By Jess Winans
What do South Africa, alternative rock and an accordion have in common?
They’re all elements of alternative-rock band Kongos, playing at the Music Box on Sunday, Feb. 17.
The unique Kongos sound traveled from Pretoria, South Africa, to the U.S. in October of 2013 with the self-release of their 2012 album, “Lunatic.” A year after, their catchy-tunes, “I’m Only Joking” and “Come with Me Now,” overwhelmed radio airwaves and found their way into the American alternative music scene. World Wrestling Entertainment later made “Come with Me Now” its official theme song for their pay-per-view program, “Extreme Rules.” Shortly after, producers of the motion picture “The Expendables 3” used the tune in its soundtrack.
Flash-forward to present day. The Kongos brothers launched their first podcast, “The Front Lounge,” released studio album Egomaniac in 2016 and 1929: Part 1 in 2019 since the release of Lunatic.
San Diego Uptown News (UTN) spoke with Johnny Kongos (accordion, keyboards and vocals) about the newest album, “1929: Part 1,” the band’s South African influence and its changing sound.
Uptown News (UTN): When did you start making music?
Johnny Kongos (JK): As a band, officially 2003, but [we] have been playing our whole lives really.
UTN: How would you say your South African roots influence your sound?
JK: From Maskandi to more modern styles like Kwaito and Gqom, there is such a variety and depth to the South African musical culture that its influence is far reaching in our music. Growing up listening to South African music made its way into our subconscious and eventually it comes out in a new way when we write and record.
UTN: Do you have a favorite song from your new record, “1929: Part 1”?
JK: “Wild Hearts” is my favorite song I didn’t write and “Stand Up” is my favorite song that I wrote. I think it has possibly one of the best accordion solos ever recorded in my humble and objective opinion.
UTN: What was the first song you ever wrote as a band?
JK: The only song that we sort of wrote together was “I Want It Free” from [our album] “Egomaniac.” We pieced various verses and chorus and lyrics that we each had lying around together.
UTN: How do you think your sound has changed over the years? What do you say to fans or critics who have said your sound has changed?
JK: I think our sound changes even within one album, so I think critics and fans are correct in saying that it has changed over the years. It would be a sad thing if it didn’t change.
UTN: What’s next for Kongos? Do you see yourself doing anything else but music?
JK: Opening a restaurant perhaps.
For tickets to see next week’s show, which features opener Fitness, visit bit.ly/kongos-show.
—Reach Jess Winans at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sara is the editor of San Diego Uptown News.