KONGOS were one of the first interviews I ever did. They were riding the high of their first headlining tour and “Come With Me Now” was being played literally everywhere. It’s been amazing to see how they took that single and turned it into thousands of fans and headlining tours. I sat down with Dylan and Jesse backstage at Gas Monkey Bar and Grill in Dallas to talk about their latest album Egomaniac.
Jesse says, “One of the biggest challenges has been getting people to know us as a band that’s more than a song. There was a buzz around ‘Come With Me Now’, we had a lot of casual fans who wanted to hear that one song. It doesn’t mean anything until we can make that connection and bridge that gap.”
There’s a natural progression but their undeniably unique sound is consistent. It’s hard to make accordions mainstream, something KONGOS have been doing since their breakout. They had been playing “Take It From Me” since their last tour and I couldn’t stop thinking about it. I kept trying to remember the name or how it sounded long after the initial listening over a year ago.
Dylan says, “I think the sound is pushed forward. We made Lunatic in 2012, and it kind of went unnoticed until 2014. The essence of the songs is still the same. You can still hear it’s us but it sounds more modern, the production is better and it’s more mature.”
Even with a crazy amount of fans and instantly recognizable music, the four brothers still take part in almost every aspect of their music. Since they each have a different set of skills they all contribute. They came up with the concept for their music video, they have strong opinions on their album art.
“It started off as a necessity we could afford to pay people to do those other thing, but also on the creative side, we love doing that. It became habit,” Dylan says. Jesse adds, “We tried handing stuff over and a lot of times you spend a lot of effort correcting things. We have an opinion on everything that’s probably part of where the title came from. We do want to control things. We’re still trying to work that whole delegation out.”
Egomaniac, the title says everything. It immediately draws the mind to our narcissistic, self-obsessed culture, but that’s not what this album is about. They all wrote songs individually and when they came together they noticed this reoccurring theme.
Dylan explains, “The songs displayed this theme of egomania and everything that goes along with it. We found this thread. I think you see the ego in musicians more because they’re in the limelight but everyone has it even if you don’t see it. You’re delusional if you think you’re not.”
Jesse calls it “feeding the animal.” He says, “If that animal gets fed it gets bigger and bigger. That’s what you see in performers, that ego being fed. It’s very strong and present. It’s not about the obvious egomaniacs but the broader sense of egomania.”
KONGOS have definitely had an interesting path and it’s been beautiful to watch them grow as artists and performers. I think they’ve accomplished their goal of becoming more than a single, they always were more than a single. They’ve established a loyal fanbase and an instantly recognizable sound, something most artists work their whole lives for but the one thing they stay true to is that it was a passion first and a business second.
Jesse says, “If you want to do [music] as a business be prepared to be very disappointed. We love what we do but at the same time music is really fun and it has internal rewards in itself. As soon as you turn it into a business everything gets compromised and it’s a lot of work like any other business. The career artists know how to navigate that and make it about the music.”