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Name: Gillian Aquino and Jhay Ehidio
Current City: Taiwan and Davao City
Filipino Artist Profile: Gillian Aquino & Jhay Ehidio
Dedicating your heart and soul to creating awe-inspiring designs is never easy. It involves a level of imagination and skill most people don’t possess. For Gillian Aquino and Jhay Ehidio, their artistic journey takes a different, and even more challenging approach. Their band, Y ARA, is at the center of their collaboration, producing captivating songs in the process. Their designs, meanwhile, act as an extension to their overflowing artistic passion. These two fields come together to create a union that will surely invigorate your senses. Learn more about how Gillian and Jhay’s minds work below.
How did your respective journeys as artists start?
Gillian: It actually started when we decided to release Christmas songs. It’s not really like a formal release, but when we discovered a melody, we asked why not make a song out of it? That’s how it started.
Jhay: As a musician, I started writing songs when I was in Fourth Year High School going into First Year College. I can’t really remember the year but that’s when I started writing songs. After a decade, we bonded on a couple of songs, composed some songs, and it started from that collaboration back in 2015. We formally started the band last 2017 and we released our official single last year, 2019. That’s how I started and how we, as a band, started.
Aside from being in a band, you’re also doing artwork?
Jhay: Actually, our artwork stemmed from what we do music-wise. Since we are in a band, we wanted to have a merch store. We wanted to release some merch. That’s where it started for us in terms of designing and doing art, that specific area of art.
What is your brand name and how did you come up with it?
Gillian: We have tried to think of a four-letter word or a four-letter name. Back then, four-letter bands are actually a trend. Jhay suggested a lot of names. He also suggested the Yara. And then I told him to put a space between the Y and Ara. Later on, we discovered that there’s an artist named Yara. So, it was a good idea we put a space there. Later on, we thought how are we going to explain it to people.
Jhay: Later on, we discovered that Ara is actually the Japanese word for “Oh” . And of course, Y is the Spanish word for “And”. So you pronounce it as ee-ara. We found it cool. It was an unintentional pairing of words.
For you two, what is your favorite subject to create or make songs about?
Jhay: Since we’re a band, our designs are about us, about the band. Some of the designs that we do are related to the single artworks that we use in our singles, and even in our albums. We also use those artworks as a design for our shirts.
Gillian: Music-wise, about friendship, family, love, everything that’s bright and beautiful. Mostly, positivity.
Every artist has that one creation they’re proud of the most. For you two, what is that piece and why?
Gillian: Me, I’m really proud of the song September because I wrote it for my birthday. I didn’t expect that it would turn out that way because a lot of people are saying that every time they feel down or alone, they always listen to that song. It would cheer them up. It’s cool because I didn’t expect it would have a great impact on them.
Jhay: Personally, I’m proud of our debut album last February. The artwork for that album was really cool because Gillian actually made the artwork for that album. My only contribution was the ampersand symbol in the center of that artwork. I’m proud of that because I really like the photo she used and it blended well with the ampersand. The title of our album is Space and Time and I guess that artwork somehow gave a good visual representation of what our album was all about.
How would you describe your style for your music and artwork?
Jhay: Musically, our style is a mix of a lot of genres and sounds because we listen to a lot of bands and artists. Somehow, all of those influences just mix the way our songs sound now. I guess that’s how I can describe what our sound is. It’s a combination of a lot of things, a lot of styles.
Gillian: Simple and as much as possible, related to the songs. And minimal too.
How does being in a band and creating designs work? What’s the dynamic between these two fields of art and how did you both make it work?
Gillian: For the artwork, we usually talk about how it would look like or if we have any ideas in mind about it. This is done so we can both decide on the artwork itself. For the songs, mostly, we do it online.
