Hieronymus Bogs



Hieronymus Bogs – The Angel

With a name like Hieronymus Bogs, eclecticism is almost expected. The Rochester folk artist and group of musicians that embellish his craft—the appropriately-named Bogs Visionary Orchestra, or BVO—harbor few inhibitions and fully live up to their respective monikers. Bogs’ unique vein of rootsy outsider folk enmeshes poetry and performance, nearly evading traditional classification altogether. The end result is an art form equal parts unconventional and embraceable, a sonic tizzy of spoken-word poetry and folk-tinged orchestration.

On his latest release, a nine-track collection of songs and poems titled The Angel (titled after a William Blake poem of the same name), Bogs (and company) keeps the instrumentation delicate and organic while his often interpretive lyrics remain soaked in folklore. The album’s title track introduces the main theme with a tenderly played piano backdrop, Bogs singing longingly over top—“I dreamt a dream, what could it mean?” The very opening line captures the album well—dreamlike, contemplative.

Beyond the storytelling of the title track, the album sprawls beautifully. “Andariega” sounds like a cryptic ancient waltz, further asserting themes and tones—“I know the Earth, the Earth knows me / I’m wanderin’.” Poem “The Ascending Mind” flows perfectly into brooding number “I Wonder,” lush with bowed bass, violin, and accordion. The instrumentation throughout the album courses wonderfully and although eclectic, is never overbearing. This is especially evident on “Grappling,” a gentle track featuring an astoundingly appropriate arrangement of banjo, piano, lap steel, and flute.

True fans of folk music will appreciate this album immensely; the storytelling and arrangements are nothing short of entrancing. Enjoy closing track “Men Without Machines” below and follow the link to check out the rest of Bogs’ extensive discography. The Angel is available for streaming on Hieronymus Bogs’ Soundcloud page here, or available for purchase through a number of online music outlets including iTunes and Amazon Music.

Written by Ronald Walczyk

© 2015 All Rights Reserved. Buffalo Website Design

Buffalo Blog


Hieronymus Bogs Releases First Single fromThe Angel

Man what is in the water in the Genesee River lately? We have been doing this blog for over five years now, and over last couple, expanding our focus past just Buffalo and into other areas of WNY. With that said, I have never seen such a run of quality new music than we have out of Rochester over these last few months (and more is on the way).

One of those acts, which until now has sadly flown under our radar, is folk musician Alex Bogs, who performs under the moniker of Hieronymus Bogs. Yesterday, Bogs released the startling first single from his upcoming new album The Angel. “I Wonder” is a wonderfully haunting mix of Devandre Banhart freak folk, subtle touches of Antony and the Johnsons’ theatricality, and the vulnerability of Buffalo’s own Andy Pothier.

The Angel should be a nice addition to what is shaping up to be a solid year for Rochester folk artists, with acts likes MD Woods, Jackson Cavalier, and Gay Angel already dropping strong releases over the past handful of weeks. Featuring contributions from members of Passive Aggressives Anonymous, Buffalo Sex Change, Howlo, Maybird, and more, the album will be released on August 15th and is currently available for pre-sale here.

Written by Mac McGuire


585 Magazine

Inside the mind of Hieronymus Bogs

Outsider artist and

musician chooses


over commodity


On a balmy Friday night, a small group of Rochester artists assemble their wares at The Yards, a stark second-story gallery space without air conditioning located in the Rochester Public Market. The weathered wooden floorboards and high iron support beams along the ceiling suggest post-industrial desolation, an ambiance that will soon be replaced by the bustle of the appropriately titled “Yard(s)Sale!” the next morning. Ceramic sake mugs, custom notebooks, homemade necklaces made from old photographs, and even a vintage piece of pre-owned orthodontia begin to populate the folding tables like so many eclectic new neighbors.One table in this grouping sticks out for its ragged, rough-hewn, and humble appearance. At this table is a man the local arts community knows simply as Bogs. The quietly charismatic frontman of the psychedelic Americana outfitBogs Visionary Orchestra sits amid an array of found-object sculptures he simply calls mini sculptures. Whenever the banjoist and songwriter performs solo, he bills himself as Hieronymous Bogs.

