Rico Loma is a Filipino singer-songwriter and biochemist born-and-raised in LA. At the research lab by day and recording studio by night, Rico delivers upbeat, pop-tinged record with melancholic undertones. He also just dropped his EP The Magic Conch - stream here: https://fanlink.to/TheMagicConch !
Unheard Gems: Welcome to Unheard Gems! We are so excited to chat with you and hear all about what you are working on. How are you today?
Rico Loma: Today has been great! I treated myself to a luxurious scrambled egg for breakfast and now I'm doing what is essentially my first interview! It's been exciting!
Unheard Gems: For our readers who don’t know you yet can you give us a glimpse into your musical origin story and who you are?
Rico Loma: Coming into UCLA, the idea of being a musician was barely an idea. I was ready to pursue a career in biochemistry. Not in a heart-wrenching way, but more like a pivot over to something that I felt was more grounded in reality. That was until I met the people I did and they encouraged me to make music. I realized then that I couldn't be happy with my life if I didn't at least try with the opportunities I was given.
Unheard Gems: Your latest single “HEY” is such a sweet dreamy pop song. What can you tell us about this single?
Rico Loma: With "HEY", I really wanted to capture the emotion I felt, which at its core was just a sense of acceptance. I think the notes of melancholy in the lyrics laid on top of an upbeat instrumental help to convey that. Most people might think that to write music is to feel emotion fully and pour your heart out, but sometimes that emotion is just sitting there in the middle ground, not particularly strong or moving, but just as important to acknowledge.
Unheard Gems: Can you tell us a bit about your writing process on this song? Is it the same approach for each song? How did “HEY” come to you?
Rico Loma: I'm a sucker for a nice guitar progression, so when I first heard it, the melody came to me immediately. There was a good amount of room for the rest of the instruments to sit within the beat too. I was pretty deep in the on-and-off situationship described in the song so the lyrics were just waiting to be written at that point. Most songs, I'd say, follow a similar process. The melody almost always comes after an initial chord progression and while the production is being worked on, I build the lyrics. On rare occasions, I'll have lyrics and thoughts already written and we write music around the emotion instead.
Unheard Gems: Who/what have been some of the biggest influences on your sound? You have been able to capture a melancholic yet light feel in your music and it is really lovely to listen to.
Rico Loma: Frank Ocean is one of my biggest influences as a songwriter. I love the way he weaves between poetry and conversation. It's colloquial on one hand and poetic on the other. There are several artists in different genres that I gravitate towards because they write in that direct conversational manner (Sam Smith's In The Lonely Hour, Bruno Mars in Calling All My Lovelies). I think that way of writing really helps to put the listener in the writer's shoes. In terms of sound, my music is inspired by the time of the day it feels best to listen in. Dawn, noon, sunset, or midnight, I've always been particular about when I listen to a song, and that type of thinking has influenced how I produce, as well.
Unheard Gems: I would love to chat about the visuals for this song! The music video is so fun! What inspired the video? What did you want to come across?
Rico Loma: Although, there's a bit of a narrative as the mood changes from verse to verse, the main idea was just to have fun with it. With that in mind, we really could have gone with any idea as long as the vibe was there. I actually had to be reminded that we were supposed to build up to a happy mood instead of smiling throughout the beginning of the video!
Unheard Gems: I love the animation within the video and how saturated the colors are. What about this aesthetic spoke to you?
Rico Loma: The biggest message we wanted to convey was good vibes with good people and a bit of whimsy. I told my friends to dress light, bright, and colorful for a picnic at the park and they didn't disappoint.
Unheard Gems: There is so much joy in this video as well, your dancing just made me smile and wish I could have been there. Did you have a favorite part of filming?
Rico Loma: Haha I'll set a reminder to let you know when we're filming the next video. My favorite part was definitely the instrumental breakdown. It was a lot more chill than the one take narrative shots and the instructions we were given was to dance and be as goofy as we wanted with it. This was with my best buds too so that was a blast.
Unheard Gems: I was so impressed when I found out that your full time/day job is in biochemistry! How do you balance your two lives? How intertwined are they?
Rico Loma: They're definitely not at all intertwined, but sometimes I do approach music in a scientific sense, like breaking down why some parts of a song feel the way they do on an instrumental level, and why a certain vibe can be achieved by filling certain frequencies in the mix. Other than that, it definitely feels like I'm living two lives. As soon as I clock out, I'm jumping into the phone booth and spinning around.
Unheard Gems: We always like to know who our Unheard Gems artists are listening to, if you could recommend to us another artist you think deserves more recognition in the music industry who would you recommend?
Rico Loma: I've been listening to a lot of Club 97 lately. He's got this rnb trap sound that's perfect for a late night in the city. It's perfect for nighttime drives too. I'm a big big fan and his voice is something else.
Unheard Gems: Lastly, for all of our readers, where can they find you and your music, and is there anything else you want to leave us with that we didn’t talk about in our questions?
Rico Loma: You can find the latest on what's going on with me and my music on my Instagram @ricoloma. I have a five-track EP titled "The Magic Conch" coming out on the 28th of February and a music video shortly after!
Interview by Hannah Schneider