Kongos on Kongos' rise to fame and performing at Boulevard Brew Fest
Heather Turk - AXS Contributor
Regardless of what type of music you listen to, Kongos’ “Come with Me Now” has been everywhere this year, from The Expendables 3 to “The Originals” to WWE’s Extreme Rules. Now, fans of the “accordion-tinged” rock song, as Billboard once described it, can hear the infectious rock track live when the South African brothers return to Las Vegas Sept. 27 as part of Boulevard Brew Fest, presented by MGM Resorts International and the Oregon Brewers Festival.
Previously scheduled to perform inside the MGM Grand Garden Arena as part of Kings of Leon’s 2014 Mechanical Bull Tour, Kongos, along with Young the Giant, Kings of Leon and others, will now perform in The Lot along the Las Vegas Strip. While Kongos’ drummer/vocalist Jesse Kongos said that playing inside an arena has its merits, he noted that performing outdoors suits the band better.
“Being an opening act, an outdoor venue suits us more, as people are more willing to pay attention to and check out a new band,” he told AXS.com.
Although the group performed at The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas just this past May, Jesse said he and his brothers Dylan (bass guitar and vocals), Daniel (slide and regular guitar) and Johnny (accordion and piano) are excited to return to the Entertainment Capital of the World, especially as part of such an “amazing bill.” For those wondering if having a band made up of all brothers opening for Kings of Leon was a coincidence (Kings of Leon is comprised of three brothers and their cousin, for those who are unaware), Jesse said he thinks that Kings of Leon picked Kongos as their opening act partially because of that reason.
“I think they wanted the bill to have sort of a family vibe,” he said. “It’s cool, though. We mesh together pretty well and share that brother history.”
When asked how the four brothers manage to work together so well—as everyone knows, it’s not always wise to mix business with family—Jesse joked that there used to five brothers in the band. In all seriousness, though, he said that once the four brothers got serious about making the band their career, no one wanted to be the one to screw it up.
“We still fight like sisters, though,” Jesse joked.
It also helps that the four guys are the sons of popular ’70s South African/British singer-songwriter John Kongos, who not only exposed them to variety of music at a young age (“Our dad had a massive record collection,” Jesse recalled), but also became their “guiding force” once they formed the group. As the Arizona-based quartet continues to climb up the charts and perform for larger audiences, Jesse said he always remembers something his father’s label told him at a young age that he passed down to his boys: “Never believe your own publicity.”
Jesse’s humble approach toward fame carries over into how he feels about the success of “Come with Me Now,” which marked the fastest-rising debut top 10 on Billboard’s Alternative chart since Lorde’s “Royals” and was recently certified Gold by the RIAA for digital sales in excess of 500,000. While he admitted that when Johnny wrote the song the band felt it had a “catchy, commercial” sound to it, he also acknowledged that a lot of the song’s success was due to pure luck.
“Really, it was a combination of so many factors: the listener’s initial reaction to the accordion, the catchy lyrics, how danceable it was—there was just so much luck involved,” he said. “But we always thought it would click with audiences if given some exposure. We just knew it would be hard to get the song on the radio since it had an accordion in it.”
If there’s one thing the brothers are great at, though, it’s not giving up on their music. In fact, the band’s debut album, Lunatic, was actually released in South Africa back in 2012 before being self-released in the states in late 2013 and then re-released when the band signed with Epic Records in 2014.
“We didn’t want to release an album without any buzz surrounding it,” Jesse said. “So we recorded some singles and sent them to a radio station in our hometown, 5FM. The program director put our song ‘I’m Only Joking’ in rotation and overnight it just blew up. But we had to start back at square one again in the states.”
Jesse admitted that there was “a year, a year and a half where nothing clicked.” During that downtime the band didn’t give up, though, and even wrote a lot of new songs that aren’t featured on Lunatic.
“We sort of got a head start on our next album,” he said. “Sometimes we’ll do one or two of the new songs live, especially when we’re headlining our own set, as it’s great to work them out [in front of an audience].”
While Kongos will only be performing for 35 minutes at Blvd Brew Fest, fans won’t want to miss the rockin’ set. As for the band, being an opening act actually works out to their advantage this time around given the venue change, as Jesse said he and his brothers are all big beer fans and always look forward to trying “good local beers—not commercial beers” while on the road.
“It’s actually in our rider,” he said. “We haven’t had a chance to try any local beers in Las Vegas yet, so hopefully our rider will be fulfilled.”
Tickets for the inaugural Blvd Brew Fest, featuring more than 50 handpicked award-winning Oregon beers from more than 35 breweries plus local selections from multiple Las Vegas-based craft breweries, are now on sale. Doors open at 5 p.m. and tickets cost $59 for general admission or $129 for VIP; both ticket options include $10 in tasting tickets. The concert is open to all ages. For more information or to purchase your tickets, visit blvdbrewfest.com.
For those who already purchased their tickets to see Kings of Leon’s 2014 Mechanical Bull Tour at the MGM Grand Garden Arena, tickets will be honored at the new venue or guests can receive a full refund at the original point of purchase. The deadline for refunds is Sept. 19 at 5 p.m.