The KONGOS roll through the Fine Line on January 21st to promote their new album, 1929. They gave Music In Minnesota a preview of what is to be expected.
MIM: So have you been busy with your 1929 album?
KONGOS – Danny: We were busy finishing up the first part of 1929, which will be 10 songs. It comes out January 18, the tour starts January 9th, and then we’ll get back in the studio when we’re done with that run and get working on the next two parts of 1929.
MIM: Why did you split your album into two separate parts?
KONGOS – Danny: We have a lot of material and we’re not going to finish in January, but it’s all kind of related, at least sonically. We’ve been doing it in this new room in LA, and we just wanted to make it a three-part album. So, there was a bit of thread and we could release the amount of material and have it all be related. Release structure, obviously, is whatever you want now. I like the idea, a year of music, 10 songs at a time.
MIM: What is the theme for 1929 and the “Pay for the Weekend” single?
KONGOS – Danny: As you know, 1929 is a famous economical bubble. But we figured there are some bubbles, emotional ones as well. We liked the theme of a little bubble bursting, you finally get to access a bit of reality. That’s kind of what was cascading through our lyrics. A lot of times, we write separately, and then we bring our ideas to each other and realized we’re kind of thinking along the same lines. So “Pay For The Weekend” is a bit of an instant karma kind of inside joke, it’s a pizza party song on the outside, but inside it’s talking about karma. We feel like bubbles are everywhere, and pervasive, and they burst all the time.
MIM: Tracks off 1929 seem to be a bit funkier, and lighter, than a couple of your hit singles. For example, “Come With Me Now.” What has changed from that heavy song to a new sound that’s not so heavy?
KONGOS – Danny: I think it has a lot to do with the room we’re in, because (that) directs the sounds you like. “Come With Me Now” was an anomaly because we all write, separately, so we get four flavors going in the band. “Come With Me Now” was not really our sound and it happened to be the song which became the most popular. At the time that it was out, we had a bunch of stuff. If you’re listening to the debut album, it will actually be closer in line to 1929. We try not to limit whatever we’re doing. And if it results in something like “Come With Me Now,” fine. If it results in this stuff, which is not as heavy or not as aggressive, it’s more not interfering than seeking to do something different.
MIM: As you previously stated, you’re based out of LA. The internet says you’re based out of Phoenix. When did you guys make the move?
KONGOS – Danny: We moved a couple years ago, actually, but we were touring a bunch. We only kind of settled in this year.
MIM: Could you give a broad overview of what Bus Call is about?
KONGOS – Danny: It’s our take on touring. It’s our story but also parallels touring in general from a band side and from a crew side. We felt the highest levels of touring, people on private jets and playing arenas, had been covered. Van touring had been covered. We wanted to cover this kind of middle ground where a lot of bands are at, where people are not aware of how it works and what goes into it, who on a crew does what, etc. We wanted to cover that as realistically as possible. And then over the course of filming, we realized there was a kind of underlying brotherhood or family aspect coursing through it. So that took shape in the editing room.
MIM: What was it like having cameras follow you around for your entire tour?
KONGOS – Danny: We “boiled the frog” slowly on that one. It was usually a camera guy we knew. It was it was only a couple of times there were two cameras. Even then we were super familiar with them, it was not as invasive as you would think it is. It’s more of a practical hassle. You wake up and somebody is ready to put a live mic on you. It’s an annoyance at the time. We knew everybody was involved in the project, including the crew, they will really cool about it. When you’re in the middle of loadout, the last thing you want to be thinking about is some F’ing guy filming you. It wasn’t as invasive. It was a slightly new experience, almost like performing your life. If you’re aware of the camera.
MIM: What’s it like touring with your four brothers?
KONGOS – Danny: It’s a little hard for me to compare because we’ve been doing it for a long time and my two older brothers played in other bands. Mostly it’s been us for the whole time. I think that the brother thing adds another level of ego and tension to it, but also trust. You got about three people you can actually trust. If you spend enough time you get really familiar with people, and we’ve had mostly the same crew a lot of our last touring years. You get really close to people, it’s like being in the trenches without any threats. It does build camaraderie.
MIM: I’m going to ask an off-topic question still having to do with brotherly love: the Instagram post on Thanksgiving about your brother’s yoga helping with some personal issue. Did you ever figure that out?
KONGOS – Danny: We were reluctant to put that in the show, and afraid some may be offended by this. We then decided to put it in. Everybody seemed to relate it with similar arguments in their families or whatever. Yeah, I mean, to be honest, they got me into yoga. Yeah, they won. I can say with total confidence nothing has changed about my being or soul. Nothing has worked.
MIM: Being the lead singer, what is it like being the youngest brother and voice for the entire band?
KONGOS – Danny: We switch off singing and sing the songs we write. I sing three or four songs live and then Dylan sings a bunch of them. And Jesse the drummer sings a bunch of them. Jon, the accordion player, sings a couple, he has Dylan sing some of his other songs when it’s out of his range. We’re a bit like the Eagles, we trade off. We become a temporary dictator. If you wrote the song, it’s a democracy, until the songwriter put his foot down. That’s our system that allows for collaboration.
MIM: Is there a band member who is a powerhouse writer or do you distribute the work equally?
KONGOS – Danny: Fairly equally. Jesse, the drummer is the most prolific. He writes the most. What ends up on the album? It depends what’s going on at the time. For example, Egomaniac was almost exactly equal distribution of writers. This album will be Jesse and Jonny heavy, I think. And then the next album will be Dylan heavy, so it kind of changes up. Again, Jesse is the most prolific.
MIM: What’s it like recording own personal label versus having a corporate label?
KONGOS – Danny: The recording side of it hasn’t changed. Lunatic we recorded before we signed with Epic and just released it. With Egomaniac, they (the label) didn’t come to the studio until we delivered the album. That aside, we’ve always been independent. We’ve always self-produced and have done everything that way. What’s changed is there’s definitely a weight off of our shoulders in terms of worrying about this behemoth of an organization and whatever opinions they may decide to have one day. There’s definite freedom in the studio, and there’s a lightheartedness to it. You don’t take everything seriously because you don’t have to anticipate some suit having an opinion about the sh*t your doing.
MIM: Those are all the questions I have, thank you for taking the time to talk with us and good luck on your 1929 tour.
KONGOS – Danny: Thank You!