If you haven’t yet heard of The Bogeys, it’s time to crawl out from under that rock. In the past several months, they’ve played packed shows at SLO Brew and the Siren, won Cal Poly’s Battle of the Bands, and released their first studio EP. These local rockers are starting to carve out quite a name for themselves along the Central Coast, with their surf-rock vibes and lush harmonies luring in those who find themselves in their presence. In the wake of their debut EP breaking ground, I sat down with several members of the band to talk about their beginnings, what went into their latest record, and what they have in store for us coming up.
The Bogeys ARE: AJ Absy (Business Entrepreneurship student at Cal Poly; (Vocals and Guitar), Josh Hill (Whole Foods Employee; Drums and Vocals), Matt Thompson (Hailing from Santa Clarita; Guitar and Bass), and Ben Kerr (trumpet and synth). Previous support by: Sean O’Donnell (Lead Guitar, Vocals) and Burlie Fisher (Bass, Trumpet, Vocals).
You guys have been taking the San Luis Obispo underground scene by storm as of late. How did The Bogeys begin?
AJ: Well it was a bit of a domino effect for how the band started. I moved into a house with Sean. Afterward we figured out we both played guitar we started playing a ton together. Then one day Sean said, “Hey I know this drummer I used to work with at Albertsons…”
Josh: For over a year Sean and I had talked about jamming and it never really happened. Out of the blue I moved into a new place and started playing my drums again, just getting back into shape and these guys hit me up, saying they were playing a house show if I wanted to get a set together. We met up and the three of us really clicked.
Matt: Then I met Josh through my work at Whole Foods. We actually had a separate band going at that time when my homie told me about Josh being a badass drummer, so we’re like okay, we’ll do our thing and jam out and all of a sudden Josh mentioned he had a surf-rock band going. AJ came over and started tearing it up on all these classic rock songs and I thought he was badass and like a human jukebox. Then we played Entendre.
The first thing you The Bogeys released was a demo of Entendre… that was a pretty powerful opening statement as a group that really showcased each of your musical ability. I recall you playing that at KCPR’s Open Mic last winter and it turning a lot of heads. Can you tell us a bit about that song (the initial writing and recording process) and if we’ll be hearing an updated version of it on the new EP?
Josh: Entendre and Nostalgia were originally one song. AJ took it to his producer in Pasadena (Jim McCarty) who said, “hey man, I’m definitely hearing two songs out of what you put together,” and he recommended we split them up.
AJ: Entendre was the main one we were rolling with and our friend mentioned there was a KCPR open mic show coming up that we should play, so suddenly having the deadline of the applications for that show really sparked the creative process of writing Entendre.
Josh: It was a period of time where Sean was busy with schoolwork and the three of us couldn’t get together and jam all the time, so AJ and I got together and I had my drum pad and AJ had a guitar and we came up with the riff that opened Entendre.
AJ: I was constantly doing drives on the 101 from SLO to LA ‘cause I was in a band down there (David Divad) and just the whole idea of tying the gap between these different cities, SF, SLO and LA and seeing the beach next to the waterside on that beautiful drive really gave it the beach influence.
Josh: Regarding the recording, the drums were recorded completely from one microphone. We spent two hours working with the room in my apartment trying to find that perfect spot to get the right drum sound. It was our first ever recording experience: very fun but also very easily frustrating.
How did that song get you moving in the local scene?
AJ: What really sparked us to think we had something good going is when we were featured on the front page of the Mustang News after the KCPR Open Mic night, without us even having a name for the band yet. We thought, hey that’s really cool, somebody somewhere must be digging what we’re doing!
Josh: After the show, local bands Ethics and Entropy, Spoon Canoe, and Up Way Up all asked us to play shows with them after hearing just that one song, which was all we had in our arsenal.
Will we hear an updated version of the song on the newest EP?
How did you come up with the band name The Bogeys?
Josh: We took a lot of smoke breaks and that’s how we came up with The Bogeys. It was prominent when we just started jamming to have smoke breaks.
Is Entendre about smoking?
Josh: Well when we were writing Entendre, we were thinking this song could be about a girl, but what if wasn’t? That’s why it’s Entendre, cause it’s a double entendre; you’ve gotta really listen to the lyrics. “I breathe her in.” “yeah she’s long and slender when she’s in my fingertips.”
Let’s talk about your guys sound. It’s evident there’s a mixed pot with where the music’s coming from.
AJ: Totally. Each of us has such a diverse yet interconnected musical preference that I feel comes together when you hear us live, or hear our music. You see the metal, surf-rock, classic 80s rock influence, and all those different styles and genres of bands that we listened to growing up really manifests itself in our style of playing. We still haven’t figured out our sound yet, and I don’t think we’re going to know what that is tomorrow, but the only thing we can do is keep writing the music we like to write and keep playing the songs we like to play and see what the crowd picks out of it.
