[This is part 2 of 3 in a series of interviews with self-starters creating opportunities for themselves in Hawaii. Check out part 1 of 3 with Darieus Legg, a local filmmaker who premieres his film ECILA at this year’s Hawaii International Film Festival.CLICK HERE.]
[sidebar] AMBITION BREEDS OPPORTUNITY
“If is hard to succeed in music in Hawaii, but it’s being an entrepreneur and saying I’m gonna make it.”
When BAMP Project arrived on the scene in 2004, they revived a deflated and lackluster concert and promotions scene. Although its ambitious founders, Auby Boutin, Matty Hazelgrove and Philip Pendleton all grew up on different parts of the mainland, they saw a need and an opportunity for a more thriving music scene in Hawaii. Today, BAMP Project throw more than four -sometimes as high as eight – shows per month, from indie bands like MGMT and Mutemath to mega superstars like Daughtry, Lambert and Bieber. Visit www.bampproject.com to see their upcoming shows.
<photo_credit>Profile Photos by Aaron Yoshino
Well, first off, where are you all from?
Aubry Boutin: Phil’s actually 100 percent Hawaiian. He doesn’t look it –
Matty Hazelgrove: Thus the tattoo, the mandatory tattoo.
Philip Pendleton: This is all island tats under here.
A: …And that was off the record! No, kidding. I grew up in Seattle. I been here 20 years –
M: He’s really old –
A: I’m really old – M: On the record!
P: He moved here when he was 41. So you do the math.
Well you look awesome-
P: Ha. You look awesome for 60 but awful for 35…
A: So that being said. Hawaii’s awesome. Best place on earth if you can figure it out. M: I was born in Orlando, raised in Georgia, basically, and then stumbled upon this place called Hawaii about 10 years ago. Came out to visit my brother. Figured I’d be out here for a summer, and then I stayed.
Hawaii will do that…
P: I grew up in Virginia and been in Hawaii 12 years. Previously I was working at a resort in Vail, and then I moved to Maui to manage at the Grand Wailea.
A: I don’t know if you’ve ever seen that show, Swamp People – That’s kind of where Phil’s from.
P: The Swamp People area.
A: Have you seen that show? It’s awesome.
P: Yeah, it’s pretty awesome.
So how did you guys all get together? And who came up with the idea for BAMP?
M: Phil kind of put it all together. He was more the mastermind. I was doing nightclub promotions in Hawaii for several years before BAMP ever came about. But Phil approached me one day and said, “What do you think doing concerts? And I thought, well, it’s the next logical step for me to take. This was around 2004.
P: So we set it up in ’04. And our first show was in ’05. There used to be four of us. There used to be another guy – Brad – but he died.
P: No, there used to be another guy who was helping us get acts in the beginning, but he got too busy, and he never lived here. …He’s not dead.
M: His other business really started taking off in LA – he started getting huge marketing contracts for guerilla-style marketing copmanies –
P: For gorillas.
P: It was funny because I met Brad at The W Hotel, when Matty used to promote there. And I look at him, and has his phone up in the air recording a song. I’m like, “What are you doing?” He tells me, “Whenever there’s a 50 cent remix song, I play it on 50’s voicemail for him,” because Brad said he had done the first 50 Cent hard ticket show in LA. So all night long, he’s talking shit. Oh, who’s you favorite rapper? If I said Snoop, he would be all, “There’s Snoop’s number, look, check that out. Like he was that kind of guy.
M: He’s very LA. Oh, I know this guy, I know that guy kind of thing.
P: So I didn’t actually believe anything that he said, and then three months later I was in LA, so I gave Brad a call. He picked me up, and we ended up going to Pharrell’s pre-Grammy party, and everybody there was on his nuts. Pharrell’s like, “Whatsup Brad?” All these guys that I thought he was kind of making up stories about, literally knew him and wanted to do stuff. That’s when I realized this dude is legit. Originally our first idea for BAMP, was to bring Mix Master Mike from the Beastie Boys to the Hard Rock in Waikiki, which holds about 300 people. We had a budget of like $5,000 to do it because we had a sponsor. Sessions was gonna sponsor it back then. You remember all that?
