Home > Interviews > Q&A: Kongos – November 2016

Q&A: Kongos – November 2016

Sophie Chadwick


Hi guys, so how are you today? Are you looking forward to tonight’s show?

Jesse: Yeah, yeah. We were in Glasgow last night and we’ve got three shows in the UK in this run so we’re happy to be back, we played London I think in July but other than that we haven’t been in the UK much in the last couple of years.

The Ruby Lounge is quite a small venue and is known for providing a space for upcoming artists who are trying to get their foot in the door. You have had phenomenal success, how does it feel playing here, do you like the intimacy or prefer bigger crowds?  

Johnny: Well we really are still trying to get things going here in the UK, we’ve had a lot of success in the states but we’re still relatively unknown here so it’s probably exactly the right size for us to just get our name out there, but it’s also fun playing small venues because there’s a certain energy in a small, compact space.   

Manchester has a pretty varied and expansive music history, it’s the home of some iconic artists like Oasis and The Smiths. What would you say have been key influences in terms of becoming a band and creating music together?

Jesse: Well it’s a pretty wide list because we just grew up listening to a very diverse set of music and our dad was a musician back in the 70’s and he had a very big record collection. He was kind of at the forefront of mixing African rhythms with rock music and I would say he’s probably literally the biggest influence on us because of growing up in that environment and him kind of guiding us, but then guys like Paul Simon, Bob Marley, you know weird, obscure tribal music, opera, it’s all kind of filtered into our subconscious I think and come out in our sound.   

So Egomaniac has influences from all of you, you each took part in the writing process. Was that something that you enjoyed, being able to contribute and put your own marks on the album?  

Jesse: Yeah I think that’s the only way it can go in this band, because we’re four dictators in a democracy you know. We have very similar likes and dislikes and we’re on the same page stylistically I think but we each have a slightly different tint on things so us each being able to write individually and put it out together, work on it and record it together is quite a good arrangement I think.

In terms of the music video for Take It From Me, your heads get expanded and inflated which is an obvious reference to Egomaniac as an album title, and you’ve said before that your heads do metaphorically get bigger when you get so much praise in this industry. Outside of that what do you do to keep yourselves grounded?

Jesse: We play small venues *laughs*.

Johnny: I think when you also play in a band with your brothers, I mean usually bands keep each other in check, but in this particular case it works being with brothers because you know how hard it is to get a compliment from your sibling. So that keeps us in check I think, we have a tight knit family.

Jesse: Yeah you just can’t get away with anything in this band, if anyone kind of steps out of line too much the rest will shut them down. That’s good in a sense that we’re honest enough with each other to keep each other in line.     

You’ve done a lot of expansive touring which is obviously exhilarating but must also be exhausting, what would you say are your favourite and least favourite parts of that?

Jesse: Well favourite parts are when you have a good show, that sounds cliché but that’s really the best part of it, it energises you for the next day or the next week, and also being able to see some really cool cities. We’ve been all over, we’ve been to South America, South Africa, well we grew up in South Africa, but all over Europe too, it’s taken us around the world and you don’t always have time to check it out but occasionally when you have a day off in a big city you can see some of the interesting parts. The worst part is the constant travel, especially in Europe when you’re on a bus in Europe because you never sleep well, the roads are bumpy and they’ve got all these rules about when the bus has to stop. Until you get to a reasonable level where it’s a little more cushy, it’s still a bit of a slog.

Johnny: I can show you a picture of our bus driver, he’s the worst part of the tour *laughs*.

In terms of the benefits of touring outweighing the negatives, if you are ever homesick is it the adrenaline that you feel keeps you going?  

Johnny: You get homesick for sure, but people would kill to do this job that we’re doing, there’s not a lot to complain about. You’re homesick but you know that if you were sitting at home you’d be bored because you work in an office job, everything has got its trade offs, and this has got a lot of upsides.

After the touring is finally done what are your immediate plans?     

Jesse: Well after this tour we go home for a little bit then we have about six or seven more shows in the US and then we’ll take some time off for Christmas and the holidays, and then we’ll be back at it. We still have a lot of territories that we have to get to with this album and we’ll probably come back to Europe, it takes a long time to let the cycle of al album play out, so it will be about another year at least of touring and then recording. It’s just a cycle.