A second life for history’s detritus

In one sculpture, a hodgepodge of trinkets—including a pocket-size crucifix, miniature toy rocking horse, a disembodied doll head, and numerous plastic buttons—is housed haphazardly in a clear plastic container atop an unadorned wooden base. In a second piece, a cracked glass orb, repaired with transparent packing tape, contains what looks like an autumn still life that has sprung up organically; a small olive green bust depicting a stoic boy dominates a landscape of toy deer, wild flowers, feathers, and keys.

“When I look at these used materials, I get this idea: Things are changing, things are getting old. Time is eroding materials. Things get dusty,” explains Bogs. “There’s just that connection to deterioration that I think I’m interested in—and also reusing things: something had a purpose before. This little figurine sat on someone’s shelf for years and years, and now the head is broken, and I’m using it on my sculpture for something else.”

Rich imagery and loaded symbolism are untethered to any particular narrative. Any vestiges of a polished aesthetic presentation appear to have been dulled, obscured, or abandoned long ago. These assemblage pieces lack the fixed quality of traditional sculpture in that the individual components can be moved around or removed from the work entirely. “A lot of people have asked me about those pieces. They always ask me, ‘Are you gonna glue that down?’” he says. “Even [my wife] Lisa asked me about it. I just feel like if I glue it down, then it’s a piece of artwork. I want it to feel a little more flexible. I’m not sure if it’s artwork.”

A portrait of Bogs as a young man

Having grown up in the Latino neighborhood of Sunset Park, Brooklyn, in the late seventies and early eighties, the boy who would be Bogs knew that, by the time he was six years old, he would devote his life to making things. In addition to drawing, his artistic interests manifested themselves in the individualistic, outsider-centric mediums of graffiti art and skateboarding. While attending college at Parsons School of Design, he initially studied illustration before switching to fine art but lost interest in the career paths that both avenues seemed to offer. 

“I was definitely interested in outsider art because they were artists making things on their own terms,” says Bogs. “I just see the potential of making art because you want to and using your own materials and using your own space. I don’t exactly see the need for doing it in terms of a gallery. I’d be fine to show work in a gallery, but [that’s] just more of a lifestyle. I just want to live making art. The technical aspect of cultivating a fine-art career is a whole other thing.”

After college, Bogs began teaching art to children throughout New York City. “My thing was convincing them, ‘Hey, you’re an artist. So here are some materials, and let’s make something because you’re an artist.’”
It wasn’t until he first heard Harry Smith’s landmark Anthology of American Folk Music that Bogs internalized this message in relation to creating music. He cites the collection’s “primitive country” songs performed by unconventional and idiosyncratic voices that were not necessarily pretty or in tune.

“The anthology kinda helped tip it for me, where [beforehand] I found music in general was unapproachable because I didn’t really comprehend it,” says Bogs. “It was a little too complicated and stylized. So I just saw it as a product. I didn’t really see it as a form. But when I heard the anthology, kind of the roughness and the simplicity of it, I was like, ‘I can write words, so I can write songs.’”

Banjo in hand

As with the visual art, the songs of Bogs Visionary Orchestra convey a tone of fallibility, impermanence, and decay. Live performances center around Bogs’s straightforward banjo playing and earnest, slightly reedy tenor voice that he indiscriminately drenches in reverb. The strength of musicianship among the band’s ever-shifting roster of players is grounded in Bogs’s intentionally vulnerable and scaled-back approach. “How can I get more primitive in my song writing? How can I get more simple and direct?” thinks the artist aloud.

“I wanna strip away a lot of the garbage and just get really concise. I feel successful when I’m doing that.”

This approach is most evident on songs like “It’s Not Easy To Give Thanks,” in which the incantational melody is rooted to a single chord that is virtually unchanging throughout. This drone effect is also prevalent on “Maladroits Union,” perhaps the most definitive declaration of the artist’s modus operandi:

What we get we don’t deserve, in the eyes of those who choose
We believe in our own worth, in imperfection’s radiant truth
Join the Maladroits Union
Won’t you join? Please, won’t you join?

Bogs, at home with his sculptures created from found objects

A defiance of form

There is something deeply disarming about a visual artist who refuses to label his work art, a musician who writes songs that make no assertions about the proficiency of his playing, a person who gifts an audience with tangible objects and recognizable sounds, only to minimize their importance as finished products worthy of reverence. Whether through his visual mini sculptures or his musical Sketches, a trio of home recordings which Bogs made available for free download on his website in early summer, the prevailing emphasis is placed on engaging with the creative process itself, before the work is actually “finished.”

