BGYO on their swift rise, journey as artists: ‘Pangarap talaga naming mas mapalawak ang P-pop’
“So you find my smile pleasing,” a cheeky Anthony Bridgerton of the famed “Bridgerton” series said in response to Kate Sharma’s insult. A simple line, yet so charmingly delivered, you can’t help but excitedly shout “yes” when this particular line leaves his lips.
The same thing can be said for Nate Porcalla as he croons “Hinihila pabalik sa’yo / Urong sulong ‘di makausad papalayo” at the beginning of BGYO’s hit song “Magnet.” Of course, his bandmates Gelo Rivera, Akira Morishita, JL Toreliza, and Mikki Claver Jr., have the same hypnotic charm which makes it hard to escape from their grasp.
BGYO was formed with the purpose of showing what it means to be “Originally Filipino.” Since then, they established themselves as one of the top P-pop groups today. This is evident in their growing fanbase, global interest, attention-grabbing discography, and the title “Aces of P-pop.”
Just a few weeks before their “Be Us” album showcase, INQUIRER.net met with Gelo, Akira, JL, Mikki, and Nate for an exclusive virtual interview. They were a little shy when the call connected, but the ice was broken when this writer mentioned that she had been to their past mediacons and performances. Throughout the chat, the excitement of having someone listen to their music out of genuine interest, not just as an extension of work, was palpable. There was no need for members to say the awkward line, “Pakinggan niyo po album namin ah.”
From rookies to P-pop icons
Since January 2021, BGYO evolved from shy rookies to magnetic performers. But apart from their charismatic presence and energetic personas behind-the-scenes, their passion for music and bringing P-pop to a global audience is evident.
“Mas stronger kami as a group now,” Akira told INQUIRER.net. “Mas nagkakaindihan na kami. Mas nagco-connect na kami sa mga decisions, and sa mga ginagawa namin.” While he also admitted that the trainee period at Star Hunt Academy was physically and mentally tough — he even suffered anxiety attacks at the time — he emerged “stronger” than before.
“Mas kilala na namin ang isa’t isa. Hindi na kami nahihiya mag-approach kung kanino, hindi na kami nahihiya na i-correct ang isa’t iaa kapag may nakikitang mali,” Gelo said, echoing Akira. “Mas madali na sa’ming gumalaw bilang BGYO kasi parang iisa na kami.”
Meanwhile, the group’s main vocalist JL pointed out that “chemistry” became crucial to BGYO’s steady growth, while reflecting what they’ve been through from trainees to the present. “Mas okay na maging open kami sa isa’t isa. Kasi magkakaroon ng big problem kung hindi ka open.” BGYO’s youngest member Nate, meanwhile, chimed in, saying “We’re on the same wavelength.”
Like many P-pop groups today, BGYO underwent a difficult training period at Star Hunt Academy, along with their sister group BINI. Mikki, who was the shyest when the call connected, appeared to be excited when he was gestured by the writer to speak, where he fondly admitted that being part of the group helped in developing his self-confidence.
“I’m stronger right now and more confident compared to when I was a trainee. I’m much more comfortable doing what we do, which is performing” he said, which earned supportive smiles and “yes!” from his bandmates. “Dati kasi noong nagsisimula ako, hindi talaga ako confident sa pag-perform kasi hindi talaga ako ‘yun dati. Pero now, I worked hard to be what I am today.”
“Fulfilling sa amin lahat. [Looking back], nakakaproud kasi may uncertainty kung sino matitira sa’min, magde-debut ba kami or magwo-work ba ‘yung group kasi nag-shutdown ‘yung ABS-CBN,” Gelo said. Star Hunt Academy was among the projects affected when the network was forced to shut down in May 2020, and their franchise renewal was denied by Congress months later.
His bandmates nodded in agreement. The moment Gelo touched on ABS-CBN’s shutdown, his leadership skills shone through as he skillfully stirred the conversation to the BGYO’s determination to prove their worth as they eventually debuted. “Hanggang ngayon, we’re striving to be better everyday. Goal din namin maging successful sa kung anuman ang nasimulan namin,” which his bandmates immediately smiled after.