M: Ehhh, kinda…
P: So Sessions was gonna sponsor it, and pay $5,000. Brad thought that may not be enough. Then he came back to us and told us that Steel Pulse wanted to do a show, so then we needed some place bigger. The Waikiki Shell was the biggest place we could think of. So our first show went from small venue with deejay to like – our first show was gonna be at The Shell!
A: Well we had talked about would be good artists for Hawaii, and Steel Pulse happened to be one we thought would work, and it came up. But it was scheduled for a Wednesday night –
M: We had three weeks to promote –
P: And it was in February. We had three weeks to promote a concert on a Wednesday night. The radio station kept telling us we should cancel this. The ladies that run the venue told us to cancel, were willing to give us back our deposit. You should just cancel the show. Because they see our ticket sales, so they know where it’s at. We at least thought we were going to break even. We kept thinking that we would be okay. Then it’s like a week out, and we’re NOT okay. Still haven’t sold any tickets.
Like not okay, not okay? Or not okay, but almost okay?
M: No, no, no – not OK.
P: Not even close. We had literally sold 600 or 700 tickets, and we were looking to sell more in the three to four thousand range. It was just terrible. We were just gonna lose everything.
M: Yeah. Put everything on the line, and we were gonna lose it all.
P: Watch it all go away. …But then three days before the show, we sold about 400 tickets; the next day we sold like 700 tickets. Then the next day, we sold like 900 tickets. Then the night of the concert, we actually set the Waikiki Shell walk-up record of tickets sold, around 2,500 people. It was bananas.
How were you guys promoting it?
P: We did things you were not supposed to do – like Aubry and I drove around in a van one night, standing on the van postering telephone poles, but you’re not supposed to do that, like that was like a bad, big no-no. You get fined for that.
M: We had the City & County call us one time. “Hey, this is so-and-so from the City & County, and we’re seeing your posters everywhere.” I was like, “Wow. Yeah!”
P: Yeah, Matty’s stoked, like that’s great!
M: And then they’re like, yeah, just so you know there’s like a $250 fine, per poster– A: And we put up thousands. M: And then I was like, “Oh, I meant, WE didn’t DO that. But we DID give a bunch of posters to people, and they were supposed to distribute them for us. I’ll call those guys and tell them to make sure not to do that. And they were like, Oh-kay…
P: That was like our one get away with it, ever.
M: Every since then we’ve definitely play buy the rules. There’s a lot of people that litter everywhere and be disrespectful in kind of the way that they do it. You don’t last long doing that for many reasons, but for one, you’ll come up with a $15,000 fine in the mail one day. It’s legit. They’ll get you hard.
A: But ultimately BAMP was created because there was a need for up and coming bands in Hawaii, and that was kind of our goal.
P: Steel Pulse kicked everything off. After that show, all the radio stations thought we were promoting geniuses.
M: Cuz we did non-conventional things.
P: We had our street team guys, holding signs on the side of the road that said Steel Pulse with the date.
M: Like political figures that stand on the road side. We had armies of people handing out CDs at stoplights, just going bananas doing what we could.
P: We had the fear in us.
How has the growth of BAMP been from that first show until now?
M: It used to be that we did one show every four to six months. Now we’re doing about four shows a month.
A: And tours on the outer islands.
M: It’s definitely grown. In August, we did 8 shows this month. Then this week we’ve had four shows. Two Air Supply shows, Blackstarr, Owl City this coming weekend. We also had Mutemath, All Time Low, Steve Aoki, Mos Def in Maui.
What was it like before?
M: Call people they don’t call you back.
P: Impossible. It one of those things that no one wants to hire you if you don’t have any experience. And you’re never gonna get any experience if you don’t have that job. You have to do some shitty jobs that you don’t want to do to get experience or you have to have some jobs where you lose a bunch of money so you get experience.
