The Reo Brothers

Friday November 1, 2019

FROM Hollywood to Asia
By: Robert Womack

There is a distinctive band originally from Tacloban, Philippines called The REO Brothers. It consists of four extremely talented brothers, Ronjoseph, Ralph, Reno, and Raymart. The four brothers have the uncanny ability to give their homonymous renditions of the Beatles, the Beach Boys, and the Bee Gees that are very much like the original group’s sounds from the instruments to the singing. Yes, these boys can do other famous bands as well and in perfect pitch. However, before I get into their accomplishments, it is necessary to tell you some history of their humble beginnings.

You might say, the band started when Ronjoseph put together a makeshift set of drums. “Necessity is the mother of invention”, so Ronjoseph crafted his drums, from tin cans to chip bags into a set of drums. He even learned to play them on his own. Next he mastered the guitar, then went on to teach his brothers how to play. Incidentally, they were inspired by their father, Reynaldo Otic, and his love of 50’s to 80’s music that he listened to constantly. As the band developed, Ronjosept became the lead singer and acoustic guitar player, Ralph on base and vocals, Raymart on rhythm and vocals, and Reno on drums and vocals. So, from the makeshift drums to a short span of four years they were actually playing gigs. The band began to play at birthday parties and other events around Tacloban City. The group was happy, they were making money, enough to get by but then unfortunately or fortunately, their arrangements were literally blown away. Typhoon Yolanda blew into Tacloban City on November 8, 2013, causing great destruction of buildings, trees, automobiles, and flooding away many places. The devastation caused by the storm left the Ortic family pretty much without funds. It was the most powerful cyclone to ever hit land. As in life, just as one door closes another door opens. Therefore when Raymart could, he communicated with other family members in Manila and the sorrowful trek out of Tacloban began. After a Spartan level travel subsistence, the vagabond of travelers arrived in Manila after two days with only their guitars, and some clothes. This drastic change in geography actually gave rise to new opportunities for the REO Brothers.

THE REO BROTHERS’ accomplishments escalated after reaching Manila. From Madison Square Garden for a “Pinoy Relief Benefit” to Southern California in Historic Filipino Town. Then onward, in June 2014 the REO Brothers traveled to Tokyo, Japan to play for the Philippine Assistance Group. This event in Japan was called “Damo Nga Salamat” or “Thank you very much”.

Moreover, our travelers went to the Cavern Club, in Liverpool, England where the original Beatles started their illustrious, long standing career. The REO Brothers played in their three day tour of the UK, Bournbrook, Selly Oak Social Club in Birmingham, and at Northumberland Theater in London. In addition, after only three months, they were back in the United Kingdom where they played at the Ten Foundation in Belfast, Northern Ireland and again at the Cavern Club in Liverpool. Furthermore, the brothers played at the Benwell and Springback Club, and the Dome in London by November of 2014.

The REO Brothers have been well received virtually everywhere they played, from the Philippines, to New York and California in the United States, Japan, and The United Kingdom.

(Interview with REO Brothers Band by Robert D. Womack:)

Robert: Have you four been back to Tacloban since Yolanda?

REO Brothers: Every year we do visit our hometown and sometimes we get invited to do gigs and perform for special events there. Our first visit after Yolanda was in Dec. 22, 2013 when Willy Revillame a TV Host/Personality, invited us to join him in his Variety Show, “WOWOWIN”, by giving hopes and smiles to our devastated province mates. Robert: Don’t you miss your friends there Tacloban?

REO Brothers: Yes we do. Especially those friends who have been part of our early journey when we were just starting out. We always try to reconnect with our mentor, Sir Bia, and his friend/bandmate, Sir Lito, who made a huge contribution in our early years as a struggling band. They taught us how to play the music of the 60’s and how it should be played and sung. Additionally, our neighbor in Tacloban named, Mano Roger, who has played a major role in our formative years as a group. We were able to play on actual instruments when he lent us his own musical instruments to practice on. For that, we are so grateful to him.