Bogs seems to be proposing a radical shift in how we personally value artistic endeavors; the resulting object that we label as art is not nearly as significant as the creative process that birthed it. “I’m more concerned with letting people know that they can do stuff, that they can make stuff, that it’s important to do that, especially when you’re constantly buying other people’s things,” says Bogs. “You’re constantly watching other people’s movies, seeing other people’s commercials, all your furniture. Everything’s made by somebody else. It’s so important that people think, ‘I can make, I can do. I don’t have to buy a book, I could actually start to write a book.’”

“More-phine” at the market

Back at the Yard(s)Sale!, the Saturday sun bathes the studio in natural light. A mid-morning crowd mills about. Prospective art owners peruse the wide variety of items for sale and quietly talk amongst themselves. Amid this moderate din of merchandise-on-the-move, there is one table that has been left unmanned.  The art objects sit solitarily, while the person who made them stands on a multicolored, patchwork quilt at the front of the room, picking at his banjo. The unassuming musician begins to sing an earnest and haunting melody, married to a softly lilting waltz:

More-phine, more-phine, more-phine
More-phine ball and chain
I give all I have for you,
now give me what I crave

After what amounted to a multiset performance spanning roughly six hours, Bogs takes stock of the day’s take:  He’s sold numerous CDs, but none of the sculptures have found new homes.  But how do you market something that is intrinsically unmarketable? How do you sell an artwork whose value is incapable of being monetized?

There is something fittingly poetic, yet inherently tragic about this conundrum, which can best be described as a “Bogsian dilemma.”

Daniel J. Kushner is a freelance music journalist whose work has been featured in such publications as the Rochester Democrat and ChronicleOpera NewsNewMusicBoxThe Huffington PostThe Buffalo News, and I Care If You Listen. Daniel also writes opera libretti and plays percussion in the Rochester freak folk band 23 Psaegz.


City Newspaper

But it was Bog's night as he and his Visionary Orchestra re-drew the borders between artistic expression and interpretation. It involved colors you could hear played by instruments you could taste.

Rochester City News Music Blog

Concert Review: Meat Puppets, Heavenly Chillbillies, This Life, Bogs Visionary Orchestra

Next I hustled over to Lovin' Cup to catch This Life wind down its set, which was reminiscent of neon-free alternative bands like The Modern Lovers. Bogs Visionary Orchestra came out next and played like a four-man carnival full of ironic lyrical and musical quirks. The bearded Bogs led the parade on guitar and slide banjo (you heard me, slide banjo) in a suit that featured as many colors as his musical palette. He copped the stance of Zappa (or was it Beefheart?) playing the part of a barker pitching the ballyhoo on the midway. It was Tin Pan Alley on Easter Sunday. It was country-ish twang on account of the rhythmic 2/4, it was klezmer-esque on account of its accelerated percussion and groove, and it was just straight-up out of sight. I hung out and hung on every word.

Go Local Prov, Providence, RI

MUSIC: Atlantic Thrills Dirty Up Dusk

Hieronymous Bogs.  A singer-songwriter from Rochester, NY who had a funky outfit that would make even the likes of Prince be jealous, Hieronymous Bogs kicked off the night with his electric garage folk tunes that were as poetic as it gets. "You Are Creative/The Creative Possession", "Poorboy Fool", "Mother To Keep" and "I Believe" were groovy, soothing and laid back. Hieronymous has his own band called The Bogs Visionary Orchestra and they have two albums out, Mean Old World and Alas! Alas! Alas!. I'm excited to hear what they're like after his live performance and you should check them out as well.

City Newspaper

Most importantly though, is Bog's take-home message, be it through art or music: free the outsider within. Not so much a teacher, but more like a tour guide, Bogs has a goal to help people rediscover those childlike expressions of self and identity, and to show his audiences that they too can create and be artists...

Democrat & Chronicle

This fellow Bogs is kind of an interesting miracle himself... Very visionary, indeed. It's curious stuff, rootsy Americana that seems influenced by The Beats, various jug bands, 1920s blues and jazz, and ideas that wouldn't stick to canvas. The music and the art fit together nicely... His art will be hanging in the Archive through the month.


