Scenezoned: Starting on a High Note with Careless Music Manila
Kylie Jenner has her cosmetics, Ryan Reynolds has a gin company, Liza Soberano has her nail salon, and Kris Aquino has a nacho stand. You’ll often hear celebrities venturing into businesses and that’s nothing new. What’s almost unheard of—especially for the local scene—is for a celebrity to make a record label.
After meeting each other in the Pinoy Big Brother House, James Reid and Bret Jackson kept in touch and continued making music together. “It was terrible!” Bret laughs on the first few times they tried to make their own music. “We were making beats in my room and it was so bad!” James adds laughing. Now, however, their sound has evolved. After James released Palm Dreams, jaws were left hanging, ears were happy, and that was just the beginning.
On James: Chris Diaz top & chain
James and Bret both have music as a passion. “James and I have always been into music but we never thought the label would happen. It’s a good thing actually,” Bret shares. The duo (who was called We Are Whatever before, this is why Bret also goes by KingwAw) created Careless Music Manila, a record label where artists from all over the Philippines can have creative freedom of their sound.
There are no cutesy pop songs here, no frilly music videos, only good and honest music. If you haven’t listened to Careless Music Manila on Spotify yet, you should—after or while you’re reading this. We know we’re playing them on loop 24/7. The sound is a mix of tropical, rap, R&B, and is 100% fresh. If you would ask us what we would bring if we were going to be stuck in an island alone, we’d beg for a Careless Mixtape, a player, and some extra batteries.
On KingwAw: H&M x Moschino Jacket and Pants
Creating the Collective
“A lot of kids in Visayas want to do music but they can’t because there’s no scene. Not a big enough light on OPM and that sucks because there’s so much talent there and I know this, I grew up there.” Bret shares. As Careless Music Manila’s artist repertoire, he’s tasked to scout for fresh talents to sign-in with the label.
On Nadine: Chris Diaz
Nadine Lustre was an obvious choice to sign-in with the label. Starting in female pop-group Pop Girls before turning into a household name, Nadine is a powerhouse in every right. “Music is my life! I have to listen to music everyday or else I’ll go crazy!” she laughs. She would often hang out in the studio while James was recording and working over some new beats. “I would just be waiting with nothing to do and observe what he’s doing.”
Bret and James eventually convinced her to write her own music and now she’s 1 of 8 talents under Careless Music. “Nadine can do so much with her music and now she’s been given the freedom to do it,” Bret points out.
On Curtismith: Zanone top
Curtismith was looking at signing-in with a record label after making it big in the local scene. “I was at point where I needed people around me,” Curtismith shares. “It was overwhelming doing it on my own and I told Bret that I was thinking of signing with a label and Bret said why don’t I just join them. Our chemistry is good and the relationship grew organically. We all have a good relationship with one another and we all have the same vision, what more can I ask for?”
Now that he’s with Careless Music, he admits that it’s been a huge help because he can now focus more on the music than the ‘business aspect of the music game’. “Careless allowed me to focus more on solely making music and actually understanding why I’m doing music in the first place,” he shares.
On AstroKidd: Chris Diaz
“I saw a picture of Astrokidd,” laughs Bret when asked on how he met Luke Hassan who goes by AstroKidd in Careless Music. And yes, his screen name is such because of an obsession with AstroBoy. “I never heard his music, I just saw a picture of him and his braids where going everywhere and he had this face that was like, I could see something there,” Bret shares.
After a quick Google search and some mutual friends later, they were making music in the studio. “[It was] absolute magic when we got into the studio. And I was like okay, wanna join Careless?” laughs Bret. AstroKidd shares that he’s not really a rapper-rapper, “I’m more of a melodic hip-hop singer. Everyone in Careless has something to bring to the table. Me, I have a more Middle Eastern flavor.”
On Massiah: ÀERON coat and Zanone pullover
“Massiah, I saw a video of him with 100 views. No one knew him,” Bret shares. “He’s from my hometown of Dumaguete, a friend gave me his number and I said ‘Yo, wanna take a flight down to Manila and record?’ And he was like ‘YES!’ and I told myself this kid’s crazy! Who says yes to someone like that?! But that kind of crazy mixes well with Careless.” laughs Bret. Pre-Careless, Haissam “Massiah” Morton was in engineering school and was making music for fun. “I never made any serious content. I would just freestyle with my dudes and chill. I wrote a couple of verses before but thats all they were,” Massiah says.
It wasn’t until he performed in Cebu and posted a video that would lead James and Bret to find him did he actually see music as a feasible career. He dropped engineering school and moved to creative writing. “Engineering was promising but it really wasn’t for me… So I figured that I needed a course that would help me manage both my degree and make a name for myself in music, so I shifted to creative writing,” Massiah shares. With three songs out there, Massiah admits that he’s still trying to nail down his own sound. “I don’t know what my style is yet but right now, I’m leaning towards hip-hop and rap, anything rap and afro-beat, like dance and tropical vibes that’s really good for partying.”
On Sofia: Labo.Art dress and H&M x Moschino jacket
At 19, the youngest addition to Careless is Sofia Romualdez. “I met Bret in the studio when I was recording an EP that I never released. Bret helped me in my music and later he asked me to be part of Careless,” Sofia shares.
She would often sing with her dad and his band but never in school. “I always knew that I wanted to do music but no one knew that I could sing until I was 16 because I was so shy!” she laughs. Aside from singing, she started writing her own songs two years ago. She cites Nina Simone, Billie Holiday, and Amy Winehouse, as a few of her music heroes. these three play a huge role in her own music which leans more towards jazz and R&B.
On Narez: Benj Rogano
The latest addition to Careless Music is their assistant director, Narez La Fuego. Being in Australia most of his life, Narez watched a lot of fliptop battles and would have rap battles with his circle of friends until people started asking him to freestyle in parties.
He met James in 2013 and ever since James has been asking him to come to Manila. “This year James said that they’re doing big things with this record label and I should come through. So I initially came here as an artist,” Narez recalls. “Two months ago, I absorbed the role of assistant director, my role was to push the trajectory of the record label as a whole. So, I took a backstep from music a little bit,” he adds. Now, he does both being an artist and an assistant director for Careless. “I do admire Diddy being Biggie’s manager,” Nares shares. “He still pushes Biggie as a manager but also performs at the same time. That’s how I see myself in the moment as well.”
Careless jokes that they look like the United Nations, perhaps even a really spiked up United Colors of Benetton ad. But allow us to use the cliché that there is strength in diversity. Fair representation is a big slogan these past few years, be it through Jordan Peele movies to Kelsey Merritt walking the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show—for Careless it’s all about letting unheard of talent be heard and harmoniously letting those voices work together.
Like a well-crafted cocktail, Careless is a drink you unexpectedly order on a night you want to be explorative. The name of the drink catches you off-guard but you give it a try anyway. You’re not really sure why there’s a dose of scotch, a drop of bitters, a spoon of coconut creme, and some dehydrated citruses in there, but you drink it anyway. And like all the good things in life that take us by surprise, it tastes good, no, it tastes, great. You take another sip and decide that it’s your new favorite drink.
Know more about Careless Music Manila and how they’re breaking the rules here.
Producer & Creative Director: Nigel Garcia
Layout by: Dana Malang
Interview by: Patricia Herbolario
Photographer: Alvin Chua
Stylist: Xeena Morales
Set Design: Sarah Quijano
Makeup: Nate Javier
Hair: Apple Alviar
Production Assistants: Keithleen Dicon & Kristine Lucas