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Interview:
Kongos at Saint Andrews Hall, 5 Things to Know
 

By Gary Graff
ggraff@digitalfirstmedia.com, @GraffonMusic on Twi

» See more SOUND CHECK

It's been an eventful past few years for Kongos.



The band of brothers from South Africa, now based in Phoenix, has revamped its entire business operation, including getting out of a record label deal after 2016's "Egomaniac" album. The group -- whose music has been widely used on TV broadcasts and in ads -- stayed the creative course, however, creating a new album, "1929: Part 1," that came out Jan. 18. It also launched an eight-part online series called "Bus Call" about life on tour, in addition to hosting a weekly podcast called "The Front Lounge."



Things are busy, in other words, but not so much so that Jesse Kongos can't hop on the phone to talk about the group's brave new world...



Kongos, 35, says that staying busy with music helped he and his three brothers navigate the various changes in the group's operations. "We were going through an extremely creative period in the studio. All these new songs and sounds were coming out, everybody was writing. It's sort of a relief right now that we feel we can start putting stuff back out there and get our name back out there -- not quite starting from zero, but a kind of a starting over. There's energy to that"



On "1929," Kongos went for what Jesse calls "a combination of very organic, gritty, wooden-sounding stuff with these electronic sounds." The group worked in a new studio in Los Angeles, which he says had "a very specific sound, especially for drums and any live instruments. Danny, our guitar player, got an obsession with these analog synthesizers and started buying all these old instruments; Our dad (British singer-songwriter John Kongos) had a few pieces as well that we sort of robbed from him, and the merging of old and new sound seemed to be a thread -- not on every song, but it definitely brought some key sonic elements on the new album."



The "1929" title makes both a historic and political statement, according to Kongos. "One of the songs has the phrase, 'I want to party like it's 1929.' That's such a significant date in American history and world history; It was the end of an era when the stock market crashed, and at the same time there was this excitement and swelling going on before that bubble burst. We're all sort of sensing that right not in the world, not just politically or economically but also personally and in terms of everything that's going on in social media and all of that. So it seemed like a good title to go wit



The album's first single, "Something New," includes the lyric "How do we rise above this wall?," which Kongos acknowledges may take on a certain connation right now. "We thought about it because of the obvious negative connotations. But not everything in the world is pretty, and our music covers a wide range of feeling and subjects. Obviously it's a very scary but also exciting time -- you can approach it from fear or from another instinct -- maybe a little bit of both."



The "Part 1" portion of the "1929" title indicates there will be more, and Kongos says that music will hopefully come sooner rather than later. "As we got down to making the final cut we realized we had way too many songs for a single album. At the moment our plan is for three parts to roll out over the next 18 months or so; We have another 20, 25 songs that are in various states of completion. That's the benefit of having four writers -- the load is shared because we all have the impulse to write. It's finishing the recordings that's the hard part. It's hard to get four people together and agree. We like to say we're a democracy of four dictators."



Kongos and Fitness perform Thursday, Jan. 24, at Saint Andrews Hall, 431 E. Congress St., Detroit. Doors at 7 p.m. $25 advance, $30 day of show. 313-961-8358 or saintandrewsdetroit.com.

Web Site: www.saintandrewsdetroit.com

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