It’s been a great couple of months for 19 year old Manila-based artist Denice Quimbo. A full-time film student and part-time musician, Quimbo (who goes by the name Ruru online) made waves in the Internet community after self-producing and self-releasing two successful projects, Sleep EP and Far Out. Her bedroom-pop aesthetic, saccharine yet confessional, has found quite the audience on YouTube and Spotify, racking up at least one-million streams across platforms.
These achievements eventually led to a collaboration with other artists in the Manila scene like Mellow Fellow–leading to the creation of new single “It’s Okay To Dream” and a few beautiful live performances within her city. But what’s next for her?
We reached out to Quimbo and asked her a few questions: what inspires her, what it’s like being a DIY artist, and where that beautiful French sample in “Far Out” actually came from.
In a few words (or sentences), how would you describe yourself as an artist?
As an artist? Hmm… I’m a dot amongst the sea of dots; screaming at the top of my lungs trying to make a relevant sound.
On your personal YouTube channel, we’ve already seen you cover a variety of artists like Mac Demarco and King Krule. Who are your musical heroes? What inspires you to make music?
Chairlift, STRFKR, Liszt, Vince Guaraldi… to name a few.
Experiences inspire me to make music. People, places, expectations, disappointments. Typical, atypical life things.
We’ve noticed that your sound changed a lot in between your first EP Sleep and Far Out. What did you do differently this time around?
Sleep was a compilation of songs I had written from 2016 to 2017 — I was still new to DAWs and this entire “producing-music-by-myself” thing. Far Out is a bundle of “leftovers” that didn’t quite fit anywhere in my previous album; it’s more transitional. I’m constantly trying to evolve my skills in producing and arranging. I needed to dump my songs somewhere.
There are quite a few emotionally charged moments on the album. On songs like “Coco” and “Changing”, that especially comes through… what’s your songwriting process like, and are your songs inspired by personal events that have happened in your life?
Yes, my songs are very much inspired by true experiences of my own and of other people. The process begins with a dialogue in my head. I pull out my phone notes or journal or whatever paper I have on me, scribble it down and save it for later. The work begins when I get to the piano or guitar. Although I wouldn’t say that that process is foolproof. 60% of the process involves me sitting down in front of my instrument of choice with nothing in mind. I battle with brain constipation everyday.
You’ve sampled a scene from the movie Comet in “Changing”, as well as a scene from a French film (that we couldn’t quite make out) in “Far Out”. Could you tell us a little bit about which scenes you chose to include in your album and why?
I sampled Comet because I was Dell (the main protagonist of the film). Dell was just this completely pessimistic dude who thought he knew everything. His monologue fit perfectly into the whole theme of my song. The film — its structure — felt like a reflection of what was. Memories revisited and regret.
With “Far Out”, I sampled Pierrot le Fou. It’s a pretty famous exchange of dialogue between the film that follows characters Marianne and Ferdinand through the different crimes they commit on the way to the Mediterranean. The translation goes: “Why do you look so sad?”
“Because you speak to me in words and I look at you with feelings.”
I’m not much of a film nerd but conversations get me. There’s much more being said about what’s not said.
One of my favorite things about your music is the cover art that accompanies it. I think it gives off a very DIY vibe, and it fits your image as an artist. Could you tell us a little bit about the cover art for Sleep, Far Out, or any of the other singles that you’ve released so far?
Both covers were doodles. I wanted to give off the “loose”, “on-the-blimp”, image to walk hand in hand with my sound. That was my thing then.
Do you have any songwriting or music-making rituals that you like to go through?
I write and write and write to get my thoughts flowing. When I’m not writing, I’m not thinking. I find it easier to write music when I’m sentimental or wistful.
What do you like to do when you’re not making music?
I’m in film school now. I’m about to graduate (Thank God). I’m shooting a short film for my thesis now and I’ve been scoring a bunch of my friends’ thesis films too. On days where I have the luxury of time, you’ll find me painting, drawing comics, documenting mundane days, or finding new things to create I guess.
Recently, there has been quite a few people getting international recognition for their work from Manila’s independent music scene: Mellow Fellow, no rome, and yourself, just to name a few. What is it like being a part of that scene? What does it mean to you to be an artist working in Manila today?
I honestly don’t feel like I’m directly part of the scene. I mean, I’m “in” it, but because I was literally picked up from the Internet, I feel lost or just generally out of place (since I’m also fairly new in the scene). But that’s okay! What’s important for me is staying authentic and true to my art.
Any news on a follow-up to Far Out?
I’m working on some songs now. Exploring and stuff. Might drop singles here and there if I have the time.
Check out our review of Ruru’s Far Out here.
Photos courtesy of the artist. This interview was conducted via email from September 7 – 11, 2018.
Li-Wei Chu is the chief editor of From the Intercom. When he’s not editing drafts and searching for new artists to cover for the website, he loves watching cult films, cooking, and listening to his ever-growing collection of vinyl records. You can follow him on LetterBoxd and make fun of his taste in movies here!