Unit 406 is all about telling real stories, the band says. Their latest single, “Mahal Mo Parin Ako,” released under Republic Records Philippines, wraps up a series of songs about what happens in a relationship when things become “real.” The other songs in this series include “Hulaan,” “Kung Ang Puso,” and “Sa Kabila ng Lahat.”
Composer and lyricist Gabriel Tagadtad says, “I intended the songs [in that series] to represent different stages of [the] emotional rollercoaster of being in a relationship once it gets real, once the people in it get to know each other’s flaws and differences, once the relationship gets tested.” He adds that this is a story that can connect with people because, for those who have gone through it, “it is the one life-changing story of our lives.”
Listen to "Mahal Mo Parin Ako" here.
Tagadtad says that he has been writing songs inspired by the likes of My Chemical Romance, the Smashing Pumpkins, and Meat Loaf. Meat Loaf’s longtime creative collaborator Jim Steinman could well agree with Tagadtad that “anthemic songs with poetic writing concepts [are] my jam,” and it shows in Unit 406’s latest releases. That level of emotional intensity which resonates with listeners enables the stories to come alive, giving them the opportunity to connect with what the band is doing musically.
In fact, Unit 406 argues that one reason someone might want to listen to “Mahal Mo Parin Ako” is that “chances are, you might be going through what this song is talking about.” And if this new single, which is now out on all music streaming platforms, helps a listener make sense of their love story, chances are that they might get to appreciate what else this band plans to do in the future.
Unit 406 yearns to write that one hit song
If you’re interested in the journey of Unit 406, you may want to ask their label for the biography of their founder and lead singer Gabriel, a singer and prolific composer. He came back to Manila in 2016 from Toronto, Canada, where he continued a long musical journey that started in his younger years. Unit 406 is the band Gab (as they call him) has worked with for several years to interpret his music, taking part in such competitions as Himig Handog and sharing the stage with pop performers Morisette, Moira de la Torre, and Inigo Pascual.
Unit 406’s first original song, and their first release, was “Kahit na Anong Sabihin ng Iba,” even though they had worked on several songs together. Like any band starting out in the late 2010s, a lot of the early days were spent playing live and recording their music at the same time. One of the challenges they faced back then (and still do face) was finding an audience. They would feel discouraged when they went to a far-off venue or their second gig of the night and a small crowd would watch them play.
One of Unit 406’s early champions was Monty Macalino of the band Mayonnaise, who was happy to produce some of the band’s early recordings, drawing from their trove of original songs. Not long after, they first signed with a label and got Sindikato to manage them. (Sindikato’s crucial role in the development of Filipino music in the 2010s is something worth telling some other time.) Four years later, in 2021, they eventually signed with MCA/UMG. By a happy coincidence, as Sindikato closed its doors, its founder (and the band’s former manager) Enzo Valdez was recruited to lead their record company.
Unit 406 says that they draw their inspiration from acts such as the Eraserheads and the Beatles, which they see as foundational. They say, however, that their sound is influenced by such acts as the Arctic Monkeys, My Chemical Romance, the Foo Fighters, Up Dharma Down, and Urbandub, among others. It makes for a very eclectic mix if one considers how different Dave Grohl and Armi Millare are in their songwriting and sound.
When we asked Unit 406 about their music, we realized that this eclecticism made sense. “Unit 406’s music is both dark and light at the same time, both heavy but also easy to carry,” they said, “Our sound itself is quite loud, but our lyrics and melodies are very light and very hopeful. It’s like being in a dark tunnel, but already seeing the light at the end.” A band that can draw on disparate influences can be capable of making music that holds different elements in tension.
So who do Unit 406 see as people worth listening to these days? Three acts quickly come to mind for them: My Chemical Romance, a key player in the 2000s emo scene, is making a comeback, they say, and any rock band worth their salt should listen to them. But for great songwriting, they have two people in mind: Arthur Nery and Zack Tabuldo, who is one of Island Records Philippines’ biggest acts. “They’re taking the industry by storm and studying their work shows why,” they told us, “Their melodies, hooks, and lyrics are all well-crafted.” Apart from those three acts, these days they listen to John Mayer, Green Day, Claire Rosinkranz, LANY, and the Cure. Local acts on their playlist include IV of Spades and Ben&Ben. They say they listen to them for enjoyment and inspiration, and great music does push them to create their own.
On a non-musical note, Unit 406 told us that, like many other bands, they have members who are not definitely in music-related jobs. One thing that got us curious was, what does someone in “bar coding operations” do? They were also happy to say that the band has spawned a couple who are set to get married soon. Finally, by a narrow margin of three to two, dog owners outnumber cat lovers in this band.
Unit 406 wants to write that song, that one hit. “We really take our music seriously,” they said, “and having a hit song would really be a big sign that we are doing the right things.” However, beyond making that hit song, they hope to make music together as long as they can: “Music is in our blood, and making and playing music is the dream in itself.”