Sound studio

Khruangbin’s sound honors the cultures of the world but is something unique to them | Music

Khruangbin: “Sometimes we analyze each note before recording it.”

Like many music groups during the pandemic, Khruangbin has gone more than a year without playing a show. The psych-rock trio from Houston had also failed to make any of the songs on their 2020 album, Mordecaion the scene.

So before bassist Laura Lee, drummer Donald Ray “DJ” Johnson Jr., and guitarist Mark Speer could hit the road again in late 2021, they had to put in some more rehearsal time to feel like they were back in. the swing. as a live band.

“We had to come back after 600 days without a show,” says Lee, “and, for the first time, play songs we’ve never played before, let alone songs we haven’t played in almost two year. .”

Khruangbin not only hit the road, but returned to headlining. The tour that began last year continued this summer, visiting such notable venues as New York’s Radio City Music Hall and the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville before moving to amphitheaters this summer.

It’s a sign of the growing popularity of the trio, which was formed in 2009 by Johnson and Speer, who played in the St. John’s Methodist Church gospel band and then bonded with Lee out of shared love. for Afghan music.

Their sound is created by combining music from around the world, blending Thai funk, Jamaican dub reggae, Iranian and Asian pop with American R&B, funk and soul to create a distinctive original sound.

Finding global music isn’t hard, says Lee. “A lot of things happen naturally, that’s what we listen to. “I was in England for four years. At the end, I had a bit of a different accent, a different cadence to the way I spoke. You naturally pick up on the things you surround yourself with.

But Khruangbin’s key is not to reproduce this music, but to let it shine through as clearly read influences on the sound.

“We want to be able to go to Thailand and Ethiopia one day, play our songs and have them connect with the people there – that they can hear their music, but it’s not a copy,” she says. . “We’re trying to create something unique and it can’t be just one thing. With Mordecaiwe tried to attract everything, as much as we could.

Johnson says copying songs, phrases, or styles may not feel like lifeless appropriation to listeners unfamiliar with the original sounds, but replicating the work of others doesn’t ring true for him, Lee, and Speer.

“When you’re an artist, you know when you do something and it’s too referential, it’s not really you,” he explains. “We are very aware of that. A lot of people think you go into the studio and jam and this stuff comes out on its own. This is not the case. It’s done with a lot of thought. Sometimes we analyze each note before saving it. It’s how deep it can go, how microscopic it can get.

Khruangbin released three albums, 2015 The universe is smiling at you2018 With Todo el Mundo, and Mordecai. All were recorded in a barn west of Houston.

“It all starts with bass and drums,” Johnson says of the recording process. “The drums come in first, the bass follows, that’s the basis. In terms of setting, Mark is our singer. Even though he plays the guitar, he interprets a voice. The vocal lines are tonal, they create a melody.

“The songs are really simple in that sense,” he notes. “There’s the beats and rhythm of the drums, heavy bass inspired by reggae and the melody on top of that.”

Translate the Mordecai from songs to live performance is a challenge Khruangbin has had to work through, first in rehearsal and then on stage as the band takes their acclaimed live show “you have to see it to get it” on the road.

“I had no idea we’re considered such a great act to see,” Lee says. “I’m very proud of it. The record is eternal. The shows, for me, have a special quality. It happens once. You live it with all those special moments that will never happen again. Creating these moments is really something special for us.