The Moffatts on nostalgia, evolving as a boy band, and returning to Manila

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Back in Manila for a one-off show as part of a Southeast Asian tour, brothers Scott, Clint, and Bob Moffatt reminisce on their biggest shows, going their separate ways, and the music that still remains. Photo by JL JAVIER

Manila (CNN Philippines Life) — Most musicians would probably like to think that life on tour is exactly the way it’s depicted in movies like “Almost Famous” and “A Hard Day’s Night”: full of zany shenanigans, screaming teenagers, and impromptu bus sing-alongs. But Scott Moffatt’s fondest memories on the road are more like a Steven Spielberg blockbuster.

When brothers-turned-pinups-du jour The Moffatts first came to Manila, they had to rehearse in the midst of heavy rain. Scott, known as “the edgy one” in their heyday, remembers the drive over. “We were in a van and we couldn’t really see outside, the windshield wipers were going crazy, and it was like a torrential downpour,” he recalls. “It reminded me of ‘Jurassic Park,’ you know, when they were driving through the jungle. And I just loved it.”

After being away for over a decade and a half, having disbanded in 2001, the brothers — sans singer and keyboardist Dave, who now works as a yoga instructor — return to the Philippines to play a one-off show as part of a Southeast Asian tour that doubles as both a reunion and a farewell.

The Moffatts are the stuff of legend when it comes to Philippine fanatic hysteria: Their show at SM Megamall had an estimated attendance of 40,000, their song “Miss You Like Crazy” is basically a national senti anthem, and believe it or not, they’re the biggest-selling international act in the country. “[When] we came here, we didn’t know what to expect,” says Clint Moffatt. “We had been living in Germany for a couple of years and somebody came out and said, ‘You guys have a number one record in Southeast Asia. The Filipinos are buying your records like crazy.’ And we got on a plane here, landed, and from that day on it had a huge impact on our lives. And then we were playing the Araneta Coliseum and it was like we thought we were The Beatles.”

moffats4.jpg In the years since the Moffatts disbanded, Scott has become a solo musician, and identical triplets Clint and Bob (Dave is a fraternal triplet) have played music together under different names, currently calling themselves Endless Summer. Photo by JL JAVIER

In an interview with Noisey in 2015, Scott had claimed that there wasn’t much hope for a reunion with his brothers. So what did it take to make it happen? A single Facebook message, it turns out. “This whole thing started happening organically,” Clint says. “We didn’t think we were going to be doing this, but a good friend of ours messaged us actually on Facebook. This one thing led to another, and we’re glad it was able to pan out the way that it did. We’re glad to be back.”

The brothers, now based in different cities, further relied on technology to make things work. “We were rehearsing on Skype,” says Bob Moffatt. “So Scotty’s been in Canada, and [Clint and I] were in Nashville.” Quipping that not being able to hear his older brother over the video call was “kind of nice,” he adds, “[There were] no arguments, it’s been really great.”

In the years since the disbanding, Scott has become a solo musician, and identical triplets Bob and Clint (Dave is a fraternal triplet) have played music together under different names, currently calling themselves Endless Summer. They’ve taken on different roles and instruments in the creation of their new music, but for the reunion tour, they decided to return to the original setup, with Scott on guitar, Clint on bass, and Bob on drums. “Playing the drums again, it was a little different for the first couple of days,” admits Bob, who shares that he hadn’t played in years. “But after a while it was like riding a bike. It just felt natural.”

At their busiest, the Moffatts’ touring schedule held hundreds of shows a year. “It was like a well-oiled machine,” Clint recalls. “And so we were thinking that’s not going to be the case, right, because we haven’t been on tour for a long, long time.” When they talked about what a 2017 Moffatts concert would be like, Clint says it came down to only one important thing: “We thought as long as we can have fun, and we can make the people feel in the audience like they’re a part of [the] fun as well. We hope that everybody that’s there will sing along with us and feel good about singing along with us.”

bob moffatt.jpg “Our songs,” Bob says, “even though we were young, 15, 16, singing those songs, I think they still hit home.” Photo by JL JAVIER

In some ways, the Moffatts weren’t supposed to break up. When Dave started expressing that he wanted to leave the group and move on, the other three had planned to continue as a trio, but it didn’t work out. Even though they’re now getting to see what a three-piece version of their band would sound like, Scott insists it’s impossible to replace Dave, but it’s been quite the experience playing around with their dynamic. “You know, it’d be really nice if Dave was here, absolutely,” he says. “But I think that it’s really interesting to work out these parts. [Now] Bob has to sing his song. I think it was really interesting for Bob to give that a go.”

In the minds of fans who grew up listening to them, the band exists in the same kind of sentimental filter that they would reserve for contemporaries like Hanson and the Backstreet Boys. But the Moffatts themselves aren’t strangers to nostalgia. On his distinction as a former teen idol, Clint says, “I love filling my life up with [these great experiences]. It’s more exciting than not having that in your life.”

scott moffatt.jpg The Moffatts never really sought out to be a boy band, or anything but themselves. “We just continued to be who we were like we always did,” Scott says, “We just kept evolving and evolving." Photo by JL JAVIER

Bob, for his part, shares that certain things have been able to elicit that old feeling in him. “Just performing these songs, the moment we start singing these songs together, I just had the waves of memories come back [to me], you know,” he says. “Sometimes a song, a melody, or playing the drums, whatever, seeing Clint play the bass across from me or Scott playing the guitar, it can bring back certain memories that you just kind of forgot about.”

The Moffatts never really sought out to be a boy band, or anything but themselves. “We just continued to be who we were like we always did,” Scott says, “We just kept evolving and evolving. We respected [boy bands] but we never saw ourselves as that. We just existed as what we were and we didn’t allow any people to tell us who we were and what we were. We just did what we wanted to do, for better or worse.”

“Our songs,” Bob says, “even though we were young, 15, 16, singing those songs, I think they still hit home.” And even if they’ve evolved and found themselves on another side of life, with whole new perspectives, there’s no changing what their music has meant to them, together or apart. Scott agrees: “They’re still a part of us now, too.”