Josh, love your backing vocals dude. I think you guys have a really powerful vocal dynamic that really sets you apart from a lot of the other college bands. I really liked when you guys went for the Beach Boys (I Get Around) at your first Bristols Cider House show. Tell us about the evolution of your vocal sound; was that a conscious decision to have that? Or do you guys just chime in when it feels right and then roll with that?
Josh: We all grew up on Beach Boys and respect the harmonies that they were after. The ideas of melodies that Brian Wilson had in his head really inspired the backing vocals in Nostalgia. Also, the more voices you have the more full it will sound. I like to sing and do harmonies. Sean was really shy at first about singing, but I would drive with him and hear him sing along to the songs he listened to, and I would tell him, dude, you can hit those notes.
AJ: I remember Sean would sit in his car and practice the vocal parts and I thought that was neat because he was really trying to make it work.
Josh: We’ve been really lucky to have all these people that are willing to sing.
AJ: Josh will actually be lead singer in some songs coming out in future.
Josh: First time I’m hearing this but I’m down.
I’ve noticed that during your live sets, you really work at creating a comfortable stage atmosphere, going so far as bringing plants, rugs, and decor on stage with you during the show. How do think comfortability affects playing music?
AJ: When I listen to music I tend to have a visual imagery in my head of what that music could be associated with, and I usually find myself in either a desert, surf beach-like atmosphere, or a very hip, plant-filled cozy home. If we can tie the music in with that, it kind of helps with the whole experience. There are other senses involved besides just our ears when experiencing live music.
One of your newest songs, “Strange Times,” which Matt wrote, has you going from Western to Jazz, while AJ picks up the bass and Matt moves to guitar. It’s an interesting departure from a lot of your other songs. Yet it shows how versatile each of you are as musicians. How do each of you view your role in the band from a music perspective?
Matt: Well I’ve been playing guitar for twenty years now but with the Bogeys I play bass. I’ve learned to sit back and relax and be the backbone of the music. I also play with a pick like a guitar cause that’s where I feel comfortable at. I like the bass having a prominent role in the sound.
Josh: I consider bass and drums the rhythm section; we keep the beat and time. When Matt and I are holding down the rhythm, we’ll look at each other and say, “let’s fucking go.”
AJ: The bass/drum combo really allows me to do all these surfy, fun embellishments in my riffs. I definitely prefer playing higher up the neck so when I have the core low end supporting me I can add the high end which contributes to the Bogeys sound. A big compliment Sean and I received is that people couldn’t tell who the lead guitarist was; no one person takes rhythm or lead in a certain song – it’s rhythm and lead. I think that’s cool cause you’re hearing different people add different aspects and it adds a mystery to where that song is coming from.
Let’s talk about your influences in each of your playing.
Josh: For me, and I get this a lot, I play very heavily on the drums. I bang on the drums. I’m influenced by John Bonham and Tommy Lee in the 80’s; they’re playing hard rock so you’ve gotta bang on em. I love accents on my fills. I hit it a little harder. I’ve always just had the heavy foot and hand to hit the shit out of the drums. It works really well with our sound overall to let it be a little more in your face. My dad was a drummer back in the 60s – 80s. If I’m not playing music he’s wondering what I’m doing with my life.
Matt: Lately I’ve been into the Thee Oh Sees and King Gizzard, but I’ve always been influenced by surf rock and oldies rock’n’roll. The Doors were big to me since I was little. Nowadays I tend to wake up with a song in my head every single morning.
AJ: Josh and I really relate on the 80s rock’n’roll stuff like the Police, ToTo and Steely Dan. I’d say Steely Dan is my biggest inspiration for a lot of my funkier guitar work. Matt and I really relate on the surf level like the Allah Las, Real Estate, Beach Fossils and Mac DeMarco, but then to listen to groups like St. Lucia with tropical synth-pop and Wild Nothing… those sounds are the ones inspiring me with the beach-esque music and the incorporation of the synth. Dick Dale and the Ventures with their use of horns and that classic Fender reverb sound are also big influences in our style.
How do you see the future of the synth in your recordings? You really utilized the octave effect on the synthesizer well at the Siren, and I thought that served as a great attention grabber to roll into your opening number.
AJ: It’ll always take a back seat, but it has allowed us to go into the spectrum of what technology and what electronic music can add to our beach old school sound.
Josh: It can add a huge dynamic even as a back seat. Even King Gizzard and Thee Oh Sees have a lot of key / synth parts that take a back seat but lend to the originality of it.
Is there anything that you worry people think you might be headed towards? Meaning in regard to sound that you wouldn’t ever want to head towards?
Matt: I don’t like 80’s pop.
AJ: I see that. There’s a lot of 80’s influence in modern music though. For example, I think that gated reverb on a snare is iconic.
So you guys are fresh off playing SloBrew and the Siren, tell us about that.
Josh: Local dreams come true. The sound was bitchin at both venues. We were stoked to play SloBrew because of all the names they’ve had roll through there in the past. I’ve always been hearing about the sound system at the Siren since they remodeled it, so hearing it live was fantastic, and it was great luck having the avocado and margarita festival there that night which attracted a bigger crowd.