Jhay: What I can say is the artwork is related to our music, our songs. The artwork is actually, like what I said earlier, is a visual representation of the songs. Before you listen to the songs, it somehow gives you an idea of how the song might sound like or what the song might be about by just looking at the artwork. The artwork is actually an important piece for our overall art. It’s not just all about the songs but the artwork is also important because it can be a factor for people to listen to your songs. When you see an artwork, some people might not get interested in listening to the song by just looking at the artwork. That gives the artwork an important role in our music. That’s the connection between the two.
What are the struggles you face as artists who create music and visual designs?
Gillian: For me, it’s the distance. I’m actually in Taiwan and he’s in the Philippines. Whenever we need to discuss something, it has to be online. Sometimes, it’s hard to explain or make things go well.
Jhay: For me, everything. We do everything ourselves, from the recording, production, mixing, to the mastering, even the promotion. We do everything ourselves. There’s always a struggle there because it’s always us two who will do the work. But it’s a happy struggle because when we get to release a song to the world, there’s always that fulfillment we feel out of that. In our artwork, that’s probably the whole process, when you compare it to the mixing and production stuff. It’s actually the easier one. It doesn’t mean if it’s easy, we don’t give it too much importance. That’s the struggle for me.
Apart from the struggles, what is the most important achievement you have accomplished as artists?
Gillian: To release our debut album.
Jhay: Yeah, that was an achievement. For me, just being able to touch one life, just one person, that’s already a big achievement for me. Every time someone messages me and tells me that they were touched by our song, they love the song, that’s one of the best feelings in the world.
What are the qualities you can consider as artistic strengths?
Jhay: My strength is in the fact that I just love art. In general, I love art. Photography, music, any other forms of art. I treat that as a strength because all of that seeps into our music. I treat that as a strength, loving art in general.
Gillian: For me, my strength is that I’m open to learning new things. Whether it’s in music or in doing artworks, or anything in life, I’m really open to learning new things. I think that’s a good strength, especially if you are an artist or even if you’re just a regular person.
Whenever people hear your songs or see your artwork, what do they usually say about it?
Gillian: They say it sounds like from the 80s or a song from a long time ago and yet, it still sounds beautiful.
On the other hand, how do you handle criticism directed towards your work, both for your music or designs?
Jhay: Well, we actually welcome criticism because we think they are beneficial and very important. We believe there’s always room to grow. We get those criticisms and I challenge us to just be better in what we do.
As a duo, are you two more comfortable on your own or with others?
Jhay: Actually, we started doing collaborations after we released our album. We did our first collaboration with a Singaporean artist. That was a great experience. So far, we are used to working just by ourselves, but we look forward to working with more artists in the future.
Do you have any advice for talented individuals who are about to start their journey as artists?
Gillian: For me, start your little steps now because greater things happen when you do it right away. That’s where everything starts.
Jhay: My advice is to just be yourself because there are things you can do that other people can’t. So, the world needs what you can bring to the table. Just be yourself.
How did you discover Merchiful and why did you choose it as the platform for your designs?
Jhay: I was actually the one who discovered Merchiful. I was searching for a merch store that is based locally because we wanted to release some merchandise. Merchiful was one of the shops that popped up. I checked it out and one of the things that sold me to Merchiful was the fact that they supported local artists. That creative community they were supporting is really inspiring. We wanted to be a part of that. And of course, the quality of the products is also a top-selling point.
What can Merchiful customers expect from Y ARA in the coming weeks or months?
Jhay: We just released our debut album last February. We’re just getting started. Expect more music from us, more original music soon. And there might be a special announcement to come. We still can’t talk about it but hopefully, it’s going to push through. We also like to perform live soon in the future, when the pandemic is over. We want to see the audience rock those Y ARA tees.
Gillian: And improve our artwork designs.
Jhay: Yes, that too.
In a word, how would you describe yourselves as artists?
For those who want to have a piece of Y ARA’s music in their hands, there’s no need to move heaven and earth to get it. You can head on over to their Merchiful store and find their designs come to life. You can also discover more of Y ARA’s works through their various social media platforms.
Merchiful Shop: https://merchiful.com/pages/yara