By Kevin Heffernan
Like you’re in a lounge in a movie
Bands that say stereotypical words like “cat” and “dig” in their interviews just earn points automatically from me. We did an interview with local act Vin DeRosa last year where he said “cat” 15 times and I was cracking up behind the camera until I was like, “Fuck yeah, that’s cool man.”
Khruangbin talks this way, and backs it up with music that is chill and funk as hell. The Friend Activity feed on Spotify has replaced Sirius XMU as my number one source of new music discovery. Khruangbin actually caught my attention by being something Rise’s Drew was seen listening to, I clicked and the rest is pure funk joy. “Khruangbin” means Airplane in Thai. Funny enough because 60s and 70s funk cassettes out of Thailand inspired the band’s first album in 2015, The Universe Smiles Upon You:
Appropriately, I left for three weeks in Thailand right after that, and had this music on rotation and found it the perfect accompaniment to a dozen different airport terminals and scooter-filled sidewalks throughout the region. 2018 seems to be Khruangbin’s real breakout, sitting down with interested music vloggers, live performances popping up all over YouTube, and claiming a coveted spot with NPR’s Tiny Desk Concerts. They’re spreading the funk love further around the world – the Houston-based trio is currently in Australia until the end of March.
The music seems fitting for having a beer in a dark basement bar in the middle of the afternoon, or plotting a heist in a Tarantino film. Bassist Laura Lee occasionally chimes in with a few lyrics like “Yes.” but the music is largely without any, allowing listeners to relate and apply it anywhere. Drummer Donald DJ Johnson gave up drumming when he realized how absolutely loaded the Houston scene was with them, and only picked the sticks back up for this project. Guitarist Mark Speer admits he goes into character for the band, wearing a wig to keep the group’s look consistent, and also revealing that it’s really smelly.
Second album, Con Todo El Mundo, moved west and captured its inspiration from India’s funk scene in 70’s and 80s’. Speer also mentions the endless search for hard-to-find funk out of China in the 70s and 80s, an era from which he says all the world’s best music comes. The band is in lockstep, listening to a region’s offerings together, and then heading into a cold bard they rent to jam and record onto cassette tapes:
Check these guys out, and see where they’re at on their tour. The music does not feel like winter, so at the very least, it’s gonna warm you up in an endless February.