NEW BAND: Members of ‘Chelsea Alley’ pose during a press conference in Quezon City on April 29. From left: Chelsea Alley – Chi Evora (drummer), Lean Ansing (guitarist), John Borja (vocals), and Ariel Lumalan (guitarist) pose (Photo by Robert Requintina)

Two former members of the award-winning Filipino rock band Slapshock are starting fresh as they reunite under a new group called “Chelsea Alley,” along with two other musicians.

Hours before the band debuted on stage at The Elements at Centris in Quezon City last Friday night, members of Chelsea Alley – Chi Evora (drummer), Lean Ansing (guitarist), John Borja (vocals), and Ariel Lumalan (guitarist) – met members of the entertainment press and talked about their first single, the band’s lead singer who almost became the lead vocals for the American rock band Stone Temple Pilots and their late friend Jamir Garcia, former vocalist of Slapshock.

Except for Borja and Lumalan (Arcadia), the rest of the band were active members of Slapshock before they disbanded in October 2020. Asked about the leader of Chelsea Alley, the band members smiled and said: “Wala kaming ganun.”

For the first time, the band performed their song “Heneral,” a tribute to Jamir Garcia who passed away in November 2020. The band is simply happy and satisfied with the outcome of their first single, which the members described as a group effort.

‘First Strike’

“Lahat may input kami. Nakaka inspire kasi everybody’s working. Nagusap si John and Chi dahil nga bagong pasok pa lamang siya sa grupo. Naisulat niya ‘yung lyrics at naging tribute namin ito kay Jamir. Yung title galing kay Ariel. ‘Heneral’ ang tawag ng Slapshock fans kay Jamir,” said Ansing.

“It was a magical experience. Bagay talaga na pang first single namin ito. Everything fell into place for this song, including the universe. So we decided na ito ang unang ilalabas namin na kanta.”

Borja said: “Pag-uwi ko ng bahay, dala dala ko yung mga kwento tungkol sa Slapshock. So yung song is about tungkol sa dalawang magkaibigan na nagdadamayan.”

Evora also said that the band may go on a mall tour a few months from now. They are also preparing to record an album. “Abangan po ninyo ang mga gigs ng Chelsea Alley.”

There’s nothing serious about the band’s name “Chelsea Alley,” Evora says. “Wala naman talaga siyang malalim na meaning. Yung Chelsea doon ako lumaki sa Chelsea Street sa Fairview, Quezon City. Alley Street naman si Ansing sa Project 6. At ang catchy ng sound. Parang hindi siya nakakahon sa isang music lang. Hindi talaga kami nakakahon sa isang sound. May mga musical influence rin naman kami pero eversince sa Slapshock, andun pa rin ang formula.”

Fans line up outside The Elements at Centris in Quezon City for Chelsea Alley’s debut concert

John joins ‘Chelsea Alley’

Borja couldn’t believe that he will soon be part of a band that he used to idolize when he was younger.

“Napapanood ko lang sila noon. Nagpa-picture pa nga ako nuon kay Jamir. Now I’m part of the band,” he recalled.

Ansing first saw a YouTube video of Borja doing a cover version of a Linkin Park song. Then he immediately consulted Evora about the video. Evora asked Ansing to contact Borja soonest.

At first Borja couldn’t believe that he was being offered to become a member of Chelsea Alley.

Borja recalled: “May work na kasi ako nuon. Kayanin ko kaya ito? Paano ko kaya ito mama-manage at sayang yung opportunity? I decided to give it a go.”

Chelsea Alley’s debut concert as presented by Macbeth Productions

“Pauwi na talaga ako nuon sa Cebu to be with my family. I’ve decided to stop being a musician. Pinagbebenta ko na nga yung mga musical instruments ko. But music is my passion. First love ko talaga ang music. Matagal ko ng ginagawa ito at ito ang naging hanap buhay ko. So now kasama ko na sila,” he added.

Borja believes it was meant to be that he became part of the band Chelsea Alley after he lost in the worldwide audition to the Grammy Award-winning American rock band Stone Temple Pilots.

It was in 2015 when Borja uploaded a musical video that was seen by one of the members of the US band. “Nakipagcommunicate sila sa akin. Mga 22,000 singers kami nuon na ng-auditio. Ako yung panglima nilang napili. Stop na sila dapat maghanap pero yun nga, nakita nila ako YouTube.

“Pinapunta nila ako ng Los Angeles noong Sept. 5, 2016. (Coincidentally, Sept. 5 is the birthdate of Jamir.) Naka-jam ko sila, doon kami sa studio ni David Grohl. Kabado ako. Ang liit ko at ang lalaki nila pero pinakita ko ang pusong Pinoy.”

Borja ended 1st runner-up in the worldwide audition. Jeff Gutt, best known as a contestant on X-Factor, was named the new vocalist for the US band. No hard feelings for Borja when he did not get the part. He said that jamming with members of the Stone Temple Pilots was an experience of a lifetime.

“Okay din yun na naging achievement ko kahit hindi ako natanggap sa US. Siguro nga destined na mapasama ako sa Chelsea Alley. Ang gandang experience nuon at narinig ko ang tunog ng kano. Now, ina-apply ko na yun sa banda namin,” he added.

Source: Manila Bulletin (