While on the topic of the group’s journey, the topic then shifted to Gelo’s leadership skills as they reflect a strong sense of togetherness throughout the chat. “Si Kuya Gelo po kasi, kapag may sinasabi sa’min [mapa-happy or seryoso], light pa rin siya. Ayaw niyang ma-feel na down ‘yung energy ng members,” JL said, while his members said he’s doing a “good job.”
“But it’s funny to see Kuya Gelo stressed,” Nate jokingly said, while demonstrating Gelo’s expressions which made the group roar with laughter.
In November 2022, BGYO released their second studio album “Be Us” which is a combination of their many charms, including “Game On” which is a reflection of their determination. For Nate, this song empowers fans to pursue their dreams no matter what it takes. “To be ‘Game On’ is to be proactive and prepared for everything. And when there is an open door, we have to take it because of the opportunities,” he said.
“Huwag matakot magkamali. Kasi doon ka matututo. Game on lang kahit magkamali ka,” Akira says, chiming in.
When BGYO was asked about their favorite songs in the album, Mikki gamely said “Favorite ko po ‘yung part ni Gelo [sa ‘Game On’] kung ‘yung ‘You think you can stop us? Huh,” before he was playfully hit by the leader with a handkerchief. “Pero marami po talaga.”
“Siguro ‘yung lyrics na tumatak sa akin is ‘yung sa chorus ng ‘Panahon,’ na ‘Bigyan mo ng panahon / Ang pagkakataon at tadhana na ipinta,” JL responded soon after, noting how relatable it is. Akira also said ‘Panahon,’ notably its final chorus.
On the other hand, Nate did an impromptu performance of “Tumitigil ang Mundo,” where he rapped “Daming nakilala kahit isa ‘di umubra / Naglibot na wala talaga / Mas maganda sa’king mata,” pointing out he’s a fan of its adlibs. Meanwhile, Gelo said the group and fans can relate to “Panahon,” saying “‘Yun ang tumatak sa’kin,” while Akira and Mikki nodded.
BGYO’s rise came at a much-needed time as they join a wave of P-pop powerhouses including SB19, BINI, MNL48, and Alamat, whose dedicated fans (called Aces) are determined to boost the industry. The competition among fellow P-pop acts seems stiff to outsiders, but the group maintained that “P-pop rise” is meant to be seen as a “collaborative effort.”
“We’re so happy about [being seen as one of the top P-pop groups]. Natutuwa kami na nasasama kami sa mga sinasabing nagpapa-usad ng P-pop. Dati, pinapangarap lang namin ‘yun,” Gelo said, saying he doesn’t feel the need to compete because the rise of the local music industry should come first. “Ngayon, kasama na namin ang ibang idols na hinahangaan ko before. Tuwang-tuwa kami na dumadami na ang P-pop groups at masarap sa feeling na may kasabay ka na para i-angat ang OPM.”
JL then shared that it’s their dream to witness the growth of P-pop with the company of his fellow artists. “Pangarap talaga namin [noon at ngayon] na mas mapalawak pa ang P-pop,” he said. “Ngayon, unti-unting nakikilala na siya ng mga tao. Kumbaga, parami na po kami nang parami. Sama-sama po kami.”
The possibilities are endless for BGYO as they forge ahead in their career. Apart from being included in global music charts, being listed as one of the international groups to watch out for, bagging awards left and right, representing P-pop in their unique way, and performing in different events. Despite this, Mikki says the group is currently at the stage of “exploring” their sound.
“We’re still in the stage na nage-explore kami even if we’ve been around for two years,” he stressed. “We’re still trying to improve ourselves in different types of singing and dancing. And pinu-push namin ang aming sarili para magbigay ng lakas [sa fans] at mag-improve.” Akira and Gelo, on the other hand, said they will keep “achieving” and “grinding” for their goals.
Nate also hinted that while they’re working on something, he cheekily said that “our new music is a secret,” to which Mikki smiled while flashing a thumbs up.
As soon as BGYO was asked to share a hint of what to expect in their music, Mikki said, “Ito po ang isang dance move” before everyone raised their arms into some kind of a zombified robot before bursting into laughter.
“Ay weh? Legit ‘yun?” the writer asked, while giggling. “Legit po ‘yun!” Mikki said, while a laughing Akira was waving his hands, as if stopping his bandmates from sharing another spoiler. EDV