It is an interesting point Kluun raises in his essay God is Crazy - The Dictatorship Of Atheïsm. And he is right of course, faith (religion) is anything but hip. Therefore it is nice to get acquainted with the music of A. Bogs, a New Yorker who is quite unconcerned about that. Mean Old World (self released) of Bogs Visionary Orchestra begins with I Believe. God is alive, he's not dead. He asked me to live, to live instead. He asked me to live, he asked me to give. This Bogs is anything but a narrow-minded soul converter. The artist who recently moved from Brooklyn to Rochester believes in the power of art. This makes life more pleasing. And why shouldn't you sing about those things that keep you busy with the very nice tunes you are composing? And why shouldn't you sing also about a Little Worm. On CD Baby the collective describes itself as Daniel Johnston meets the Carter Family at an Allen Ginsburg reading. How does that sound? Curious and different and yet also folk and country, but then meant for a yellow submarine packed with children and urban hippies. Jesus, with somewhat classical violins, quotes in the oohoo Imagine of John Lennon. Unemployed is a heartwarming song about unemployment and also Homeless On The Street is particular sympathetic. Bogs Visionary Orchestra consists in total out of thirteen people on this cd. Just like Red Rooster they have their own entire view on rootsmusic.

Pastor/Director of Graffiti Community Ministries & author of Squat and Mercy Streets

Every now and then you come across a CD that is lyrical, incisive, humorous, and biting all at the same time. 

This CD is it.  It's the equivalent of hitting a grand slam in baseball.  This CD is worth listening to.

    A. Bogs has the special ability of combining two things that are often incompatible in artists:  sincerity and irony.  The title of the album is "Mean Old World," but the first song is the most honest song of praise, in the broadest sense of the word, that you can imagine--"I Believe."  Just when you think you know where the CD is going, you listen to the second song:  "Can't Stop Wearing a Gun."  You may guess where this song leads, but be careful.  The song will stay in your head for weeks.  "I can't stop wearin' a gun livin' my life on the run/Like a flower chasing the sun I can't stop wearin' a gun."

    The songs build on each other.  The next two songs are sad in almost a Biblical sense.  The following composition, "Little Worm" could be understood in a number of ways, and moves from a self-mocking intro to a vast understanding of humanity.

     With some of the great writers in our history, like Chaucer, or even like Jane Austen, one must sometimes ask, "When does the writer stop laughing?"  Is the writer laughing at himself, at society, and maybe at us?  I believe the composer of this CD keeps you guessing.  By the time you get to the song on Jesus, you know it won't be what you expect:  "Who's fighting in the war/Who's dying in the war/Who's protesting the war/ Jesus, Jesus."

    The Roman orator Quintilian in the first century made a compelling comment.  He said a good speaker is simply a good person who speaks well.  A. Bogs is a good person who sings well.  For years, he has been quietly involved in Christian communities that help the homeless and those unattended by others.  Yet his songs, like "Unemployed" and "Homeless on the Street," are neither maudlin nor sentimental.  He is a poet and also a prophet, and to me these songs sound more like a Woody Guthrie than anything else.  And along with his praise and love songs, you see that it really is a mean old world:

I can see the pale white rider

 With sickle and with scale

Followed by a prophet

Who is trapped inside a whale

Oh this nation's filled with blessings

A flood about to swell

The damn we built to keep it in

Might damn us all to hell

    I'm telling you, these songs are worth listening to more than once.  On top of it all, the songs are memorable.  The tunes stay in your mind.  You find yourself singing them at odd times and in odd places.  At least I did.  The songs are a window into a world that calls for more than just a music review.

Off the Beaten Track- San Diego Entertainer Magazine

Bogs Visionary Orchestra – Mean Old World (Modfa Records)

If you like Jad Fair or Daniel Johnston, it is pretty safe to assume you will like Bogs Visionary Orchestra. If you like the Shaggs, it’s even more likely. There are only maybe 135 people in the world who really like Jad Fair, Daniel Johnston, or the Shaggs (and don’t just say they do because they heard it was hip – that would account for maybe 20), and I’ve heard that 14 of the 135 died this year.

