Your childhood is the last time that dancing around to the beat of your own drum is acceptable. You can wear sweatpants out in public without being seen as lazy, sing about colors and go by a crazy name that sounds like a Winnie the Pooh character. Wait…What? Are you telling me there’s a group that does all that and they’re adults? Well shit, forget everything I just said and please let me introduce you to Koo Koo Kanga Roo. They’re all of the above and so much more.
Two dudes from the Midwest who said adios to the band life and hola to a world that’s straight out of a twisted Nick Jr. world. Think Yo Gabba Gabba meets the Billboard Hot 100. You interested yet? Well you should be because when Bryan and Neil are dominating and dancing onstage you can check them out on where else? Youtube for some outrageous shit like my new favorite thing ever, “Awesome Rainbows.”
You can find all this and more on their new EP Midnight Slushie when it hits the world on September 13th. On it you’ll find training techniques for future pirates, unicorns and Justin Pierre of Motion City Soundtrack/Farewell Continental. And until then, you can keep on reading to see what Bryan and I had to say to one another as I sat in my living room in a sea of papers and he sat in a van on his way through the desert to make his way to the San Diego infested Comic- Con for a show the The Aquabats.
Kendra: How did you guys come about from this crazy sound being from the Midwest?
Bryan: I mean we grew up with Prince and in Minneapolis there are a lot of dancey bands, like synth rock bands. I’m really obsessed with Top 40 music. I don’t even call it guilty pleasure, I just absolutely love it, but our attention span doesn’t even exist so we have to jack up all the PTMs far otherwise we always think everything’s too slow. We make a lot of our songs with the sing- along parts and if you’ve never been to one of our shows before they have a lot of dance parts that we make up, or they have dance moves in them and stuff like that. So we make sure everything is good for the live show; all Koo Koo Kanga Roo songs are made for the live show. So if you come to a live show for the first time it’s like you’re going to see your favorite band because you know all the words. And kids’ll be like, “oh I’ve never seen you before and I knew all the words and stuff,” and we’re like, “that’s the point!” So I guess that’s how we made our sound exist from the Midwest.
Kendra: You and Niel met in college is that correct, like you weren’t friends before that right?
Bryan: Yup, we met freshman year at orientation. We lived like two or three hours from each other and then we roomed together constantly, but I’m going to tell you something I’ve never told anybody before.
Kendra: Is this a secret?
Bryan: We actually met in high school at a Green Day/Blink-182 concert. I was on the floor and Neil was on the side, and Green Day during their Pop Disaster Tour they would make like a band onstage with a guitar, drum and bass. Neil brought a sign that said “let me play drums with you” and he got to play drums in front of like 14,000 people. And so the Green Day thing, I wore a Green Day shirt at freshman orientation and that’s how we first met and started talking to each other.
Kendra: Was it friendship at first sight?
Bryan: You got it girl.
Kendra: Do you ever miss being in a band?
Bryan: Uh…Yeah, well…Kind of, not really. Wait, let me back up. I miss sometimes having more people onstage to party with you, but we solved that by just letting people onstage to dance with us. But I don’t miss hauling gear, and having to call 12 people to make every decision.
Kendra: Do you think at this point you could ever be in a band again?
Bryan: Um, I think could. I think I could. I would have different expectations of it. When I was in a band I wanted all these things personally; I wanted to interact, I wanted to dance, I wanted to play all the time and I tried to make that band like that and it was just better to just make Koo Koo Kanga Roo exactly what Neil and I wanted out of a band. And then if we ever did go back to a band we’d go back and do something different with different expectations.
Kendra: Can you tell me a little bit more about Midnight Slushie?
Bryan: Midnight Slushie, yeah…it has a pirate and a ninja song on there where we teach you how to become a pirate and teach you how to become a ninja through different training methods. We’ve been playing those two live for a long time and so this is the first time ever that we wrote two songs, there’s a song about unicorns being real and about believing in them and a song about bestest friends, and those two are the first two that we ever recorded first without playing them live, and then playing them live. Because usually we’ll play everything live and make sure it works with the audience and make sure people like it and then record it so we kind of did the opposite.
