By Patrick Saulnier
CALGARY – The accordion, the harmonic hook, the enticement…. “Come with me now!” We’ve all heard it, whether over the airwaves, in a commercial, on a TV show like Running Wild with Bear Grylls, a WWE wrestling promo, an Expendables movie, even on a late-night program with Jimmy Kimmel. I suppose that’s not too surprising given it reached the summit of Billboard’s Alternative Songs in ten weeks during 2014, the quickest song of a new band to top the chart since American rock band Evanescence’s 2003 track “Bring Me To Life.”
A few years on KONGOS feel that the time is right to “reintroduce themselves” to the globe. Johnny Kongos (accordion, keyboards, vocals) says that even though they’ve never actually gone away, it seems like it after so much time spent secluded in the studio. He and his brothers Jesse (drums, percussion, vocals), Daniel (guitar, vocals) and Dylan (bass guitar, lap slide guitar, vocals) have been hard at work putting the finishing touches on their new release, 1929: Part 1, the first installment of a three-album trilogy that rolls out over the next 18 months. To kick things off, they’ve chosen Vancouver to launch the tour.
“We love Canada! We’ve spent more time there than anywhere except the States. Not sure about this winter tour though,” Johnny reports with a good-natured chuckle. “We’ll see if we’re cut out for Winnipeg in January!”
Citing inspiration from legends Paul Simon and Jackson Browne, KONGOS aim for exquisite alternative grooves that have elements of African-influenced house music. Still hot off the press, the band’s latest anthem, “Pay For The Weekend,” rocks along with an elegant, but invigorating momentum that sets the tone for an immersive and dance-move evoking listening experience.
“We feel so strong about it,” states Johnny. “Conceptually and lyrically it makes a lot of sense with the 1929 theme. And sonically, it’s a real bridge of what people expect from us and where we’ve been headed. We’re kinda always moving and changing things because there are four writers. This album is going to sound like there’s four writers, but who are all packing a similar vibe.”
Departing from their label earlier this year, the new release will appear under KONGOS’ own banner — Tokoloshe Records — allowing them more creative control and freedom. Johnny says 1929 is “less about what radio seems acceptable and more about just going where the song wants to go.”
He adds, “We’ve always recorded, mixed and mastered ourselves, even directed our videos, which is one of the reasons we left the label world. We really do it all ourselves and didn’t want to be stuck in a system. There are times when you need to make that hard push, and we feel more comfortable being in the driver’s seat of all aspects when those times come.”
Adding to a “crazy, busy” year in 2018, the band’s eight-part video DocuSeries “Bus Call” was made available for free via KONGOS YouTube channel. The three and half hours of content looks at life on the road and how the “democracy of four dictators” finds a way to work on route to the new album. If you’re one of those people who wants to know what it’s like “being in a band with brothers and fighting and all that,” jokes Johnny, “go watch episode eight and all will be answered! It’s one of the most positively received things we’ve ever put out.”
KONGOS new album, 1929: Part 1 is out Jan. 18. Catch Kongos live Jan. 13 at Imperial (Vancouver), Jan. 16 at Commonwealth Bar & Stage (Calgary), Jan. 17 at the Starlight Room (Edmonton) and Jan. 19 at the Park Theatre (Winnipeg).commonwealth Bar & Stage, Imperial, Kongos, Park Theatre, Starlight Room