Meet BGYO, the P-pop boy band with a sound that’s ‘originally Filipino’

Since their debut in January, the quintet have taken the Filipino music scene by storm, accumulating millions of streams across multiple platforms and becoming one of their home country’s most recognizable P-pop boy bands. 

Diversity has been a key factor in the group’s success, with each BGYO member bringing their unique skills and talents to the table.

Both Nate and Gelo have extensive dancing experience. Nate fell in love with performing at the age of 6 and has worked with several notable artists, including Justin Bieber during his stop in the Philippines for his “Purpose” world tour. Gelo followed in the footsteps of his older sister, who is also a dancer, and has explored an array of different styles, from ballroom to hip-hop.

Mikki and JL, on the other hand, are experienced in another essential component of every successful boy band: singing. JL comes from a family of singers and has competed in several contests, while Mikki described himself as “a regular high school kid” with a passion for songwriting when he auditioned for BGYO.

But the boy band member with the least conventional upbringing is Akira, who was born into a family of musicians but pursued a career in acting. Before auditioning for BGYO, he appeared in four feature films, a television show and several commercials, including one for the Filipino fast-food chain Jollibee.

Following an extremely competitive series of auditions that began in 2018, the BGYO boys have spent years training as a cohesive unit to become more than the sum of its parts. 

“We always trained together in our class rehearsals,” Nate tells NextShark. “We use each other’s energy and we put that into our training to focus more and push each other more.”

BGYO’s development, however, did not happen in a vacuum. Performing under the Filipino mass content company ABS-CBN has enabled them to practice and collaborate with a wide variety of budding Filipino artists.

“We get to perform with different artists, big local artists here in the Philippines, and it’s so inspiring to be with them,” Gelo says. “We also share thoughts about stuff like creative, artistic sides of us, and we learn from them. We make them our inspiration.”

Among them is BINI, a sister P-pop group who has a very close relationship with the boy band.

“For almost two years we were together training and then we debuted in the same year.” Mikki shares. “Our relationship is really like brother and sister.”

While many have pointed out the resemblance of the boy band’s name to “bagyo,” the Filipino word for tropical cyclones, BGYO is actually an acronym that stands for “Being the change, Going further, You and I, Originally Filipino.” BGYO have also been dubbed the “Aces of P-pop,” a title that not only represents their rapidly growing status as one of the premier music acts of the Philippines, but also the immense expectations that come with stardom.

“The things we carry in our mind before we step on the stage are like, ‘Oh, we got to top the last performance.’ It doesn’t matter if the last performance was crazy good. We always have to do something better,” Nate shares. “So I guess the struggle and the nervousness and pressure you feel from being the ‘Aces of P-pop’ is leveling up.” 

But knowing their limits is just as important to BGYO as pushing them.

“When it comes to being in a group like BGYO, a very big part is thinking about the long run,” says Nate. “It’s always about, ‘Am I safe? Is it worth it? And will this impress the people? And will I have fun?’”

In order to stand out from the ever-expanding crop of boy bands on both sides of the Pacific, BGYO heavily incorporate their Filipino heritage into their music, from the language they use to more subtle stylistic details laden with rich cultural references. 

“Of course, P-pop is Filipino so we have the Filipino language, but we also have the struggles, the culture, up to the little details like our costume,” Nate shares. “In our debut single ‘The Light,’ we wore something that really means a lot to Filipino culture, and also in our music video for ‘The Baddest,’ there’s a symbol which is bakunawa… a mythical creature from the Filipino culture.”

BGYO have found, however, that moving from domestic performances to concerts on the international level presents an entirely different set of challenges.  

“The difference is [in the Philippines] where we’re known and very welcome because this is our blood and this is our country, people will always be like, ‘Wow, we should watch them even if we don’t know them,’” says Nate. “But in international places, it’ll be harder to reach the audience because a lot of our songs have the Filipino language so of course, English speakers will not get pulled in right away… it’ll be very awkward with the language barrier, but we’ll try our best.”

Having to shoulder so much pressure as performers, it can be easy to overlook the fact that, unlike most boy bands, the members of BGYO are college-aged guys who prioritize their studies as much as their craft.     

“There’s communication between the manager and the schools,” says Akira. “For example, if we have a big event, then they can talk to the school… if we have an exam, they will tell our management that we have an exam so there’s no conflict in schedules.”

With youth comes ambition, which is a trait that BGYO exhibits in spades. Mikki teases that the group “really experimented with our sound” for their upcoming album “BE:US,” and some of the other members hint at some very exciting musical directions that they might pursue in the future.  

Gelo expresses an interest in exploring the soulfully groovy sound of dancehall and Afrobeats. Meanwhile, Nate points to liquid drum and bass-inspired bedroom pop luminary PinkPantheress as a source of inspiration.    

“So there’s a lot of instruments in her music and it’s very upbeat,” Nate says. “It’s very fast. But then her vocals are very soft and slow. So I think something like that for us, it doesn’t have to be a whole album, but a song or something for them to hear would be very nice.”

In the meantime, BGYO’s sophomore album “BE:US” will be released on streaming platforms on Nov. 3. The group will be performing in Las Vegas alongside their sister group BINI for their “ASAP Vegas” concert on Nov. 5.

 

Featured Image via Miguel Alomaian

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