Interview | FFS 5 with Optacure

Photo courtesy of artist

In Cebuano, the term “mingaw” can mean “lonely” or “peaceful”. When taken in dual context, one receives the serene ennui of Optacure’s new single to its fullest extent. Developed in collaboration with Emmanuel Aguila and Debb Acebu, the tune features the latter artist’s warm vocals. With ascending and descending guitar tones working in unison with one another as the song shifts between 5/4 and 6/4 time, it’s just as much a showcase of Optacure’s musical mind as well as it is a sympathetic reflection told from two perspectives—from one who is alone, and another who is looking out for the lonely. It was written, recorded, and produced between three cities and two countries over the past year—Optacure is centered in Sunshine Coast, whereas Aguila and Acebu respectively reside in Cebu and Quezon. With the world still in a spin over the COVID-19 pandemic, its central themes are more utterly, universally relevant than ever.

‘Mingaw’ is a departure from Optacure’s previous singles. Collaborations with pillowtalk and Moxdog, Optacure first delved into lo-fi hip-hop, trap and underground rock production before diving into folksier alt-pop undertones with his latest. “Optacure” itself was a moniker devised by Edmund Gemelo, Jr. to describe his artistic expression in “Optical Cure … a philosophy of searching for a universal perspective.” Herein, we expect even further musical expedition from the worldly artist, whose ventures thus far have seen him from the Philippines to Australia.

Optacure graciously accepted For Folk’s Sake’s request to join in on our growing ‘FFS 5’ interview series, where each artist answers five general questions about their art and themselves. Herein, we are given a special lens into Gemelo Jr.’s world, his background, and an infectiously sunny disposition that keeps the cerebral artist moving.

Photo courtesy of artist

Please tell us a bit about yourself. Where are you from and how did you get started in music? Any defining moments along the path to present day?

I was born in the Philippines and spent most of my childhood moving from city to city in the Island of Mindanao. My father taught me how to play the guitar and began my appreciation of music by watching him play. The nu-metal and hip-hop scenes were the ones that really sparked my vigor for music early on. I played in a couple of high school bands and started to write songs when I was 15 because I couldn’t play some of the songs I liked.

I moved to Manila to study in the University and that’s when my music perspective widened. I got into a music organization and met Emmanuel Aguila who became influential to me. He actually produces all of my songs. During my days in the University, I played in a band called Bears In Peril which is an indie rock band. I also recorded a n EP with my other band, Specterull, which is more of a Rock/Rap sort of vibe.

In 2015, I moved to Australia to explore opportunities. I didn’t have a band so that’s when I started to play the acoustic guitar more and write songs with that. That’s when Optacure really came to life. I spent a lot of time alone and I’d say my songs got a lot more honest. I did a couple of rap collabs with the dj “pillow talk” using Optacure as my artist name before I decided to release my new material as under the same new name. ‘Mingaw’ is the first single I’ve released with the help of Emmanuel Aguila and Debb Acebu bringing it to life. I’m looking forward to sharing some of my new songs and exploring a new sound that is different to any of my previous bands.

As an artist, how do you define success?

Success for me is being able to share my thoughts and my overall being accurately. It is quite soothing to know that when my time is up in this world, I would have left something for people to ponder on. It’s not me that I want people to remember, it’s more like the preserved feelings and emotions I hope people can find comfort in.

What do you find your greatest struggle to be when it comes to the music business?

It would have to be finding the opportunities. This can also be finding the right audience for my music. Although, I don’t really mind being relatively unknown. I think there’s a whole lot of great music to be consumed out there. As long as people are finding their peace even if it’s not my music, I’m quite okay to be struggling all the way. 🙂

What do you think is the most realistic goal you can achieve as an artist and as a band? What do you hope to achieve?

Well I guess I hope I could write and play music for a living. It would be nice to entertain people while having the best time of my life. 🙂

Outside of music, what do you like to do that you feel contributes to the creativity that you tap into for your music?

Immersing myself in different art forms like movies, drawings, paintings, dance performances, etc. I’m a big fan of art.

Being with other people in general. The connection I have with people translates a lot in the writing process.

Being in nature – the beach and the mountains usually.

Words by: Jonathan Frahm