before to being more laidback now. From earlier songs like Duct Tape and Smoke Under The Table, which became part of their self-produced EP released in 2003, what is considered a turning in the band’s existence is when Pochoy began writing songs in Filipino, digging deep into the lyrics of Francis Magalona and in the process, discovering classic Pinoy rock icons like Asin and Freddie Aguilar.

“We’re not out to make music that’s been done before, that speaks of activism. With our own kind of music, we’d like to think we care and we have something to say. Even if all of us grew in subdivisions, in the city,” Pochoy says earnestly in an interview.

The shift in his songwriting is never more evident than in the band’s debut album titled “Paghilom”. While the title alone may invoke political and social undertones, the band readily tells me there is only song in the album (“Demockracy”) they consider political. Rather, they describe the rest of the songs as positive in tone, in tune with the album’s title itself (which means “healing” in Filipino).

According to the band, the album’s carrier single, “Ang Ating Araw”, speaks (or maybe dreams) of national healing. Dicta License fancies itself apolitical, not taking any sides; preferring instead to spark social awareness and consequently, let their audience decide. “It was a conscious decision for us to make songs in Filipino because we wanted to connect with our audience. For us, it was more fitting to write in our native language because we want to understand what we are saying ourselves,” says bassist Kel.

Dicta License traces its roots in the previous decade alright. The trio of Kel, guitarist Boogie and drummer Bryan were once part of a youth group in church during high school and have been playing together since. (Kel and Boogie, being full-time musicians, do double duty as part of Kjwan while Bryan plays for a side project called Black Rims). Pochoy was then singing for his own band Reaction 105 while still a freshman in Ateneo and although two years younger, the three found in him someone who can sing and rap to the kind of music they wanted to pursue.

And so after jamming to Rage Against The Machine’s “Bombtrack”, they went on to form Dicta License. Rage has since disbanded a few years ago (actually replaced by fashionably-named Audioslave with erstwhile Soundgarden singer Chris Cornell singing but nonetheless still scowling) while Dicta License is slowly coming out on its own.

Like his more senior cohorts, Pochoy himself is trying to expand the kind of music he listens to these days, tuning in hip-hop artists like Kanye West and Common. “We try to open our ears to different kinds of music, not just rock,” he says. And maybe put a lot more soul into their songs.

Dicta License is Pochoy Labog (vocals), Boogie Romero (guitar), Kelley Mangahas (bass) and Bryan Makasiar (drums). Paghilom, the band’s major label debut album under Warner Philippines, is currently out.

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