I am writing this review because there is no worse, more futile loneliness than that of making art with no place to go. And while BVO is known for jubilant around-NYC performances, it has a right to have its stories told to a wider audience. To me this is partly because the group in no way, shape or form seems to have set out to do anything that anyone beyond those 135-or-so people would like or understand. There is a purity to this which appeals to me.

However, having worked through about 80 percent of my masochistic tendencies, I would not make myself write about BVO if I didn’t like the way it sounds. Because to write a review about anything, you have to listen to it (well, a real review – I tend to eschew sound bite reviews, i.e., “Like Madonna if Beyonce were stepping on her foot in an industrial club at three a.m..”)

Other than, perhaps, Bali, there are few countries that are particularly supportive of visionary orchestras, but BVO has still mustered the energy to make another CD about the world that is so disinterested. That’s good, because downing a Xanax cocktail, then lurking in bed for 20 hours at a time is only fun once in awhile, and should be a punishment for something really bad, not a lifestyle.

Even before A. Bogs and his musical buddies coughed up this new recording they reminded me of my old poet friend, Sparrow, who does things like running for the U.S. presidency by standing on first one foot, then the other, in Tompkins Square Park (sparrowforprez.com). About 15 years ago, he and his wife made a recording, Foamola, that flew much further under the radar than even BVO. Although most of it was untenably dry, I became peculiarly attached to a track entitled, “May I Take A Bath?” I liked it so much that occasionally, when a new friend seemed unusually open-minded, I would reveal this to them, much as a liberal in a crowded supermarket might have anxiously shared their intention to vote for John Kerry five years ago.

“Isn’t it great? Isn’t it funny?” I would say, watching my friend’s face for the hoped-for delighted reaction. Or I would say nothing, hoping that Sparrow’s zen/existentialist brilliance would speak for itself. “I mean, don’t you like the Fugs?” I might add, knowing the battle was already lost.

Hardly anyone I’ve ever met has enjoyed “May I Take A Bath?” as much as I, but then, I also get a charge from these releases called Incredibly Strange Music, Volume One of which includes a version of “Flight Of the Bumble Bee” played at such a screeching-tire velocity, the guitarist must have been downing double espressos, 24/7, for weeks.

I could try and lure Iron and Wine fans by pushing the fact that two of BVO’s central members have dark, thick beards, appearing somewhat likely to stare for a long time at their shoes. However, those people would then be angry when they realized that, other than the beards, BVO isn’t anywhere near as dull as Iron and Wine. Also, a lot of Bogs’s music is really lively. It even sounds like the members are having fun.

“I Believe,” which starts Mean Old World, has rather Beatlesque harmonies and seems to be about longing for justice and other nice things, and this having something to do with believing in a god; which is rather Daniel Johnston-ish. Along with nearly everything else here, it shines with a knowing innocence — BVO is able to chuckle ruefully at its own idealism. On tracks like “Can’t Stop Wearin’ A Gun” the group flirts with uneasily resolved conflicts — to me, one of the most interesting directions for art and thought.

How these people are different than Jad Fair and Daniel Johnston: There’s a darker, prettier room in the BVO house, because of the harmonium and cello on some songs, and generally richer tonal inclinations. Most songs are framed in seminal country-western, dance hall, and folk structures. More than the many contemporary groups who do so with less sincere ingenuity or humor, BVO at its dance-hall best recalls at least echoes of the sublime Canadian duo, Fraser & Debolt, whose LP With With Ian Guenther reemerged from out-of-print obscurity two years ago (http://fraserdebolt.com/audio.html).

“Forlorn” sounds like it could have been on the Ballad of Cable Hogue soundtrack. “Jesus” wistfully and rather eerily whispers: “Who’s fighting in the war/Who’s dying in the war/Who’s protesting the war/Jesus, Jesus…/Who’s the peddler on the street/Who’s the stranger that you meet/Who’s the liar who’s the cheat.” By the time a chill curls up your spine you have been lulled irretrievably forward.

“Unemployed” is a sprightly little circa-1900-style composition expanding on the possibilities in the situation. Its ragged/bouncy lilt recalls some of the earnestly strange approaches to folk, especially one by the Residents, on a sublime Ralph Records compilation, Potatoes (no link here, as I recommend hunting down the out-of-print LP version). “No Escape (from doom)” which veers surprisingly close to Band territory, is lovely. So I’m hardly surprised when the next track, “Homeless On The Street” — is as quietly compelling as some of John Lennon’s post-Beatles songs.

