While their roots go further back in the late 1990s, the foursome of Clem Castro, Mcoy Fundales and brothers Ace and JM Del Mundo—collectively known as Orange & Lemons—first made their mark with their unforgettable debut album, Love in the Land of Rubber Shoes and Dirty Ice Cream, released in 2003. Producing such radio-friendly hits as “Just Like a Splendid Love Song,” “She’s Leaving Home,” and “Isang Gabi,” the band played a distinct brand of pop influenced by 1980s New Wave and classic indie pop groups that somehow still remained unmistakably Filipino.
Orange & Lemons were the first artist signed under Toti Dalmacion’s then-newly formed Terno Recordings. With their fresh and feel-good sound, it wasn’t long before the band was winning over new fans and getting heavy airplay from a broad spectrum of radio stations. The band was named Best New Artist at the 2004 NU Rock Awards, further cementing their status as one of the most exciting new Pinoy music artists in years. Soon after, they signed with major label Universal Records, which produced their sophomore album Strike Whilst The Iron Is Hot.
Released in May 2005, the record saw the band trying out a more mature sound but not completely neglecting the youthful energy and drive that became their signature. With hits like “Hanggang Kailan,” “Heaven Knows (This Angel Has Flown)” and “Lihim,” the album brought Orange & Lemons to dizzying new heights. The boys were commissioned to record the theme songs for a TV commercial (“Abot-Kamay” for Sunsilk) and a movie (Regal Films’ Blue Moon), perform tracks in tribute albums for the APO Hiking Society (“Yakap Sa Dilim”) and the Eraserheads (“Huwag Kang Matakot”), sing the ABS-CBN Christmas station ID (“Tuloy Na Tuloy Pa Rin Ang Pasko”) and the massively popular and controversial “Pinoy Ako,” which became the theme song of the reality series Pinoy Big Brother.
Through it all, the band played sold-out shows for their fans, from town fiestas in provincial gymnasiums to larger venues in cities across the country. In 2005, Orange & Lemons won Artist Of The Year at the NU Rock Awards.
It was around this time that band member Clementine (Castro) started to feel disillusioned with the direction Orange & Lemons was taking. Creative differences between Castro and Fundales resulted in growing tensions within the band. Castro, in particular, resisted pressures from label execs for the band to write more songs in the vein of “Pinoy Ako” and “Hanggang Kailan,” which appealed more to masa listeners. Instead, he started working on what would ultimately become the band’s final record.
Produced by Robert Javier and Jonathan Ong, the album drew from Castro’s indie pop roots and mined rich material from a decade of the band’s unreleased work. Universal Record company execs initially didn’t want to back it, urging the band to return to material with more commercial appeal similar to their second album, but they soon relented. Released in June 2007, Moonlane Gardens is now widely considered by fans and critics alike as Orange & Lemons’ most ambitious and most accomplished album. The NU Rock Awards apparently agreed, naming it Album of the Year in 2007.
Personal and professional issues among the members proved to be too significant to resolve and the band officially broke up in September 2007. Castro and Fundales went their separate ways, each forming their own groups (Castro with The Camerawalls, Fundales and the Del Mundo brothers with Kenyo), leaving the Orange & Lemons name behind.