Next Big Bands: Kongos Talks Egos, Hip-hop and Tour Riders


When people look at Kongos they might just see four white dudes playing rock music, but the band of is full of diversity. The four Greek-Mexican-American brothers have roots in South Africa, London and Arizonanot to mention they grew up with the influence of their father, recording artist John Kongos. Before they play Next Big Thing fest this week, Johnny (pictured left) took a few moments to chat from the road about egos, Hip-hop and staying sane on the road.

Your hit “Come With Me Now” has been used to promote video games, WWE, The Expendables and a couple car shows. What do you think about the song being used as a sort of anthem of masculinity?

J: I don’t know. It’s been used in such a variety of things so I don’t know if you could safely say it’s an anthem of any particular thing. There’s the obvious one, WWE, which is obviously very bro-y and kinda silly, basically. We don’t have a problem with that. People enjoy our music and there’s nothing I can say is wrong about that. The very first synchronization the song got was for a French film called Holy Motors, which is one of the most surrealistic, mind-bending films that I’ve seen in a long time. So it’s really played the full gambit. I think some people definitely associate it with sports and that, which is great. That helps pay the bills. But people pick their own interpretation of how they hear and feel about that song.

As we speak Donald Trump has just been chosen as our next president. How do you feel about performing at a festival in Florida of all places after this election?

J: Honestly the most basic answer I can give you is I don’t really care. We play music for people who enjoy our music, hopefully. I think it would be nice, actually, in some ways if that could remain a pure thing. Everything has been so polluted by politics and by this kind of division and obsession with this heir of narcissism. It would be nice if music could somehow stay slightly clean of that.

Your album is titled Egomaniac, and you’re on the Egomaniac tour. Is your music a commentary on that narcissism you mentioned?

J: All four of us brothers in the band, we write separately. And the past two or three years we saw that we were all writing about egomania and narcissism in a different variety of facets and how that affects human existence. And it was this common theme across everything we were writing. So Danny, our guitarist, said, “Why not just call our album Egomaniac and it’ll be a fixture of this whole thing.”

I think this is the perfect year for it and we just happened to luck out. Although I think if you’re actually honest about that idea of narcissism, it’s always been driven in human existence. It’s just been particularly visible this year with the Trumps of the world and the Clintons of the world. There’s a certain amount of narcissism in anybody who thinks they know how to run the world much better. In fact that’s big for us in a new song we’re going to be going to radio with called “The World Would Run Better.” It’s pervasive of all existence right now and in general.

You recently tweeted, “If I had 3 cents for every triplet I’ve heard in hip hop music this year I’d start a record label.” Was that a diss?

I love hip-hop. I grew up and went through, well it’s not a phase really. I still, at least 15 times a week, put on Dr. Dre’s 2001 album. So it’s been a huge influence on me. With hip-hop I noticed this trend in the last two years or so of rapping using a triplet—that subdivision of rhythm that’s just becoming a caricature and comical of itself. So in no way was that a diss on hip-hop. In a general way it was just a diss on something that was annoying me, in the same way you could look at whatever. Some country music could be like “I’m sick of everyone always singing about their truck” or whatever they’re singing about this year.

What’s on your tour rider? What’s the one thing you need on the road.

J: Here’s the thing that’s always on our rider and it sounds like a tiny thing: a trash can in the dressing room. It seems like the silliest thing, but we put it in giant, red letters because you’d be surprised the amount of dressing rooms we get into and there’s no trash can. Then you end up just throwing shit all over the room and it looks like you’re that band that just trashes dressing rooms. But most of the time it’s because they don’t put a goddamn trash can in the room.

So you guys aren’t the reckless band?

J: No, when you’re on the road as much as we are, and I think this is the case with a lot of bands these days, you have to tour so much as part of your career that you actually start finding routines that work. Otherwise you just go insane. There’s only so long you can do the crazy, party, old school rock and roll lifestyle. We toured with Kings of Leon and Young the Giant, and everyone’s actually pretty chill and health conscious. Rock and roll is dead, and I say that jokingly. Led Zeppelin would be very ashamed of what rock and roll has turned into, but it’s also reality. It’s a hard job it terms of the amount of time that’s put in. People are just trying to stay healthy and sane on the road.

Check out more Next Big Thing artist interviews.

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