Transforming OPM With The Boys Of Careless Music Manila



The studio turned to a whole playground when the boys of Careless Music Manila arrived. Their energy transcends to everyone in the room making it an easy round for each person’s turn for photos. They were all dressed up in suits and button-downs. It’s not something we see them every day on so it was a fresh sight to see, dancing around in their ensembles. Gold chains hanging around their neck, the crew admired every piece they were put on. Needless to say, they were just as excited as everyone else to grace MEGA Man’s December digital cover.

Watching them in action in front of the lens, hip-hop music blasted on the speakers in the studio. It wasn’t a surprise knowing what type of music they make. At parties and recently on Khalid’s American Tour Manila stop, they performed songs from their mixtape—genres evident with the beats: trap, R&B, and hip-hop. “Actually, all of us don’t just listen to hip-hop,” Bret later reveals during the interview. He adds that Massiah, for one, listens to everything. So does Astro Kidd and Curtismith. This also reflects on the musicians they would want to work with. Come local, they easily agreed on Unique and added George Clanton on the roster. Interestingly, we might see a hip-hop x folk or hip-hop x alternative rock collaboration in the future.

Careless Creative Collective

But that’s what Careless Music Manila has been all about since the beginning. It was a huge collaboration of musicians to create music. Bret called it a platform for musicians to be able to do music as they please. This was what brought in the rest of the members from the starting roster of James Reid, Nadine Lustre, and Bret Jackson also known as KINGwAw. The massive support they received from fans in 2017 prompted Bret and James to scout new members for the team.

Black blazer and trousers both by RANDY ORTIZ, floral-printed button-down by GUESS, and gold chains by MAN BEYOND

The label currently has 7 members: James Reid, Nadine Lustre, Bret “KINGwAw” JacksonMito “Curtismith” FabieLuke “Astrokidd” HassanHaissam “Massiah” Morton, and Sofia Romualdez (or simply Sofia). You also have Jeriko Tan, COO of the label, and Henz, the artist-slash-stylist for the team. Their eponymous mixtape has millions of streams, collectively from each track.

It was a heartwarming moment when I asked the team what inspires them to keep on making music. The word was “musical inspiration” and in a sea of Michael Jacksons and Frank Oceans, they said it was each other. James, who had done the interview separately from the other boys, shares he’s inspired by the artists he’s with under the label. “Right now, I’m inspired by everyone in Careless. Like, I see the way they work and listen to the music they’re making. I see potential in what I could become and so I’m really inspired by everything that they’ve been doing.”

Coincidentally, the boys shared the same sentiment as James. “What I get inspired most by these days is just looking at them grow,” Bret tells us, in which the others agreed. “I can see them make music all the time and it just makes me happy.”

Blue suede blazer by H&M, black nylon jacket by BENCH, printed button-down by GUESS, sneakers by VANS, and gold chains by COLD GOLD

As a result of the crew’s synergy, every song they release tops the charts and fans would flock their gigs in support of every single member. It’s unbelievable to be a part of the crowd of any Careless Music Manila gig—everyone knows every word to their songs, dancing, and simply enjoying the moment of the artists on-stage. Those moments would make the crew feel fulfilled and perhaps overwhelmed. “All these artists have like 400,000 streams. No music video, no anything. There’s nothing else pushing. No company is pushing. No anything, just us putting it out there and it’s making noise. So it’s pretty crazy,” Bret explains.

“That’s why we’re together,” Mito tells. “We share the same vision. We’re all the same individuals but collectively, if we’d like, we can be really powerful.” And by ‘vision’, they meant the growth of Filipino artists in the international scene.

From Palm Dreams to Big Dreams

For the longest time, OPM has been saturated by your usual genres—ballads and pop to name a few. When Careless released Palm Dreams for James Reid, an album much different from his previous album Reid Alert, a lot of people gave credit to the different sound James offered. The songs, which he all co-produced and co-wrote, showed everyone that he’s no longer just a heartthrob and an actor. With the help of his crew, James showed a different color that not a lot people were used to hearing from a local artist.

Printed button-down by GUESS and gold chains by MAN BEYOND

“We’ve been stuck on mainly ballads and pop for how many decades?” James shares. “I think it’s time we just keep up with the rest of the world. There’s good hip-hop music, rock music, and R&B music in the Philippines and I think a lot of people—I mean companies are scared to take a chance and experiment. They like to stick to the formula but I’m trying to create a new formula.”

This formula is applied and improved on the production of the Careless Music Mixtape. While it may be experimental for many, it seems to work. “OPM can still change,” Bret believes. “It’s not a genre. It’s just, what we call what’s just going on in the Philippines but everything is music. So no matter what music anyone makes doesn’t make our music better than anyone else. No music is better than [anyone else’s]. It’s all about personal preference, taste, what you grew up to listening—all those kinds of factors play into it.”

Maroon blazer by AVEL BACUDIO, printed button-down by GUESS, burgundy trousers with side stripe by H&M, sneakers by FILA, and gold chains by COLD GOLD

Releasing songs after songs tirelessly non-stop, Careless has been dominating the local charts. You can blame it on the popularity of its members but the relatively new artists under the label are also starting to gain traction. There can’t be any more scientific explanation for this than the formula has worked in and out of the country. Naturally, frustrations arose in artists like them. “When I was in high school, my favorite bands were Typecast, Urbandub, and Chicosci—all of the greats,” Bret tells us. “They could’ve been way bigger if there were more spotlight on the Philippines. As soon as more eyes are on the Philippines, everyone’s gonna rise. And the only way to do that is just to try and get into the international market. That’s it.”

Ultimately, the label’s goal is “to open the door to Filipino artists, more than what’s already been done,” as Curtismith has worded it. “Wherever we go, it’s not about us,” Bret adds on. “We’re there, yes. But it’s not about us. It’s about saying, ‘Check out the Philippines.’ And that’s the goal.”

Navy blue blazer and trousers both by RANDY ORTIZ, leopard-printed button down by GUESS, sneakers by NIKE, and gold chain by COLD GOLD

Careless Music Manila isn’t as careless as we think, after all. An inside joke on the beaches of Boracay are starting to reach greater heights but all these aren’t for their own fame and glory. With other Filipino artists in mind, the label is and will continue to create music that could penetrate the international music scene. Growing OPM to a bigger scale is, after all, nothing new to many artists. We’ve got many Filipino artists becoming global legends and it won’t be too surprising to find Careless Music Manila’s artists sit on top of viral charts and more.

What’s next for Careless Music Manila? “Music videos, more music, more shows, finding more artists,” Bret tells with zero hesitation. The label’s vision and goals are already set. Now we’re only looking at “the coolest possible stuff”—Massiah’s words—to be released on the years to come.


Photography by Toff Tiozon
Grooming by Rhod Rubia (James), Pamm Merrera (KINGwAw and Massiah) and Cats Del Rosario (Curtissmith, and AstroKidd)
Hair by Rhod Rubia (James), JA Feliciano (Curstismith and Massiah) and Pamm Merrera (KINGwAw and AstroKidd)
Art direction by Jann Pascua
Styling by Angelo Ramirez de Cartagena and Lyn Alumno
Shoot coordination by Thea Martin