Artist Profile - Khruangbin - KJACK 107.1 FM KLJX-LP: Music

Artist Profile - Khruangbin

Shane Thomas | Posted: Monday, April 29, 2019 10:00 am

The Texas-based trio Khruangbin is known for their distinct combination of 1960s and ‘70s Thai funk, psychedelic, surf, gospel, and countless other genres which create an atmospheric mist of tranquil and sedating harmonies that rap your body up in comforting bass lines and drum beats, yet twists your mind with sonic guitar bends and lightly serene chording and hammer-ons. The band’s name is a translation of the Thai word meaning “Flying Engine,” or more appropriately, “aeroplane,” which is fitting considering the bands complex instrumentation fronted by a simple ensemble and rather basic equipment, as well as sharing the ability to make those present soar through the air in comfort. Khruangbin’s debut album, The Universe Smiles Upon You, is considered to be Thai funk, a common interest shared by bassist Laura Lee and guitarist Mark Speer which led to the formation of the band. Critics slotted them under the genre of Thai funk, but Speer says, “We can’t claim that…that’s doing great disservice to the folks who actually make what we in the West call ‘Thai funk.’ Khun Narin, or Paradise Bangkok, check them out, those are actual Thai bands playing Thai funk,” according to Pitchfork. Speer was a guitarist in a gospel band with drummer Donald “DJ” Johnson, who became the third member of Khruangbin starting in 2018 after the band’s brief absence,  bringing more rhythmic influences to the table, and plenty of great breakbeats. The band continues to defy musical labels and continues to put out original and creative music, combining influences both musical and non, pertaining to but not limited by many countries all over the world. Krhuangbin’s music is deeply personal and often pays tribute and homage to respected influences.

The band's second album, Con Todo El Mundo expands the group’s musical horizons in elemental fashions, maintaining the cosmic-funk sound heard in their previous music, while still  adding in bits and pieces of Indian and Middle Eastern influences. While so much of the world seems uncontrollably insistent in confining artists and applying labels, Khruangbin display all the tools in their arsenal, playing all sorts of sounds on this record. On this album, the influence of Iran boogie is present in the song, "Maria También.” The funky grove in "Evan Finds The Third Room" is a tribute to the late-70s proto-zouk, which was started in France. The album’s use of many different sounds and influences creates an unique blend of differentiating songs, turning on new fans due to the vast variety of sound and style on this album. Their music serves as an example of a global mashup, however another rather impressive combination featured on this record in the personal stories and attributions put into the music by the three members as they share the stories and influences behind each of the songs. The song, “Como Me Quieres,” was directly influenced by the loving nurture and character of Lee's Mexican-American grandfather and the bickering couples in the films Clueless and Romancing the Stone. This record ties together musical, cultural, and personal experiences and knowledge which adds to the mysteriously intricate persona the band portrays with their bobbed wigs and lack of lyrics and vocal attributes.

Although mostly instrumental, with the exception of occasional humming, spoken word verses, and other vocal accents, the music often contains a major absence of lyrics. “I am not a multilingual person,” Speer says. “But when I hear music from another country in a language I don’t understand, the vocals are still emotive. When we write, I’m trying to make my guitar take the place of those vocals. The songs telegraph something less literal, like the feeling of travel.” Speer is expressing the idea that music in itself is a language, a way of communication, through his lack of vocalization, he expresses feelings, thoughts, and ideas through his guitar, adding to the density of the band, and the power of their content. Khruangbin is a tall pine in a forest of infant shrubs, fronting nothing but grace, power, and a humble image due to years of experience, the work we have seen in just the few years of the band’s existence is truly infatuating, there is no doubt that this group will continue to succeed, grow, and produce much more symphonic music in the future.