It’s a long way from London to Phoenix. It’s even further from Johannesburg.
Daniel, Dylan, Johnny and Jesse Kongos are not only brothers, but also band mates who have made the trek, and now call Phoenix home.
The band makes good ol’ snap your fingers to the beat, funky pop-rock music, and the places they’ve lived have definitely had a musical influence on them.
The brothers are in the studio now working on their second album, which has been in the works for a while, though not because these guys are just sitting around doing nothing. DPJ talked with Johnny Kongos about coming to Phoenix, the band’s upcoming album and, of course, the music.
“We get perfectionist about [the album],” Johnny says. “It’s getting close. We’re aiming for some time at the end of the year.”
Every month, Kongos will release a song from the album. “It’s a Good Life” and “Come with Me Now” are now available on the band’s website for free.
“It helps get a little bit of buzz,” Johnny says of releasing each song.
And it’s been working. “It’s a Good Life” has been one of Dallas’ KXT FM’s top songs for the past two or three months.
Although the band hasn’t even been to Dallas, they’ve been thinking of touring after the album is done and going there just because of their popularity. Right now, they’re focusing on grabbing the attention of Phoenix and LA. They’ve played LA many times and will be playing at the House of Blues Foundation Room at the end of August.
The brothers were young when they came to Arizona, but they definitely noticed how different it was going to be.
“[Phoenix] is literally the other side of the world in every way,” Johnny says.
Eventually, they want to make it back to London, but for right now their pockets can only afford Phoenix and LA.
“Phoenix is really great,” Johnny says. “Downtown is really starting to get a scene now. When you go Downtown and a couple places in Tempe, there is a scene happening.”
The Lost Leaf has become the band’s favorite place to play, and they jam there pretty consistently.
“We play a three- to four-hour set there; we play whatever we want, and it has an amazing vibe,” Johnny says.
If you see them live at the Lost Leaf, you’ll truly see music at its rawest. Kongos improvises most of its set, with just a small form of how their song is going to go.
“When it gets packed in there and [the crowd] reacts, we just feed on the energy,” Johnny says. “You can sit in the studio and never know if it connects to people.”
The stage is the one place where Kongos can really let loose, but don’t think these brothers don’t get at each other’s throats from time to time.
“We do fight a lot,” Johnny admits. “We’re brothers at the end of the day. We actually live together, so the farthest we can go is just a couple hundred yards.”
Kongos will play one of its epic sets on Saturday at the Lost Leaf, so stop by and experience their music for yourself. Don’t forget you can download “It’s a Good Life” and “Come with Me Now” FREE just by signing up on their website.
If You Go: Kongos at the Lost Leaf
Saturday, July 31, 9 p.m. until close
914 N. 5th St. in Evans Churchill (light rail at Roosevelt Station) — 602.258.0014
The band, comprised of Charlie Brand (vocals, guitar), Rick Schaier (vocals, drums), Algernon Quashie (guitar, keyboard) and Alex Gerber (vocals, bass), was founded by Brand and Schaier in 2006, and they had friends fill in until they found Quashie and Gerber last year.
The Mini Ts have a few notches on their belt when it comes to touring. They toured for seven months in 2009, playing some notable shows with Ben Folds. This year, they’ve already toured with indie bands Free Energy and The Morning Benders.
Now supporting Fortress on the road, DPJ chatted with Brand as he was prepping for a show in Seattle.
“We listen to a lot of music, read and watch movies,” Brand says about what the band does on tour. They explore the cities they play in quite a bit, too. Amongst their favorites: San Francisco, their new hometown of New York and Phoenix, of course.
In all this time on the road, the band has played around with its sound as well. Brand thinks Fortress will be familiar enough to old fans, but it also expands the band’s sound.
“It’s more psychedelic and has more of an experimental element to it,” he says.
Miniature Tigers got their start playing all over Downtown in their Phoenix days at Modified Arts, The Rhythm Room, The Trunk Space and The PHiX. Now, they have been recognized in music bibles like Rolling Stone and SPIN, and will be playing this year’s Lollapalooza, yet Brand feels their musical success has been “slow and steady.”
Yet they’ve hardly been moving slowly lately, having recently shot a video for their new single, “Gold Skull,” produced by Neon Indian, and readying Fortress and an extensive touring itinerary.
Fortress will officially be released on Tuesday, the same day Miniature Tigers will be in Phoenix to play at the Rhythm Room. The Spinto Band, Owan Evans and Phoenix-based rockers Kinch and are also on the bill. The show starts at 7:30, and tickets are only $10 in advance or $12 at the door.
For a preview, listen to “Gold Skull” now.
When you first drive up to The Trunk Space, you see just a small sign and an even smaller parking lot. When you walk toward the venue, more often than not a small house cat is walking around or just chilling on someone’s car.
You’re usually greeted at the door by co-owners JRC and Stephanie Carrico, who you will always see with a penguin side bag in which the insides are always a mystery.
JRC and Stephanie have created a home to teenagers all over. You walk into The Trunk Space feeling as if you’ve just walked into another world where everyone looks at you as a new friend.
There’s a photo booth to the left and a coffee cart to the right. Art, crafts and clothes fill up the room and a small stage in the corner reminds you that this is indeed a venue.
On the walls, awards from New Times‘ Best of Phoenix hang like trophies. The records at your right carry artists you’ve probably never heard of and a crate full of singers and bands with Trunk Space-approved mustaches.
The Trunk Space becomes your home for the next couple hours while JRC and Stephanie pose as parents running around, making sure you get a flyer, making sure the band is on time and making sure everyone is sticking around for all the acts.
Opened in 2004, The Trunk Space, carries theater, music and the arts.