I think I could actually get a new friend to listen to this CD. Of course, most of the people who are drawn to me think I’m pretty different. “Different than what?” I sometimes wonder. But what I hope they want is that sense that something genuine and possibly unexpected might happen, then be followed by a nice Sunday dinner, after which we will watch a film, perhaps Me and You and Everyone We Know, that leads us to reconsider several things we previously thought we knew.

One of the tracks on this recording — “Forlorn II” has the kind of heels-in-the-air joy the Roots festival lost a few years ago, when all the old timers got too old or dead to make it and started to be replaced by people too cool to be so uncool they’re cool. That’s something I don’t even know how to explain, but if any of this sounds good to you, you probably understand, and might even like Mean Old World, which is a bit more country dance-hall than its slightly more Emo/contemporary predecessor, Maladroits Union, which I also like very much.

The only thing keeping me from all-out raving is the scratchy vocals, which are part of the reason for comparisons with Johnston and Fair – an acquired taste, for those willing to listen beyond surfaces. There’s also some room for sonic maturation, perhaps to include a greater merging or expansion from basic structures. BVO have not made a great record, but they have made a very good one, which doesn’t sound exactly like any other at the moment.

The Black and White

…But “Mews Too” most perfect moment comes from new-comers, Bogs Visionary Orchestra. Their song "Everybody's Broken" is vibrant and leaves me wonderstruck. This is what great comps are all about - finding a gem you'd never hear otherwise.

Press Release for "MEAN OLD WORLD"



Bogs Visionary Orchestra

Representatives of the Celestial Land

Jesus Freaks for the New Millennium

Step right up Ladies & Gentlemen! Believers or not! Feel all the joy & despair of the American Gothic fairground! Be amazed by Sideshow Freaks! A Brood of Vipers! Whitewashed Tombs! Eccentric Performers! Medical Marvels & Mutants! Anatomical Oddities & Weird Appliances! See Optical illusions! Strange Tattoos & Piercings! Curios & Curiosities!


Once Seen & Heard, Never to Be Forgotten!

He Makes Beautiful Things for God on His New Album:


Here are exquisite & realistic songs of Tragedy & Comedy expressed in glorious sound. A. Bogs believes in Grace, Justice, & Love, even when everything points to the contrary. He’s a bone-aching murder balladeer who can’t stop wearing a Gun. He left Vacation Bible School with Hank Williams whispering in his ears, & sees his world drowning in tears. Harmonicas mourn & lap steels weep as he walks around forlorn. Watch as a world-eating little worm wriggles around him. A. Bogs loves his beloved his lover his love. He sees Jesus in a fetus, he sees Jesus in fighters, dying people, & protesters. He sees Jesus in beggars, strangers, liars, & cheaters. Everything falls to pieces when he’s unemployed. Followed by a pale white rider & a beach-bleached prophet, he helps people on the street.

Members of the Maladroit Union:

Bobby Antosca & Art Baguer play bottom-feeder Bass;

Jill Pittman sings Angelic Backing Vocals;

Jose Delhart Motherplucks Lap Steel, Electric Guitar, Banjo, & Acoustic Guitar;

Elisa Flynn means no Harmonium;

Timothy Dick plays forward-moving Drums, Piano & Toy Piano;

Lydia Velichkovski plinks on the Piano;

Ernesto Gomez gets black & blue on the Harmonica;

Sean Hagerty soars on Violin & Electric Violin;

Kareem Goubran blows the trump of god;

Ero Gray: Soul claps & hits your cabeza with the Cabasa


in the history of the colony!

Come as you are! Be forlorn again! Art is for folks!

Admission: All yours for a friendly donation!

Resonance Journal

A bunch of people came up to me wanting to know the name of the third act, Bogs Visionary Orchesta. BVO is an act to keep an eye out for, with Danielson-esque kooky, banjo-y, bluegrassy songs and a tempo that makes it impossible to stay sedentary.

Fence Post

So there you have it folks, a visual artist with a musical mission to create and not just consume! Do yourself a favor and pick up Maladroits Union, Bogs Visionary Orchestra’s latest relic that is as eccentric as it is beautiful.