You guys have a great ability to introduce an element to a song, sometimes out of the blue, and really get that building and get the people riding up to that point where you break everything open and are just floating on a solid groove. I feel like your last single before the EP, “sob.”, does a good job at showcasing that. Is that about anyone in particular?
AJ: The thing about “sob.” is that it’s more of a personal song between me and my ex. I’m happy it’s a Bogeys song and I think it was right to make it one, but there’s definitely a personal element where I’m connecting with the song; every time I play it it makes me recall that past relationship we had. And if I can feel that personal element than maybe somebody else listening can.
I love the opening line about the heart beating out of time but you each have each other’s. The “now I’ll never love you baby” line with the music cutting off at the end feels like you’re driving a stake in the relationship, and that’s a completely different level from where you started in the song. I had to play it again and listen to the lyrics to figure out what’s going on there.
AJ: Yeah, the verses are happy and written while we were together. It’s upbeat so you have to really listen to identify the paradox and change of mood. It’s a happy chorus but very sad lyrical expression.
Moving directions, I’d like to congratulate you guys on your first studio EP. That must be a pretty great feeling having that out.
Josh: Thank you. This first EP is really what’s gonna be what starts it all. We’re very proud about it.
AJ: It’s something I can show my grandkids one day.
You recorded at The Sauce Pot Studios in San Luis Obispo, California. What was it like working with those guys, and why did you choose to record there?
AJ: I visited the studio to work out a harmonica solo with Up Way Up and that’s when I found out about it, and while I was there I got to meet some of the people that run the studio like Wesley Price and Rick Loughman. That’s what sparked the desire to record the EP. A lot of the opportunities we’ve had with the band’s success and growth never would have existed without the support and opportunities of Up Way Up.
Josh: Going into the studio at first was very intimidating as we had a 10 hour lockout session there, but it went by so quickly and then we couldn’t wait to get back in there.
AJ: The Sauce Pot guys were incredible; really knowledgeable, down-to-earth and treated us with respect. We’ve since formed a good friendship with the guys there, and since day 1 they’ve been hands on helping us out. Being able to go in the night before recording and set up the instruments and get it how we like it was a huge help as well.
I understand you brought on a Poly music professor for some of the tracking. How did that impact the recording?
AJ: We were fortunate enough to have Antonio (Greg) Baratta help with the tracking of the songs on the EP. I had sound design, recording and synthesis classes with him. He went to the University of Illinois under an amazing sound program there. I asked him to come help out with tracking session and he brought some of his own rack unit. Having his head in the session definitely helped a lot because it allowed our producer (Rick Loughman) to have another experienced head in the room listening..
Josh: Two sets of trained degree ears, you’re always hoping to have someone with a different opinion to hopefully draw out the sound you’re looking for. Baratta would occasionally say things like, “oh you’re losing tempo or energy here.” We didn’t play to a click track. We have a good sense of comfortability with being in time with each other and it keeps the music organic.
You had quite a lot of guest musicians on the recording, right?
AJ: We were extremely fortunate to have Brad Croes do the outro sax solo on “A Chorus at Padova Inn”. Not only did he do the sax parts live for some songs but he also provided keys and organ sounds at SloBrew and the Siren which really expanded the sound of our music. Burlie’s brother wrote a spoken word, poetic segment that made up a lot of lines on Dive Jam, whether or not he knows it.
Josh: Years later he’ll probably be saying, “bitch I want compensation.” Haha. Burlie’s girlfriend, Bailee DeCair plays piccolo on Dive Jam and it’s pretty damn fantastic.
AJ: For Nostalgia, our friend Catie Kerman actually wrote some of the lyrics. She’s a very creative person so her poetry background and artistic element added a lot to the lyrical content.
How did the songs change from how you expected they would turn out going in?
AJ: Even the very first mix downs sound so different. The tonal feel with added elements like shakers and tambourines really let the songs evolve during the mixing process.
Josh: Listening in the car when we got the first mix downs was really cool, but listening now it’s much more professional and put together. It helped having the mixes to listen back and think of new things to add.
What’s next for the Bogeys?
AJ: There’s different approaches to college bands. More often, members think “We’re in college studying whatever and then we will go get separate jobs afterwards”… That’s not us. If we have the opportunity and the choice, we would love to make this music thing a real career. The release of this EP is gonna really help put our foot on the map, and once it’s out we’re just gonna be grinding. We want to play bigger shows. We have yet to play the Fremont; that’s the next goal. If we could open for a band that’s more established than us, that would be a great opportunity.
Josh: All the money we make playing shows goes towards The Bogeys cost. We’re excited to get back in The Sauce Pot Studios and record. One of the driving forces for getting back in the studio is to get Matt on more songs. We’ll release a single most likely after the EP and then release an album in 2018.
Thanks fellas for meeting with me! Check out the Bogeys new EP, Padova Inn, which can be found on Spotify, Apple Music, iTunes, or in Josh’s hands. You can also check out their upcoming shows and all other things Bogeys at www.thebogeysmusic.com