“That’s why we called it The Trunk Space, cause it’d be like an old trunk where you open it up and it’s always a surprise,” Stephanie says.
Before it was The Trunk Space, the room hosted Vaudeville in 1904, then became a number of things, from an Indian motorcycle shop to a grocery store.
JRC and Stephanie used to run a coffee cart together inside the former Paper Heart Gallery further down Grand Avenue, but after a year of working there, they decided it was time to break off and start their own thing. Six years later, The Trunk Space has made a permanent residence in Downtown Phoenix.
Local and national acts have come from all over and filled The Trunk Space with memorable moments.
“Andrew Jackson Jihad has been huge in helping us, and I think we’ve been huge in helping him,” Stephanie says of the Downtown-based folk-punkers. The Trunk Space has also made a permanent mark on Andrew Jackson Jihad.
“Sean from Andrew Jackson Jihad got 1506 tattooed on his arm (the address of The Trunk Space), but through the front window [of the venue] it’s backwards,” Stephanie admits. JRC, Stephanie and a couple others all have 1506 tattooed backwards.
“I think we’re officially a gang,” Stephanie says, while JRC adds, “We didn’t force any of them.”
Countless local acts, as well as artists like Matt and Kim, Joe Jack Talcum from The Dead Milkmen and Xiu Xiu have all performed at The Trunk Space. From theater to music to art, they host it all. There is always something going on at The Trunk Space, so there’s no excuse on why you shouldn’t be visiting this amazing, one-of-a-kind venue.
The Trunk Space is located at 1506 Grand Avenue. For a list of upcoming events, head here.
The band is comprised of Illya Riske, Wasef El-Kharouf, Owen Marshall, Dave Gironda, Tobie Milford and Chris Kasych.
Everyone trades places playing guitar and keyboards, but they also incorporate bass, drums, trumpet and a violin to add lushness to their sound.
The Whisperlights started in February 2009, and after gaining their spot here in Arizona, they hope to repeat the success in other states, as their first West Coast tour started a couple days ago.
Their songs are quirky and fun, but most of all surprising — they’ll have you on your feet dancing in no time with their dark, electronic pop sound.
The band’s song process is a huge team effort where every member takes a part in completing a song.
“Seventy-five percent of the time each of us will individually write a song with lyrics and basic structure and then 25% of the time somebody will just come up with something that we like, develop it into a song, someone will come in and write lyrics for it,” Riske says.
The Whisperlights are more than just bandmates and friends, they’re more like brothers. They have so many inside jokes that no one outside their circle knows what they’re talking about and they email each other constantly throughout the day.
“I don’t think there’s ever an hour where we’re not talking to each other via email about something,” El-Kharouf chimes in.
“It’s really homey. It’s like playing in your house,” Riske says.
The rest of the band joins in saying they love the people, lights and how loud it gets in there. Whenever the band plays there, El-Kharouf has a plan of his own, too.
“The Roosevelt is right down the street, so I’m fond of going over there and recruiting people over there to come back. It never goes over well… the DJs yelled at me, screaming, ‘Stop trying to steal people!’” El-Kharouf admits.
Outside of Arizona, the band has only played in Las Vegas at a festival, so to say the least, they have been looking forward to this first tour.
On the road, the band said they can’t wait for long nights of Scrabble, Uno, backgammon, being in the van with each other and 20 questions. However, Gironda already warns the band that his answer for everything in 20 questions is “Indiana Jones,” so the games may not last long.
On tour they’re supporting their newly released EP, Wake Up Dead, but you can catch them here at home at the Lost Leaf on July 29.
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Target Free Sizzlin’ Summer Saturdays in July at Heard Museum
Parents now have a place and time to take the kids during the summer to escape the heat. Adults can enjoy the museum while kids enjoy the free arts and crafts, dance performances and artist demonstrations, and meet popular children’s authors, all thanks to Target.
The fun at the Heard takes place every Saturday in July. This Saturday is “Fancy Flyers” day, with arts and crafts paying homage to our favorite winged animals. Dance performances by the Yellow Bird Dancers will rile the crowd. Kids will walk away with treats and a goody bags filled with activities, crayons, stickers and more.
For more information, please call 602.252.8848 or visit heard.org/Sizzlin. The Heard Museum is located at 2301 N. Central Ave. in Midtown (light rail at Encanto Station).
A Tiki good cause
Refuse to have a case of the Mondays in July, thanks to Hula’s Modern Tiki. Every Monday, the restaurant will be donating 10% of its proceeds to Ronald McDonald House Charities of Phoenix.
Hula’s “Mahalo Mondays” started in March and has since raised over $7,500 to organizations such as the Southwest Center for HIV/AIDS, The Red Cross Haitian Relief Fund, The Boys & Girls Clubs and Free Arts Arizona.
So, end Mondays on a wonderful note with a delicious meal at Hula’s Modern Tiki and give to amazing causes.
Hula’s Modern Tiki is located at 4700 N. Central Ave. in Uptown (light rail station at Central/Camelback) — 602.265.TIKI
Beat the heat and keep the beat at Portland’s
Portland’s Restaurant and Wine Bar just added some new flavor to its Saturday nights with live music and special prix fixe dinners.
During dinner, you can enjoy live acoustic music every Saturday night featuring local artists like Shelby James, Betsy Ganz, Jeff Schnuck and Zubia + DeGuvera from 8 to 11 p.m.
The special three-course prix fixe dinner is only $25 with mouth-watering meals like tempura rock shrimp, Stilton blue cheese bistro steak or sustainably farmed Scottish salmon. And, don’t forget dessert, with the tiramisu or Claire’s flourless chocolate torte.
Portland’s is located at 105 W. Portland Ave in Roosevelt (light rail at Roosevelt Station) — 602.795.7480