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Byron Shire
May 14, 2021

Kooii – Brisbane calling

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Interview by Mandy Nolan

Brisbane-based Kooii are a band pushing boundaries in contemporary Australian music with their rhythm-driven fusion of afrobeat, reggae and funk.

How did Kooii come to be? Is it true that sometimes great bands just fall into place… and the shit ones just fall apart?

Maybe great bands are good at keeping their shit together. For sure some things just fall into place, like we all fell into the place called Brisbane and worked our way together. I say work because their was effort in bringing us together, but also, sure, we get drawn to the music we want to create. Sometimes I use to think the song of mine/ours In Your Freedom was about the band and containing (and not containing) the expansively creative souls within it.

How has being based in Brisbane helped develop your unique sound?

It’s between the sunny coast and Byron and so shares a bond with the musos in those places. There’s a distinctive kind of space in Bris that’s served the emergence of the music that comes out of it. It’s also a space where a lot is left up to you as far as choosing direction goes.

You spend a lot of time on the live circuit – how have your live shows changed or evolved over the years?

I think our energy is lot more open to the crowd. Our songs and style of music have changed, of course. The feel of the group continues to grow in confidence and get settled, encouraging dance even more.

What happens when you improvise? Do you let someone take the lead and follow? Or is it more synchronistic?

Someone normally takes the lead and a few keep their part steady and others follow. A good example is Lach (on guitar) – has his moment to take off and Dom (drummer) follows/encourages him while others keep their part regular.

Do you ever take a wild live show improvisation and try to tie it down for a new song?

It’s happened. There was this legendary gig under the Kafka guise years ago in the basement of Tongue and Groove, a venue not there anymore in West End. It got recorded on minidisk. We listened on and off to the distorted recording for years thinking about planting one of those grooves, which we did eventually. It’s on the shelf though at the mo; needs a bit of work.

What is your vision for the band?

Really? Geez. There’s plenty of ways of looking at it. A perhaps boring one but very practical and real is that we’d like it to be sustainable and that we be able to live of making music with this band, performing, recording, teaching, creating concerts. Not really boring at all, quite exciting. We’d love to tour overseas, especially Europe and Canada, and either perform or just sit, listen and join in in Africa.

What does Kooii want to give their audience?

As a musician to liberate yourself when you play and love what you’re doing and what everyone around is doing then you’re achieving great things. That’s the underlying formless thing to give an audience. As for its particular form with Kooii, hmmm – not sure. You’ll have to ask the other fellas what they want to do with Kooii and then we’ll jumble it together and present you with a Kooii Policy on that. But for me, if someone comes away from it feeling like they’ve danced and expanded so that their little worries are no more… then that’s cool.

What should we expect for the Byron show?

We’re playing a half-hour set the night before in support of Seun Kuti. We’re going to want to let loose our thing. Fyah Walk’s playing first at the Brewery as well. I’m looking forward to that. It’ll be a visit of a peak intensity for us being the EP launch. Hopefully not too many of the wanderers down there will have gone off to Eclipse already by then! Just hang back a little folk, we’ve got something to enjoy yourselves with.

They play the Byron Brewery on Saturday with Fyah Walk. Doors at 8pm. Tix $20.

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