Kendra: And you got to work with Justin from Motion City, how did that come about because he’s a pretty big deal, not gonna lie…
Bryan: Well he’s from Minneapolis and he’s in a band called Farewell Continental and we’re friends with the guitar player in that band and so before they could talk about Farewell Continental because it was underground and they all had fake names and they would play shows under different names, they wouldn’t be called Farewell Continental. So we played with them a couple times and we were talking about ninjas because I don’t know, Justin really likes ninjas and he really liked our show. Then we hung out a bunch and then we were like, “do you want to sing?” and he was like, “I’d totally love to,” and that’s that.
Kendra: Midwest sticking together…You all have some shows coming up there in Minnesota. How does your show translate over to the fair scene?
Bryan: The Minnesota State Fair is like a huge 12 day event and basically everyone in Minnesota, no matter your stature, your age, or your…everyone goes to this thing. It’s not like a county fair where just a couple people come. It’s a big deal. I think we’re playing like the education building. We play a million different places, and bands we play with will be like, whoa you play this kind of show? But we’ll play the same set, the exact same show, do the exact same thing for a five year olds birthday party, in a garage, or if we play in a bar or we play in front of 2000 people. We actually love playing really weird events.
Kendra: You have those fair shows but your album doesn’t come out for a couple months. Do you have any shows around the time Midnight Slushies drops?
Bryan: Yeah we have a record, well we have a couple things I can’t tell you about yet, it’s a secret. But we have a record release coming up. And then once those things come out that I can’t talk about. Then I hope that we get to come and we get to tour all over America in October. People can find Koo Koo Kanga Roo on Youtube, but the best to see Koo Koo Kanga Roo is at a live show. Because you can listen to the songs and be like, oh they’re catchy, but at a live show you’ll be like, oh that makes sense now.
Kendra: You mentioned sometime around October and that’s off course Halloween and you all encourage your fans to always come dressed up. So what’s the craziest, well maybe not the favorite costume you’ve seen a fan wear?
Bryan: Well we love when people wear Koo Koo outfits. Like when they spray paint their shows and their hats and wear moustaches, so they look like us. But sometimes people get it wrong and they have bronze spray paint and it’s like, come on guys it’s metallic gold; it makes the shoes pop.
But I think we were in Atlanta one time there was this, it was kind of like a mix of a homemade one and bought one. It was like a giant inflatable shark and the mouth was open and you couldn’t see the person inside of it and he could put the mouth around you, grab and eat you and then you would go inside the costume with him. When we saw it happen, Neil and I were like kind of freaked out like, where’d that person go? They go away! You would have to go take off the costume to get out of it I guess.
Kendra: So you said you played kids parties. Would it ever be Koo Koo Kanga Roo’s goal to goal to get like a kids show would that be a possibility?
Bryan: Um, I don’t know, it’s not really our goal because whenever we play kids shows, adults kind of tune us out. Our main focus is to get 16-26 year olds to like us. If we ever made a TV show like that we would make a mock kind of TV show about like two old guys like making a kids TV show. We’re 25, two 25 year old guys making a TV show.
Kendra: What are your thoughts on Yo Gabba Gabba then? I know a lot more adults watch it than kids.
Bryan: Oh man, I think that show is a game changer. I think it’s awesome! I love that it’s dance focused and I love the animation, that’s my favorite.
Kendra: Okay, now we’re almost done and I want you to make me a mixtape of the top 5 songs to do group dances to…
Bryan: Totally…we DJ weddings so like I guess the wedding favorites but if it comes down to the standard ones that that every bride hates, the YMCA and Cupid Shuffle. I like our song “Shake Yo Foot” it’s like our version “Hokey Pokey.” And then the last ones are “Apache” by Sugarhill Gang and “The Train” by Quad City DJ’s.
originally published on July 25, 2011