Rivermaya is an influential Filipino rock band founded in 1993. Their musical direction has evolved through standard rock, hard rock, pop, progressive, and other genres. They are the second biggest-selling artists in the Philippines.
The first line-up consisted of Jesse Gonzales on vocals, Kenneth Ilagan on guitars, Nathan Azarcon on bass, Rome Velayo on drums, and Rico Blanco on keyboards. They were managed by Lizza Nakpil and director Chito Roño who had the intention of molding the group into a rock show band. The band was then called Xaga.
Classic line-up and mainstream success
In the process of grueling practice sessions, Ilagan was replaced with Perfecto de Castro; Azarcon's childhood friend, Mark Escueta, to replace Velayo, as well as former classmate Francisco "Bamboo" Mañalac to replace Gonzales. With Bamboo as frontman, the band members themselves decided to disband Xaga and form the band Rivermaya. They started putting together original songs like "Ulan" [Rain], "214", and "Awit ng Kabataan" [Song of the Youth] (mostly composed by Rico Blanco) in demo form for prospective recording companies.
Nathan Azarcone was one of the members of Rivermaya from 1993 to 2001.
By November 1994, the band had released its first album, the self-titled Rivermaya, and its first single, "Ulan"; followed by "214". Critically praised for its fresh, excitingly new pop/rock sound, the album went on to become one of the best acts in the 1990s.
Citing artistic differences, Perf de Castro was adamant in leaving the group and founded his own band, Triaxis.
The band's second album Trip, followed with the singles "Kisapmata" [Blink of an Eye], "Himala" [Miracle], and "Panahon Na Naman" [Here Comes the Season]. Whilce Portacio, creator of the X-Men's "Bishop" and co-founder of Image Comics, designed the album art for Trip.
In 1997, the band released its third album, Atomic Bomb, with the single "Hinahanap-hanap Kita" [Always Searching For You]. The album gained positive responses from listeners and received heavy airplay from radio stations. During this period, Rivermaya also released the "Rivermaya Remixed" album, put together with the help of DJ Toti Dalmacion of Groove Nation.
Departure of Bamboo Mañalac and second evolution of line-up
The band then embarked on a US and Canada tour. It was at this time that Bamboo Mañalac decided to stay in the US. He eventually went on to form his own band, Bamboo in 2003.
Rico Blanco was the chief composer of the band, he later became the band's full time guitarist when Perf de Castro left one year after their debut album was released & later became the band's frontman after the departure of Bamboo in 1999.
Rivermaya decided to forge on, with Rico Blanco taking on vocals and released their fourth album, It's Not Easy Being Green containing the singles "Nerbyoso", "Shattered Like", and "Rodeo".
The band released its fifth studio album, aptly called Free, entirely for free on the Internet as well as on CDs distributed at their gigs. Free went on to be named "Best Album of 2000" at the NU Rock Awards.
Nathan Azarcon departed from the group signaling a new lineup change. Completing the lineup were new guitarists, Kakoi Legaspi (from blues band Mr. Crayon) and Mike Elgar (from 7 Foot Junior) as well as Japs Sergio (from Daydream Cycle) on bass.
Together, this lineup released "Tuloy ang Ligaya", preceded by the EP "Alab ng Puso" (featuring a remix by Raimund Marasigan's Squid 9).
The band released the albums Tuloy ang Ligaya and Between the Stars and the Waves, producing the singles "Umaaraw, Umuulan" , "Wag Na Init Ulo, Baby", "A Love to Share", "Balisong", "Sunday Driving", "Table for Two", "241 (My Favorite Song)", and "Atat".
Kakoi Legaspi resigned in 2004.
The band found a variety of partners who commissioned such works as "Liwanag sa Dilim" [Light in the Dark], "Posible" [Possible] (Southeast Asian Games' Athletes Anthem) and "You'll Be Safe Here".
"You'll Be Safe Here," originally created as the theme for the ABS-CBN TV series Spirits (directed by Rivermaya co-manager Chito S. Rono) would be the song to take Rivermaya outside the country. Released as an EP by Warner Music Philippines, it also became the song that MTV Asia selected for performance at the 2006 Asia Awards. Kelly Rowland of Destiny’s Child introduced the group, and they were backed up by Thailand’s Royal Symphony Orchestra during live performance. It was the first time that a Filipino band was invited to perform in the said event.
An album of compiled works, titled You'll Be Safe Here, is distributed in Singapore, Thailand, Malaysia, and Indonesia.
Rivermaya embarked on a series of Asian tours, including at Thailand's Pattaya Music Fest (2008, 2009) as well as Singapore's Mosaic Festival (run by The Esplanade); and Bangkok's Fat Fest as well as in Indonesia's MTV Staying Alive show.
In the Philippines, the Rivermaya Greatest Hits 2006 album on Viva Records was followed by an album dedicated to its music heroes: Isang Ugat, Isang Dugo [One Vessel, One Blood].
At the end of March 2007, Rivermaya scored again another first for the Philippines as their videos, "You'll Be Safe Here" and the recent video remake "Bali Song" were chosen as the first Asian artists to have full-length music videos featured on the Star World Channel.
In 2008-2009 Rivermaya performed at the Marina Bay New Years' Countdown in Singapore and became the first Filipino band invited to perform at the 2009 Formula 1 Singapore Grand Prix.
Departure of Rico Blanco
On May 2007, rumors of Rico Blanco quitting the group surfaced. The band's management team refused to comment, as did the other members. It was not until a few more days before Rico Blanco officially announced his departure from the group. Both Rivermaya and its management have taken the announcement in stride and have denied rumors that the band would disband as a result. "No one member is greater than the whole," declared Rivermaya management in an official statement released on June 14, 2007.
After Rico Blanco left, Rivermaya released a new single, "Sayang" [Wasted], penned by Japs Sergio and described by the band as "an open letter to the fans."
In addition, Studio 23 announced the selection of Rivermaya to create the new theme song for the station. The new song is titled "Sumigaw" [Shouted] and marks the release of a second single in two months for the band, accelerating Rivermaya's pace for new songs rapidly (In previous years, the band had managed to release only a single every 12 months).
On August 11, 2007, during a mini press conference held at Mogwai Bar and Café in Cubao's Marikina Shoe Expo, Rivermaya released its all-new 5-song Bagong Liwanag EP, which hit stores nationwide starting August 15. This 5-song EP is released on the band's own label, Revolver Music, and licensed to Warner Music Philippines.
Rivermaya also held auditions for a new member. Out of more than 400 participants, only 80 were chosen to join the semi-finals. The auditions was televised on Studio 23, which was titled Bagong Liwanag (A New Light). Aside from the band members, main judges are Rivermaya manager Lizza Nakpil, The Dawn guitarist Francis Reyes, and Razorback bassist Louie Talan.
New frontman and third evolution of line-up
On October 24, 2007, then-18 year old Jayson Fernandez was announced as the winner and new member of Rivermaya. This third evolution of Rivermaya offers an ensemble cast (with the four members offering their vocal prestiges) as compared to their previous lineups.
On February 2008, Rivermaya released the album entitled Buhay [Life] with the carrier single "Sugal ng Kapalaran" [Gamble of Fate] penned by Sergio with both Fernandez and Sergio doing the vocals, while Elgar and Escueta do backing vocals.