One Click Straight: “We’re just saying what we feel while we still can”

The Filipino indie pop quartet fight time and change to find themselves on their sprawling new record. Sam and Tim Marquez chat with NME about identity, the pandemic and changing industry tides prior to its release

One Click Straight are on edge. From the start of our conversation, less than 24 hours before they release their sophomore self-titled album, it’s evident that the band are caught in a whirlwind of activity and feeling. Sam and Tim Marquez, brothers and half of the band, Zoom in from their homes in Manila, tossing around phrases like “nitty-gritty”, “business stuff” and “technical difficulties”.

“As usual, there are so many things that didn’t go as planned at all,” drummer Tim quips behind a sheepish grin about the launch concert they’re planning to throw tonight (January 20). “But what I’m confident about, though, is the album.”

The music is the eye of the storm for the pair, a sentiment they keep returning to throughout their chat with NME. In the kaleidoscopic 14-track release, the indie pop quartet – rounded off by third brother Toffer Marquez and childhood friend Joel Cartera – nimbly cycle through a myriad of moods (defiant, tender) and sounds (industrial, organic). A sense of triumph is woven through the record, and for good reason: ‘One Click Straight’ brings an end to a tumultuous four-year period where the band struggled to find themselves.

One Click Straight
Credit: Press


“When you do the first album, it’s different,” muses Sam, recalling the heady days of 2018’s ‘The Midnight Emotion’. “I don’t want to say it was blinded by fun, but there was this new shining light of, ‘Whoa, this band thing is kind of cool’.” As the thrill and glamour of being rising stars in Manila’s scene fizzled out, the band found themselves at a crossroads. “We reached a point where we realised, ‘OK, whether it’s fun or not, I think this is for life’. So, we might as well give it everything we’ve got to find what we really wanted to say, because you’re only 25 or 26 once.”

That timeless, twentysomething search for an identity was cemented as a core theme of the album in its first single, ‘Wake Me Up’. Atop a bubbly new jack swing shuffle, Sam articulates the record’s central conflict, where the unrealised self rages against a world teeming with superficiality: “Here, once again / In a place where all we do is pretend / I’m in my head / With the voices I just can’t understand”.

“It was tricky for a band to go all out and see nothing in return. I was at a point where I was accepting so many projects I didn’t want to do just to pay the bills”

This pursuit of authenticity was one of romantic proportions, the Marquez brothers say – faced with shifting tides, the quartet bet on unrestrained self-expression. It was a strategy that would either make or break them. “I don’t want to sound dramatic, but it kind of felt like we lost everything,” remarks Sam of the band’s turbulent pandemic years. “When [the opportunity to play shows] was taken away, it kind of showed that we had nothing. It also wasn’t working out with our old label, so it felt like a transitionary period. There were times we felt like nomads.” (The band are now signed to Island Records Philippines.)

“It culminated in the realisation that we had nothing to lose, so what’s going to stop us from doing what we wanted? The pain became our strength.”

This newfound creative freedom also translated to unprecedented experimentation in the studio. Look no further than the album’s opening track, ‘Untitled 01’, for proof of the band’s sonic hijinks. In it, an ominous drone gradually gives way to a gritty, propulsive breakbeat more suited for a ’90s rave in the UK than the “softboi candy pop” One Click Straight once proclaimed to deal in. That’s just how it begins – the track then throws listeners for a loop with fingerpicked acoustic guitars and a dubstep breakdown. Later, ‘Untitled 02’ juxtaposes an effervescent house groove with a monochromatic post-punk riff and bursts of distortion.

It seems that contrast was the sonic strategy which ultimately defined the record’s production. It also poetically mirrors the way the band constantly felt out of place, an angst that at its most intense translated to an undeniable sense of isolation. That became especially apparent, Tim recalls, when the local scene underwent a particular paradigm shift: artists were suddenly required to become content creators. “No matter how expensive our music videos were, or how strategically we marketed our music, it just wasn’t working out,” Sam elaborates. “There were people that kind of liked [the music], but at the same time it just wasn’t ‘content’ enough. It wasn’t cute, or something you can put in a 15-second video.”

The looming threat of irrelevance ultimately resulted in the record’s emotionally charged penultimate track, ‘Synecdoche’. His falsetto soaring above a delicate, crystalline keyboard melody, Sam bares his soul as if alone in a dim room: “Will we ever get what we wanted? / Will it ever be enough? / While we hope and wait for something / Never knew what we had till it’s gone”. In conversation, the vocalist emphasises the enormous stakes which came with being an artist during the pandemic: “It was tricky for a band to go all out and see nothing in return. I was at a point where I was accepting so many projects I didn’t want to do just to pay the bills. That’s when reality hits, and you realise, ‘Yo, I’m not 21 anymore’.”

“It culminated in the realisation that we had nothing to lose, so what’s going to stop us from doing what we wanted? The pain became our strength”


Nevertheless, being the romantic heroes they are, One Click Straight refuse to succumb to despair. Like a light at the end of the tunnel, ‘Synecdoche’ concludes with a reflection on the importance of community: “Nothing can be perfect, but when it’s just you and me / And when everything just fades away, the world can finally sleep”. While the band responded to modern-day pressures of content creation by doubling down on their creative instincts, they agree that their resolve would not have hardened if not for the power of friendship. “Right now, the only thing that’s keeping us hopeful is our friends,” blurts Tim with a hearty laugh. “Working with Zild, ena [mori], Of Mercury and St. Wolf helps us to have a little hope. It’s just nice to have a good laugh and go, ‘Well, might as well go for it’.”

Sam also highlights that seeing fans eventually catch their wave reignites his sense of purpose. “As much as it seems like you’re alone in your feelings, there’s a bunch of kids out there who go to the shows and feel the same way,” he says. “That helps me realise that this is bigger than just me creating alone in my room.” The emotional resonance of the music becomes especially clear – and humbling – when fans show up when the band least expects it. The pair gleefully recall their Christmas show where they broke Saguijo Bar’s record for highest gig turnout in 2022, a miracle considering the Philippines’ affinity for the holiday. “They didn’t care,” Sam said. “They were there early, and we were like, ‘Wow, these kids wanna mosh’.”

One Click Straight
Credit: Press

Today, One Click Straight are finally relishing the present moment. Transcending the sugary naivete of early buzz, the quartet put everything on the line to uncover their truest selves, a mission they invite listeners to pursue likewise. “A genuine lifestyle isn’t just for artists,” concludes Sam. “I think it’s for everybody, whether you’re a teacher, or a scientist, or doing whatever.”

Having gone through it in the last few years, One Click Straight don’t take their roles as the patron saints of realness lightly. Tim adds, with a sense of urgency: “We’re just saying what we feel while we still can. I don’t know what’s gonna happen next, but hey, at least we’ll still be trying.”

‘One Click Straight’ is out now via Island Records Philippines


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