It takes a special kind of ear to detect something aurally pleasing, add an attention-commanding beat, and get peoples’ bodies and souls to respond. With his ability to elevate tracks, it wasn’t long before ESTA. sparked the interest of Soulection, a record label that serves fresh sounds to the world through its radio show and collective of offbeat music makers.

Since he signed with the label, ESTA. has lorded the decks at Coachella, gone on a “Paradise” tour across the West Coast, and laid down track after transcendental track, from a nostalgia-spurred remix of the Rugrats theme to a butter-smooth soul production like Jordan Rakei’s “All for Something.”

Before heading out for a nine-city European tour, ESTA. dropped by Black Market during the Manila leg of “Soulection: The Sound of Tomorrow,” ministering to revelers starved for sounds both distinctive and danceable. NOUS got to talk to the San Diego-based beat maker about his first time in his parents’ homeland, using Tumblr as a loudspeaker, and the movie fight sequences he would have killed at scoring.

How has the Asian tour been so far?

This is the last stop on the tour. I was in Shanghai, Tokyo, and then before that was Seoul. Seoul was unreal. I didn’t know how my fanbase was out there or if anyone but people showed me so much love.

Soulection’s been good about spreading the word about your music. How did signing with them come about? 

That started in October 2012. I was at a beat showcase and Andre Power, one of the cofounders, was there. After the set, he came up to me and said he liked my work. A month later, the other cofounder, Joe Kay, came up and said I should release something with them and join them. They definitely put out my music for me and got me a lot of opportunities like playing at Coachella last year. They’ve just been looking out for me ever since. They hooked me up with artists that they think would fit my music the most, some of them being family of the label.

Can you tell me about a crazy collaboration with someone from Soulection?  

That happens a lot. Mr. Carmack came to my house—‘cause my roommate’s a tattoo artist—so before the tattoo, my roommate was sketching it out, and he was making chord progressions on his laptop. When he finally went to go make the tattoo, I started working with what he left me. We made a house beat. That’s the first beat we ever made together. We don’t do house so it was a pretty tight beat, too.

But it’s cool you’re open to any genre.

Yeah, it keeps things entertaining.

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Any ideas you’ve been tossing around in your head? 

Like a different genre? I really want to tap into indie rock somehow. But I don’t know how to play any instrument. Or maybe scoring movies, I’ve always wanted to do that. Maybe Batman or Ironman. Epic fighting sequences.

Where did you grow up and what sort of tuned were you exposed to?

I was born in LA. I’ve lived all over California. When I was 10, I moved to San Francisco—Union City in Hayward. East Bay. Then to Temecula, where my parents are staying right now. And from there, I went to San Diego for the past two years. My dad’s super West coast hip-hop, soul, R&B. Just everything. You could scroll through his iPod and he’ll have Snoop and then Kelly Clarkson. My parents definitely have good taste, too, so they definitely influenced my music.

Do they give you input on your stuff?

I’m kind of distant with that stuff. I don’t make them hear my music but I know they listen. I hope they don’t hear my bad stuff, like my vulgar…(laughs) I know they’re proud of me, which is cool. They’ve finally got to that point where…’cause you know Filipino families, it’s hard to go outside of the direction they want you to go. So they finally accepted this. I know my dad really wanted me to follow in his footsteps and do network engineering but I just can’t do it. I only want to do music. That or basketball but I’m too short for basketball.

And are you cool with listening to your own music?

I’m cool when I’m making it and the day after. And then I just keep it moving…

So there’s not one track that you can listen to over and over?

It’s really my hip-hop-based beats. That’s where my heart is and where I started. I like going back to that a lot so I know where I came from. How my style’s developed since then. It’s cool to see your progression.

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I’m curious about how things were when you were starting out—challenges you had?

When I first started, all I had was MySpace. I would just make beats, I didn’t really think about getting exposure or anything. I found other ways. When Tumblr came around, I utilized that. No one really uses Tumblr for music so that helped me build a following. Same with YouTube. But getting shows was the tough part. I lived in a small town, too, and I didn’t have a car.

Being Filipino-American, are there any local elements that have weaseled their way into your music?

After being here, the island vibes, you know. I was really inspired in Tokyo ‘cause we came out there for the cherry blossoms and that happens one week out of a year. I was there and it felt like a dream, seeing all of it. I think I’m gonna release a little five-track project in a few weeks—tracks that I’ve made since I’ve been inspired. (To download the mixtape, click here)

Any local artists you’d like to work with?

I haven’t really met many. Other than the Filipino producers like Ta-ku and Mr. Carmack. I would love to, though. Like the guy who’s taking care of us out here played me some really good indie band from out here—P.O.T.? It was really good.

What else are you excited about?

Probably this year, I’m gonna start working on my album. I’m still gathering ideas but I know I want to get my favorite singers on it. I’m also doing a Europe tour next month. Nine cities in 14, 15 days.

Most batshit-crazy show?

San Francisco, the beginning of the Paradise tour. It was the most poppin’ show I ever had (laughs). I have a lot of homies and family out there. It was my first tour, too. The capacity for that was 300 or 350. We got into almost 500. So I was sweating onstage, one of my piano players opened up for me—we jammed live. It was crazy, there was a fight that broke out three times. It was girls. And I played “Single Ladies” or something. I had to play the song three times ‘cause they fought three times. She got stitches.  

Damn. What else are you looking to do while you’re in Manila?

I want sisig really bad. I just want to relax, man. It’s my first time here and I never thought I’d be here. To be here and play music is really cool.

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01 ESTA. at Black Market.

Photos by Khai Van Kampen

Produced by Ronnie & Joe for NOUS

Special thanks to Michael Concepcion