M: I’ve had all those jobs. Paid our dues. Still paying them.
P: Totally. I mean we haven’t figured it out. It seems like we have, but we haven’t.
What has been one of your most memorable experiences?
P: I think our gnarliest thing has gotta be The Killers house party.
A: Oh god, Yeah.
P: That was kind of one of the last things that Brad lined up for us. We did a house party, in Hawaii Kai with The Killers, and this is when they were still big. Their first CD had already gone double platinum and they were getting ready to release their second CD. KROQ, radio station in LA did this contest where the winner won a trip for him and nine of his friends to Hawaii where The Killers would play a private set just for them. KROQ hired us to produce the whole thing. The winners were a little bit of a train wreck, like they were here to party. Also, there were a lot of issues with renting the house.
M: We thought the owners would be excited to have The Killers play in their house. They’re, like, “I don’t care…”
P: The first place I called, I told them exactly the truth. The renters told us absolutely not. Then the second place I told them kind of a mild version – each time toned it down a little bit more. Eventually it ended up being my sister calling the house and telling them it was our family reunion so we need to rent a house. So we rented this amazing house in Hawaii Kai, right on the marina.
The Killers came in and we dealt with them all week, took them wakeboarding, and the winners were doing their own thing. The last day, we did the show, and they played an acoustic set, six songs in the living room. It was one of the best performances – like, we’ll never see a band on that level play for 12 people again. It was just crazy good.
The next morning – oh, ironically, the house we ended up renting was just five houses down from our house –Brad wakes me up at 6 in the morning and says, “Dude, you gotta get up, you gotta get up. Someone died at the house.” So I jump up and walk outside and there were ambulances and fire trucks and police and all the sirens were going. And I was like holy shit. So I go and get Matty and Aubry.
M: So we go down there, and one of the winner’s friends threw up. Like sleep apnea, and he threw up and he choked.
A: He suffocated to death. Clearly it’s not a laughing matter. It was a really heavy situation, but what made it funny and ironic was because the band was called The Killers. So when the police showed up they thought it was some sort of cult situation
P: It was because the dude had “The Killers” written on his leg in Sharpie.
A: The Killers did an autograph session after they played, and they signed the winners’ arms, and Sharpied “The Killers” all over their legs. So the next morning when the cops and the morgue people showed up and they saw this, they didn’t understand what was going on. So that was what so awkward in trying to explain the situation.
M: The crazy thing too was when Brad came and he says, “I don’t know how to tell you this, but the guy who died is extremely overweight, and they might need help picking him up.”
P: Yeah because the two guys from the morgue were these two 110 pound Asian guys, and the dude must’ve weighed 300 pounds.
M: And Brad was like, “I totally understand if you’re not comfortable doing it,” and I was like, “Brad, dude, I’m not doing it.”
P: I went in there with him, but the guys from the morgue had a little pulley system pick up the guy.
M: It went from the craziest high from the night before – like we just worked with The Killers! –we’re like, dude, high five, we’re all done. Go to bed. Whew. Wake up the next morning. Deal with that.
P: It was bad too because that was the day the people were supposed to check out of the house, and so the property manager showed up, and the house was just thrashed. Like besides a dead dude! These guys had like destroyyyed the house.
M: Leather couches, cigarette burns.
A: We’re talking like a MTV cribs, brand new house, remodeled.
P: It was only the second time they’d ever rented it to somebody.
M: Needless to say we didn’t get the deposit back.
P: KROQ was really cool about it, and they paid for everything. But the guy that owned the house was really pissed. Because the property manager shows up, and I had originally told him it was for my family reunion, and so I was still sticking to that story. So I told him it was my uncle that had died. And he’s like, really being sympathetic about it. But I’m freaking out, because I’m looking at the house and the whole situation. Normally it takes them four hours to flip the house; it took them two days. And there was someone coming in that afternoon to rent it.
