Q&A: Koo Koo Kanga Roo is a Kid's Band for Adults
Koo Koo Kanga Roo are two guys name Neil and Bryan (first names only, please), who together are the epitome of the love them or hate them musical act.
Hailing out of Minneapolis, Neil and Brian first began fusing their twisted hip-hop and dance music with kindergarten memories about four years ago. Since then, they've done major tours with the likes of Reel Big Fish and have garnered an audience that ranges in age from 4 to 24. With these guys, it's just iPods and costumes as they lead crowds in sing-a-longs concerning the best sounding letters in the alphabet and the joys of eating sandwiches without the crusts.
Kind of like a really demented and even more nerdy version of They Might Be Giants, Koo Koo Kanga Roo want everything to be as dance-minded and light-hearted as possible. In anticipation of tonight's show at the Prophet Bar and speaking from the tour van while traveling through Florida, Neil was kind enough to talk to DC-9 about being a kid's band for adults.
Certainly, some people might view the band as a novelty or a joke band. Does that bother you?
We like being jokey. We like having a gimmick. I think we agree that we are a joke band. We just set out to create a really fun show that you've never seen before. I think it was a very original idea and it's a high energy show. If there's some gimmicks along the way, that's OK with us. We like to take things to the next level and have different ideas. We want to put something different into the mix because the world's gotten too boring.
Is the band better suited to a live stage than on CD? And is that why all of your songs are available for free download?
Yes, you got it. We create everything for the show. We want people to have access to the songs so that they can sing along at the shows. We want them to know all the words. It didn't cost us very much to record the songs. It was just a couple thousand dollars. We want people to have the music as immediately as possible. All we do is record everything onto our computer and then play it back on our iPods, minus the vocals. Then it's all just dancing and costumes and teaching the audience all the moves. The whole thing is done in the name of interacting with the audience as much as possible. We are very much into showmanship. We've always liked bands that put on a great show. Bands like the Flaming Lips and Of Montreal. Those bands really inspired us to go beyond the normal, not to just go with the flow, but do something different.
Didn't you start out in a more conventional indie band?
Yes, but even though Bryan and I both started out being in a folk/pop band, we were always interested in hip-hop and dance music. Now, we just try to be funny and have a dance party at each show.
Who came up with that description of the band as a cross between the Beastie Boys and Sesame Street?
I don't remember the writer, but I understand how difficult it is to put into words exactly what we do. We're really not a band. We're some sort of jokey act. We really struggle with what we do. We're not that serious. We do a lot of hip-hop. We have a lot of energy. We're kind of like a kid's band for adults.
How do you come up with the subject matter for you songs?
We try to think of stuff we liked when we were kids. We just wanted it to be light-hearted and fun, something kids and adults could enjoy.
What's the age range of your typical audience?
Everywhere we go it's kind of different. In our hometown of Minneapolis, we play shows for 4 year olds. We are a real kid's band. But on tour, we play for crowds of all ages, people who are 25, the same age we are. We have little kids and college kids come to our shows.
I heard that if a dance move takes too long to explain, that you simply go on to the next song.
We want the audience to be able to participate all at once. We don't want to have gaps where people are not dancing or singing a-long. We try to keep everything super simple. Most of the people in a venue may have not seen us before, so we have to keep the dance moves easy to learn.
The band has had some high profile opening gigs for regular rock acts. How have those crowds responded to what you guys do?
We played with Reel Big Fish and the Aquabats and that crowd was really into what we were doing. Those fun, festival type crowds suit us just fine. Our whole band is based on touring, on performing live.
There have to be some people in the crowd who are thinking "what the hell is this?"
Those types are there, especially at the big shows. There are guys shooting their middle fingers at us. We make fun of them. We ask people who are having a good time to go over and hug those angry guys.