Indie Pop Duo Bogan Via Started a Band and Fell in Love
Almost the same moment Bogan Via started out as a band, they started a relationship.
As a duo, Bret Bender and Madeleine Miller possess two distinctly different personalities and voices, and that contrast fits their high-energy synth pop. Often compared as a "sunnier Beach House," the couple splits vocal duties. It represents a healthy duality -- Miller's falsetto complementing Bender's baritone, washed over with subdued hip-hop beats and perky synths.
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The name comes from bougainvillea, the bush with paper-thin flowers found all over Phoenix. The band name is purposely misspelled for easier memorization. As did Miller, you may remember these whispy magenta and amber blossoms growing in your backyard. And as natives, Bogan Via are naturally finding their place in Phoenix's music scene, even when it isn't always easy.
"We've made some friends. It just seems like you think you know all the bands in town," Bender says. "And then it's like there's 50,000 bands I've never heard of."
But Miller is quick to list her favorite local acts. "I'm a really big fan of Sareena Dominguez. I love her. She's beautiful. I've really gotten into [Common Wall Media labelmates] Gospel Claws recently 'cuz they have this one song that's really awesome. Every now and then I'll see someone playing at a show . . . and it's just good stuff."
"It feels like there's just more and more all the time," Bender adds. "You [start to] wonder why you're on a label and someone else isn't."
"For sure!" Miller says, adding: "We've had really good experiences so far. No one has been mean to us."
Some of their biggest help in the Valley music scene has come from local one-man-band-slash-synth-guru YUS, who remixed their song "Purple Catacombs" and has "become a friend," Miller says.
"He came to one of our shows and seemed to really like us," Bender says "We didn't really know anything about his live act. He kept coming to shows and being really nice and eventually I got out to see him play. He always seems to be looking out for us."
"He's just a really nice guy," Miller chimes in. "He told Jeremiah Gratza [local promoter and head of President Gator Records] to listen to us. Through that, Jeremiah has just been this incredible help to us. He's gotten us so many shows; he's kinda taken us under his wing, so YUS was like our first super-fan. He helped us out a lot."
After signing to local indie label Common Wall Media (also representing Snake! Snake! Snakes! and Gospel Claws), the band headed into Flying Blanket Studios to record their second EP, Wait Up . Their first release, an EP of home recordings, was released in January, but was taken off Bandcamp in anticipation for their EP release show this Sunday.
In a little over a year since they hooked up, Bogan Via has seen plenty of highs and lows. They did a vinyl release for President Gator Records and opened for Twin Shadow at Crescent in September, smiling as they say they "didn't mess up, at least noticeably."
But it hasn't always been roses, or rather, bougainvilleas. After returning from vacation, both getting over a cold they played a show. According to Bender, the sound was terrible, the show was sketchy and midway through his set, his keyboard fell onto his lap, but he continued to play.
"They said he handled it very professionally," Miller says sympathetically.
"Still . . ." Bender mutters.
Bogan Via have gotten loads of support on the Internet, featured on blogs like Consequence of Sound and Prefix Mag. They even have music videos made by a mysterious YouTube user known only as Angel Miike.
"We've only made one music video ourselves and that has yet to be released," Bender says. "This guy just makes music videos and randomly posted videos for our songs without even telling us. We had to find them ourselves."
The videos are elaborate, such as the surreal black and white imagery interlaced with shots of a naked Asian woman for "Copy and Paste." It's unclear if the videos are originals or just remixed footage. Actually, the only thing Bogan Via know about Miike is he's from Peru, which is coincidentally where bougainvilleas are native.
"I tried to reach out to him and say 'hey, we love your video and we want you to know we've shared this on our Bogan Via page and we'd love to give you credit,'" Miller says. "But I don't think he ever messaged me back."
"Maybe he doesn't understand English. But Google Translate, I dunno," Bender offers. "Maybe he is an actual angel."
Bender and Miller's "story" is cute. They were vicariously Facebook friends and Miller would post videos of herself singing with her guitar. Bender messaged her and said, "Let's do this."
Bogan Via opening for Twin Shadow
Now the couple lives together, makes music together, and even works together at Backpage.com editing the escort ads. Miller explains it's an interesting dynamic, to say the least.
"It was difficult for me at first, I'll be honest," Miller says. "Now it's not so much anymore, but when we met and started playing music together it was very unexpected."
"Yeah, we met for music and sort of just fell in love at the same time," Bender says thoughtfully.
"It was hard to find where the music ended and the relationship began, but I think we've got a good balance," Miller says smiling brightly, like only someone in love or making beautiful music can.
Catch Bogan Via is scheduled to perform Sunday, October 28, at the Rhythm Room with Snake! Snake! Snakes! and Dylan Pratt for the release of the band's new EP,Wait Up.
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