Cover Story

Music has the ability to comfort the wounded, instill confidence in the broken, save the damned, spark revolutions, and so much more. But at the very core of it, music serves the very purpose of telling stories—to which all the others follow. These stories could come from the musician’s deepest fears, loftiest dreams, or even his or her day-to-day mundane activities seen in new light. 

For Filipino-American artist Yeek, born Sebastian Carandang, music is both a reflection of his own personal experiences, and a rich, wild narrative inspired by make-believe movies and scenes whipped up by his boundless imagination.

“Movies play a big role in how I create. A lot of times I make songs that I feel like are part of an imaginary movie I’m writing in my head.”

As the young artist’s latest project enjoys the highs and thrills of post-release, Rank Magazine catches up with him to dive deeper into the movie of Yeek’s life, narrated through his music. Inspiration, origin stories, and the magic of storytelling in music inch us all closer to understanding the depths of Yeek’s craft, and how it all ties together in “Valencia,” the two-years-in-the-making project making up his newest album.

Photographed by Julian Burgueño

Like most Filipino children, Yeek’s earliest memories of experiencing stories through music is tied together with his family life at home. With both his parents, and several of his older brothers and cousins, musically-inclined, he shares it being a natural progression for him to feel the same way with the art form–a proclivity nurtured organically. 

“The medium of music as an artform was always a part of me since I was young. My parents & older brothers/cousins were all musically talented. I naturally picked it up because of my environment.” Much so, movie soundtracks that he would listen to with the rest of his family eventually shaped his own musical taste and preference. He fondly recalls. I first heard Radiohead in the movie Romeo & Juliet starring Leonardo DiCaprio & Claire Danes, I was like 7, I think.” 

The intimate correlation of music and movies in his mind eventually blossomed into a love for songwriting and music production throughout the years, until he made the big jump to pursue it as a career. Then, a different world of storytelling entered his life, with movies not only acting as inspiration, but as a medium of music in itself as well.

Photographed by Julian Burgueño

“Valencia”, as a body of work, represents Yeek’s personal creative timeline, which stems from his youth to the last days of the collection’s production. Some might call it coincidence, or something that is divinely ordained, but the name Valencia seems to be following Yeek’s personal journey in music, and has been a constant character, in and of itself, throughout his life:

“When I was in middle school, I moved to a gated community called Valencia in South Florida, where at the time it was all construction & nothing there. I really started exploring my creativity due to the lack of activity in the area. When I finished the album, I was coincidentally living on a street called Valencia Street in California.”

In some aspects, this album comes full circle in culminating his earliest songwriting memories to his gradual growth as a musician. From his first released collection back in 2015 “Love Slacker” he noted each new album as an avenue to experiment more and more, may it be vocally, or production-wise. But for this particular album, he shared that it was his singing that played the most with experimentation and exploration.

Photographed by Jamiel Betancourt

Photographed by Jamiel Betancourt

“The process was very natural to me. I started a lot of the demos in my apartment in Cali. I finished it at a studio with Jeff Ellis as the mixing engineer. This album told a few stories; of my experience touring for the first time & having music finally be a full time job, to a story about a long distance relationship I was going through amongst all of it. There are more layers to it but that’s generally what it is.”

As he puts it, the specific tracks within the record are ones that tell the story he wants to convey to the world. Thus, “Valencia” has definitely taken a more personal documentation of Yeek’s most intimate thoughts and musings, hinged on his talent as a storyteller to transform it into something everyone can relate to.

“I kind of just build a large archive of songs & pick the ones that tell the story I’m trying to convey the best. I also think it’s important to choose the songs that sonically feel the best next to each other,” the musician adds on the art and discipline of coming up with a compendium of tracks that would make up an album.

However, on music’s and movie’s intimate relationship in Yeek’s mind, the “Valencia” experience actually goes beyond the 10 tracks of the record. True to his love for storytelling, an accompanying short film has just premiered alongside the release of the album on March 19, 2021, dissecting and expounding  the album’s overall message even further.

“The short film aids the narration & message of the album by telling a story that both reflects on my real life and [the] thoughts that are in my head. It’s roughly about a kid who lives in a futuristic house that tries to control the way he lives but goes against the rules of the house in hopes to escape and live freely. I would share the ending but I [would] rather you just watch it!”

As a Filipino-American and as the grandson of legendary journalist Henry Halasan, Yeek admitted to a growing yearning to connect to the wholeness of his identity, given the fact that he was raised in a country literally on the other side of the world from his parents’ and grandparents’ home. For this reason, he’s become even more determined now that he’s older to learn more about his heritage and Filipino culture.

“I think growing up as a Filipino American, it’s easy to feel a little loss of identity. Not feeling American enough here in the States or not feeling Filipino enough in the homeland is very common for us. I know l’ll never truly know what it’s like to grow up in the Philippines but it’s still important for me to learn as much as I can about my blood & where my ancestors come from. It’s super important for me to be connected to these things.”

Photographed by Julian Burgueño

As far as Filipino musical inspirations go, Yeek shares an affinity to Afro-Filipino Latin musician Joe Bataan and ‘70s local band Cinderella leaving major impact on his music and life through their own discographies and identities. “I never heard the words ‘Afro-Filipino’ in a song until I discovered Joe. With Cinderella, I’ve never heard Tagalog sung in that way,” he adds.

In this personal journey of getting to know the Filipino culture, the musician also expresses a keenness to get to know more local artists, from a listener’s point of view and as an artist himself, and the world of possibilities that would open up with musical collaborations, and the vast tapestry of stories that could come out of melding different worlds and perspectives. Safe to say, we are definitely excited to see what comes out of the studio when Yeek and a few local artists get together to tell their personal and collective stories—and we already have a few in mind.

Photographed by Julian Burgueño

“Right now, I’m most interested in working with upcoming artists I haven’t discovered yet. I really enjoy discovering new music although it’s hard to find good stuff these days but when I do, it feels worth it,” he highlights. “I would love to be put on to more Filipino artists out there, I feel like I don’t know enough. From there I think collaboration will come naturally.”

Ultimately, it all circles back to storytelling in music, and Yeek’s ability to play around with his own creative inspirations to produce stories in different artistic mediums. From short films to traditional albums, who knows what else is in store for this storyteller?

And as a final tidbit of inspiration from this young dreamer, this is what he has to say to all creatives and aspiring artists right now who are facing roadblocks due to the current global mess we’re in:

“I took a huge break from music during the pandemic. I took a lot of time to reflect & even just go through the mental struggles that this time has brought to literally everyone in the world. I think picking up new hobbies & trying to learn new things has definitely kept me going. I was able to come back to music & enjoy doing it again.” 

He goes on, “In many ways, art helps the world deal with pain. So, keep making or experiencing it!”

Photographed by Giovanni Mourin

‘Valencia’ is out now. Listen to the ten-track record cross all streaming platforms here: