Khruangbin

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Khruangbin
Khruangbin performing in Victoria Park, London (2018)
Khruangbin performing in Victoria Park, London (2018)
Background information
OriginHouston, Texas, United States
GenresPsychedelia, soul, funk, instrumental rock, dub
Years active2009 (2009)–present
LabelsDead Oceans
Night Time Stories
Associated actsLeon Bridges
Websitekhruangbin.com
Members

Khruangbin (/ˈkrʌŋbɪn/ KRUNG-bin; Thai: [kʰrɯàːŋ.bin], เครื่องบิน) is an American musical trio from Houston, Texas, with Laura Lee on bass, Mark Speer on guitar, and Donald Ray "DJ" Johnson Jr. on drums.[1] The band is known for blending global music influences, such as classic soul, dub and psychedelia.[2] Their debut studio album, The Universe Smiles Upon You (2015), draws from the history of Thai music in the 1960s, specifically from Luk thung, while their second album, Con Todo El Mundo (2018), has influences from Spain and the Middle East.[1] Speer, Lee, and DJ also host "AirKhruang" radio shows on NTS Radio and Facebook Live.[3]

Background[edit]

Speer and Johnson met in 2004 while playing in Rudy Rasmus' St. John's Methodist Church gospel band in Houston, Texas. The church employed Speer as the guitarist and Johnson as the organist.[4] “When we first started the band, we wanted to have a formula,” he says. “It’s like, ‘This is what we do, and we’re not gonna try and go outside the box too much. We’re gonna explore the box we’re in. I’ve always been a big fan of that. I used to be in bands where was like, ‘Man, we’ve gotta think outside the box!’ And all I’m thinking is: ‘You guys don’t even know.’ Music should never be just for the sake of being experimental. Before you even start, you have to know what you’re experimenting with first.” Speer said.[5]

In 2007, Speer met Lee through friends, where they initially connected over a shared love of Afghan music and Middle Eastern architecture[disambiguation needed].[6] In 2009, Lee started to learn the bass with guidance from Speer. After playing for six months, she auditioned and got the gig to be the bassist for Yppah on his upcoming tour. Speer already had the gig as guitarist for Yppah and had encouraged Lee to audition.[7] In 2010, both Lee and Speer went on tour with Yppah who opened for Bonobo.[8]

The tour motivated the two of them to make music together more seriously, leading them to form Khruangbin.[9] Speer and Lee went to a barn where they developed the bass-heavy, psychedelic sound that became the basis of the band's aesthetic.[9] Upon their return, they asked Johnson to join the band as drummer, to play simple break-beats under the guitar and bass.[10] The barn, located in the 300-person town of Burton, Texas, would become the site of all future Khruangbin recording sessions.[11] The band has a longterm working relationship with Houston-based engineer Steve Christensen.[12]

When asked to play their first gig, Lee, who was learning to speak Thai at the time, decided they should use her favorite Thai word "khruangbin" (Thai: เครื่องบิน; RTGSkhrueang bin, lit. Flying thing), which means "flying engine", literally, or "aeroplane," as their name.[13] Speer said that, had they had the foresight to predict the band's success, they might not have chosen a name that was so difficult to pronounce.[10] The band's name symbolizes the international set of influences that shaped the band's formation.[13]

A notable part of the band's visual style is the black wigs that Lee and Speer wear on stage, and during promotional interviews and photoshoots. Originally this was to help them move from the stage to the merchandise stand without being recognised during early tours.[14]

Career[edit]

After touring with Bonobo, the artist featured Khruangbin's song, 'Calf Born in Winter,' on his 2014 Late Night Tales compilation.[15] The song became one of the most popular tracks on the record, helping create an initial audience[9] for the band's first EP, History of Flight, and debut record, The Universe Smiles Upon You, in 2015.[16]

Shortly thereafter, Khruangbin were named The Guardian's "New Band of the Week,"[13] opening for acts like Father John Misty,[6] Tycho,[17] Chicano Batman, and Massive Attack.[18] They also joined the festival circuit, playing a string of festivals like Glastonbury, Bonnaroo, ACL, Outside Lands, Desert Daze, and South by Southwest.[17]

In January 2018, Khruangbin released their second album, Con Todo El Mundo.[17] The title of the album came from Laura Lee's Mexican-American grandfather, who would often ask, "How do you love me?" ("¿Cómo me quieres?") and would only accept one response, "Con todo el mundo," or in English, "with all the world."[16]

The band has been quoted as saying the title of the record is also a reference to the diverse range of musical influences that inspired it, primarily from the Middle East.[6] Shortly before the release of Con Todo El Mundo, the band also covered Ma Beham Nemiresim by Googoosh, a popular Iranian songstress, for the Artists Rise Against Islamophobia compilation,[19] and created a Tehran-specific playlist on Spotify, in addition to many other city-specific playlists, as part of their AirKhruang DJ series.[3]

In 2018, Khruangbin recorded live for Spotify an arrangement of the Indian song Khuda Bhi Aasman Se, played by Mohammed Rafi in the movie Dharti (1970), a Bollywood movie classic.[20][21]

They also opened for Leon Bridges on his recent 2018 tour, as well as Trey Anastasio's Ghosts of the Forest tour in 2019.[22] In 2020, the group was featured on the cover of Relix. [23]

Style[edit]

Khruangbin's musical genre is a hotly debated topic amongst critics.[24] Mostly instrumental,[25] the band's sound has been described as soul, surf, psychedelic, and funk,[25] with one website even describing them as "electronic".[24] The most commonly used term to describe Khruangbin's music is Thai funk,[24] though the band members themselves challenge the convention of genres, publicly refusing to be pigeonholed into one particular label.[24] As music journalist Rob Shepherd noted for PostGenre, "The [name Khruangbin], which translates to “flying engine” or airplane in Thai, is perfect for their music as it often crosses borders and cultures."[26]

Band members[edit]

  • Laura Lee – bass, vocals
  • Mark Speer – guitars, vocals
  • Donald "DJ" Johnson – drums, keyboards, vocals

Discography[edit]

Studio albums[edit]

Title Details Peak chart positions
UK
[27]
The Universe Smiles upon You
Con Todo El Mundo
  • Released: January 26, 2018
  • Label: Dead Oceans/Night Time Stories
  • Formats: CD, digital download, LP, streaming
82
Mordechai
  • Released: June 26, 2020
  • Label: Dead Oceans/Night Time Stories
  • Formats: CD, digital download, LP, streaming
7
"—" denotes album that did not chart or was not released in that territory.

EPs[edit]

  • The Infamous Bill (2014)
  • History Of Flight (2015)
  • Spotify Singles (2018)
  • Texas Sun (with Leon Bridges) (2020)

Remix albums[edit]

  • Hasta El Cielo (2019, Dead Oceans; Night Time Stories)

Singles[edit]

Title Year Peak chart positions Album/EP
US
AAA

[28]
US
Rock

[29]
"A Calf Born in Winter" 2014 Non-album single
"White Gloves" 2015 The Universe Smiles Upon You
"Maria También" 2017 Con Todo El Mundo
"Friday Morning" 2018
"Christmas Time Is Here" Non-album single
"Texas Sun" (with Leon Bridges) 2019 17 Texas Sun
"Time (You and I)" 2020 40 45 Mordechai
"So We Won't Forget"
"Pelota"
"—" denotes single that did not chart or was not released in that territory.

Live recordings[edit]

  • Live @ Helios (2012, Hightower Records)
  • Live At Lincoln Hall (2018, Dead Oceans; Night Time Stories)
  • Live At Arcosanti, Arizona (2019, FORM Arcosanti Festival)

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b "Khruangbin takes fans on a sonic journey to Thailand — and beyond". Washington Post. Retrieved July 4, 2018.
  2. ^ "Brownswood Basement: Gilles Peterson with Khruangbin and Lefto – Pre-Worldwide Awards Special – Worldwide FM". Worldwidefm.net.
  3. ^ a b "Khruangbin Wants to Take You on a Musical Trip With AirKhruang". Billboard.com.
  4. ^ "On Their New Record, Khruangbin Summon Stax Soul, Iranian Pop, and More". Daily.bandcamp.com. January 22, 2018.[permanent dead link]
  5. ^ "Khruangbin: Chasing the Eternal Sunrise". Relix.com. January 26, 2018. Retrieved June 26, 2020.
  6. ^ a b c Rhodes, Margaret. "Khruangbin's Feel-Good Funk Is Undeniable". Vulture.com.
  7. ^ Moore, Marcus J. (June 15, 2020). "'Was It a Lost Psych-Funk Classic? It's Khruangbin, Right Now'". The New York Times. Retrieved June 19, 2020.
  8. ^ "Khruangbin – A Calf Born in Winter". Echoesanddust.com. May 12, 2014.
  9. ^ a b c "Night Time Stories - Release - Khruangbin – A Calf Born In Winter". Nighttimestories.co.uk.
  10. ^ a b "Khruangbin's Mark Speer: Addicted to Reverb". Premierguitar.com.
  11. ^ "How a Thai Funk, Surf Soul Trio Named Khruangbin Found Their Groove in a Texas Barn". Noisey.vice.com. November 4, 2015.
  12. ^ "Steve Christensen | Credits". AllMusic. Retrieved July 3, 2019.
  13. ^ a b c Lester, Paul (September 11, 2015). "New band of the week: Khruangbin (No 70)". The Guardian.
  14. ^ "Interview: Khruangbin, the band making American rock music under the influence of Thai molam". Coconuts.co. August 17, 2018.
  15. ^ "How a Thai Funk, Surf Soul Trio Named Khruangbin Found Their Groove in a Texas Barn". Noisey.vice.com. November 4, 2015.
  16. ^ a b "Khruangbin's Vibrant 'Con Todo El Mundo' Is Drawn From Life". Npr.org.
  17. ^ a b c "Khruangbin Join Dead Oceans – Announce New Album 'Con Todo El Mundo' Out January 26th News :: Dead Oceans". Deadoceans.com. Archived from the original on June 30, 2018. Retrieved March 21, 2018.
  18. ^ "Whelan's " Blog Archive " KHRUANGBIN". Whelanslive.com.
  19. ^ [1][dead link]
  20. ^ Kahn, Andy (2018). "Khruangbin Covers 'Khuda Bhi Aasman Se' For 'Spotify Singles'". Retrieved September 16, 2019.
  21. ^ "Khruangbin: Spotify Singles [Recorded at Spotify Studio NYC]". Retrieved September 16, 2019.
  22. ^ "Trey Anastasio Ghosts of the Forest | Greek Theatre". Thegreekberkeley.com.
  23. ^ https://relix.com/mordechai/ Relix
  24. ^ a b c d "Who Needs Genre Anyway? The Universal Groove of Khruangbin". Clashmusic.com.
  25. ^ a b Trammell, Matthew (March 30, 2016). "Listening Booth: Thailand's Shadow Music". Newyorker.com.
  26. ^ Shepherd, Rob (February 11, 2020). "Five Genre-Defying Selections from the Newport Jazz Festival's First Wave of 2020 Performers". Postgenre.org. Retrieved June 26, 2020.
  27. ^ "KHRUANGBIN - Full Official Charts History". Official Charts Company. Retrieved July 3, 2020.
  28. ^ "Adult Alternative Songs - May 2, 2020". Billboard. Retrieved May 11, 2020.
  29. ^ "Hot Rock Songs - May 16, 2020". Billboard. Retrieved May 12, 2020.