Robert: Are any of you four married or planning marriage?

REO Brothers: Yes, RJ, Lead Guitarist, is happily married and has 2 children with his wife Mary Jane.

Robert: What do fans like most in your music, your Beatles, Beach Boys, of Bee Gees renditions?

REO Brothers: Most of our fans are Beatles fans as well. Fortunately for us, some of them also love our covers from The Bee Gees and The Beach Boys.

Robert: How did you discover your fondness for the Beatles?

REO Brothers: We discovered the Beatles when our father bought a CD of them, we listened to it and tried to learn some songs. We still remember the first song, it was, “I Wanna Hold Your Hand” back in 2008.

Robert: Are you planning a tour in California soon?

REO Brothers: Yes, we have a tentative Gig/ US Tour next year in April 2020. Robert: We will want to make sure we see you in California. It will be a nice touch to interview you on “Manila Up! TV Show”.

Robert: Would you consider doing something with Marcello Pomoy as he is a notable singing celebrity there in the Philippines?

REO Brothers: It would be a good advantage for our band to engage with any artist that will help our professional growth. We are more than willing to take part in any collaborative work to further enhance our musical skills. Exposure to other musical genres and styles will enable us to learn more about other works too.

Robert: Have you met the remaining two Beatles, Paul and Ringo?

REO Brothers: Sadly, we haven’t met the remaining Beatles yet. We wish someday to witness them perform live and that would be one of the most memorable moments of our lives. But right now we’re just enjoying video clips from YouTube.

Robert: Were you excited to be playing in the Cavern Club where the Beatles started?

REO Brothers: Yes of course. We were very excited upon knowing that we’ll be performing at The Cavern Club in Liverpool, UK. It has been a dream come true. We never imagined this will ever happen even in our wildest dreams: to be able to play at that iconic Cavern Club. It was such a great irreplaceable experience.

Robert: Have you been offered any movie rolls?

REO Brothers: So far, no movie offers yet (hahaha). The movie industry will be a good avenue for the band’s exposure. But we think acting is not one of our fortes.

Robert: What band groups interest you now, like Country Western for instance?

REO Brothers: 10 years ago we’ve followed some bands like MCR ( My Chemical Romance) Fall Out Boy, Green Day, Maroon 5, etc. As of now, we have been listening to Bruno Mars with his band.

Robert: Would you rather be in Tacloban or do you like Manila?

REO Brothers: There’s no place like home. In terms of practicality, Manila is a place to live with lots of opportunities and most of our clients and gigs are here. But then again, we still do love to visit our hometown. Home is where the heart is.

Robert: How long did you stay in New York when you did Madison Square Garden?

REO Brothers: We stayed there for 5 days. The US was our first trip abroad, we landed in NYC last March 2014 and performed at The Madison Square Garden for the “Pinoy Relief Show”.

Robert: Did you hurry to hop on a plane for Glendale after NYC to head out to California?

REO Brothers: After the performance in NYC we did go to California and attended some benefit concerts for our province mates in the Philippines.

Robert: Of the places you have traveled, what is your favorite and why?

REO Brothers: It’s a tie between Japan and The UK (hehehe). Japan is a very interesting place. It’s very pleasant, from its people to its places. Of course the UK, a natural favorite since The Beatles and other great bands originated from there, we love how diverse the place is.

Robert: Where have you felt most welcome in your travels?

REO Brothers: We felt the most welcoming arms in the UK. As a matter of fact, we’ve been there 4 times already. We love the response of the people when we had our UK Tour last 2014-2015. The best highlight was of how thrilled we were to perform at The Cavern Club and played for the English people. It was so heartwarming especially so because they are hard core Beatles fans.

Robert: Thank you for answering my questions and taking the time to communicate with me. I know you are busy with your travels and making music. However, I am sure the readers of Manila Up! International Magazine will find your story and journey interesting.

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