Heels & Picks: Going lo-fi with The Bougies

Aug. 5, 2015 | 0 Comments



The Bougies open for Echosmith at The Republik on Wednesday.

BY ERIN SMITH / Special to the Star-Advertiser

I’ve always liked the term “bougie.” Slang for bourgeoisie, or the social/economical elite, these days the appropriation of the term has a slant suggesting someone is playing out their scene perhaps a bit higher than their stature. It makes for a great name for a band.

In Hawaii, it has another bent when you think about it. Our lifestyle, whether we look at it this way or not, is fairly bougie. Sure, we live in an expensive place and a jar of peanut butter costs $7 at the grocery store. But the unfathomable beauty that we wake up to each morning is luxury. No doubt about it.

There is also something bougie about, say, having a bunch of likes on Facebook. At least, according to The Bougie’s singer Kelly Bongolan.

“Just the other night my brother blurted out, ‘We have more likes than him.’ Naturally, I called him a bougie.”

Local indie rock band The Bougies began in 2011 as a brother-sister duo with Kelly Bongolan (drums) and her brother Jordan Bongolan (vocals/guitar). In the current lineup, the Bongolan siblings are joined by Joy Furushima (bass) and Josh Gonzales (guitar).

According to Kelly Bongolan, each member has their different taste in music, from rock to electronic to punk to pop, which comes out in their songs.

“More often than not, we get people saying we sound like The Strokes and not surprisingly, (they are) a major influence,” she said.

Indeed. I made the same reference upon hearing their lo-fi sound from their newly released, self-titled album. Recorded at Lana Lane Studios in Kakaako, the album’s effortless authenticity caught my attention. Produced by Gotaro Oshitari, there’s an undertone of 1990s indie rock that shines through – a rarity for tracks produced in Hawaii. The shadow of The Strokes and Pixies bolster the tracks from the fuzzy corners of each song.

Of their producer, Bongolan said “(Oshitari) usually works with reggae (and) hip-hop artists, so this was the first rock album he’s done and we’re all pretty happy with the outcome since we were shooting for that lo-fi garage sound.”

Jordan Bongolan’s voice has just enough croon and just enough gruff edge to be engaging, and his pitch and delivery are on point. These kids know how to put together a tune and a solo. It’s the type of songwriting that has potential in the larger marketplace. Touring would be a good idea for this crew.


The Bougies perform at Downbeat Lounge.

“’Society So Sore’ is one of our favorite songs we play,” said Bangolan. “It’s short, but it has so much feel! Jordan wrote the lyrics and it’s about someone kind of just being over society and people. You know how sometimes you just feel so down and no one can make you feel happy except yourself so you just run away to your happy place whether it’s your room, the beach, a secret spot – this song is about that. Basically, just finding happiness within yourself. We actually just shot a music video for this song!”

Next up for the band is an opening gig for national indie-pop act Echosmith on Wednesday at The Republik.

“My brother is definitely a fan (of Echosmith) and is currently trying to figure out a way to hang out with them while they’re on the island. … Last time we played (The Republik), we opened for Adam Ant and we had no idea who he was, but it was fun and terrifying playing for a huge crowd. Since then we have grown so much so we can’t wait to share our music with new people and make our fans proud.”

So what’s next after The Republik?

“Right now we’re in the middle of our Kickstarter campaign so hopefully it will be a successful one and we can start on our next EP, finish another music video, and maybe even go on tour,” said Bongolan. (At the time this blog was posted, The Bougies had already met their Kickstarter goal.)

I had one more important question. What is the least bougie thing their band does?

“Sometimes we get frat boy wasted. A real bougie would be too good for that and would be rolling their eyes at the sight of it,” said Bangolan.
Erin Smith is a singer and guitarist who performs as a solo artist and with Maui-based Na Hoku Hanohano Award-nominated band The Throwdowns. Born in Canada, she moved to Hawaii in 2004 and now resides in Kailua. Contact her via e-mail or follow her on Twitter.

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