Woah. That’s unbelievable. Like something out of a movie. I want to switch gears a bit. What is one of the most important things for someone starting their own business?
M: Plan on countless hours of just figuring things out. You’re gonna make a lot of mistakes if you just do it. Learn from the mistake. We’ve made tons of mistakes.
A: And if its your passion, it won’t seem like work in general. At the end of the day, you’re still pretty pumped on doing it, even if you are making some mistakes.
P: I read that on a calendar one time that had a picture of a mountain on it.
A: Was there a baby kitten on there too?
P: Little baby kitten on a mountain, going, “If you love your work, it’ll never feel like work…” It still feels like work.
M: Today felt like a full on day of work.
A: But I mean realistically, I’d rather do this than a lot of different things.
P: Definitely better than being a garbage man.
M: It’s one of those things it depends on what kind of business you’re going to do. If you’re looking to take on a physical space, where you know you’ll have rent, payroll, cost of goods of course, you need a business plan to do that. For us, we were just like hey let’s try this out.
P: if you want to sell doughnuts out of your trunk, you can probably just go start tomorrow, and see how it goes.
But at the same time, it cost money to bring people down. How do you fund that?
A: We print it actually.
Just a Xerox machine in the back?
M: Well not Xerox, we have a different machine in the back.
P: The way it started was when I lived on Maui, I actually bought a house there, and then when I sold the house, I used everything I made to start BAMP.
M: I think where we differ from a lot of people is we’re all about long-term. We’re going to be doing this for another 10 years and we constantly reinvest into the company. It’s not one event, and you’re done. We want to reinvest always. Right now, we have ten shows on sale, and it takes a lot of capital to be able to do that, but it’s also taken a lot of work and a lot of bumps in the road to be able to accomplish what we have. It’s not something you do overnight. It’s taken us seven years.
A: We’ve all invested tons of money to make it happen. It just takes time.
<strong>Who’s someone you would want to bring down that you haven’t yet?
P: My ultimate would be Death Cab for Cutie. I think that’s one we never did that we should have done.
M: I love Jimmy Eat World. I love all Jimmy Eat World’s old stuff. It’s weird though, because we’ve done bands, like we just did Mutemath, which is a band that we all personally just love, but it’s also one that we knew wasn’t going to sell a lot because we knew they didn’t have that kind of exposure in Hawaii. But we just wanted people in Hawaii to see this band, come out, get inspired.
P: It’s sort of like we did a music lesson for Hawaii.
What do you guys think needs to be done to create a more thriving local scene?
M: Our mission statement is that we’re trying to create a more thriving music scene. And I feel like in the past three years, the music industry has jumped leaps and bounds, like there’s a lot of good bands coming up. Like The Jumpoffs, GRLFRNDS.
Also where I grew up in Georgia, you go to a concert in Atlanta, and there’s three other bands that are traveling with Blink 182 that I never heard of in my life. So I see them at that show, and I realize, wow, I really like this band called Whipper Snapper because I saw them open up Blink 182. In us bringing out the main acts, and allowing local Hawaiian bands to get that exposure is another really great way to help build that community. We’ve latched on to some bands that we really want to give as many opportunities as we can. I think that the more shows we do and the more bands we can bring out, whether well known or not well known to inspire kids. I remember going to shows when I was a kid, thinking, I want to play music like that! And you just get inspired. I mean, kids are hustling, making their CDs and making their T-shirts. It’s hard to make it in Hawaii –
P: Again, it’s being an entrepreneur. It’s saying, I’m gonna make it. I wanna do it myself. Nobody’s gonna call me up one day and say, Hey I wanna take you on a national tour. You have to go and rent a 10passenger van or mini van and cram all seven people in there with your gear and sleep in your car the next month. And just drive from place to place to place and just hustle your own shows, and give your CDs out to everyone so they hear your name. People aren’t gonna do it for you. Kinda like us.