PICTURED: Neil and Bryan of Koo Koo Kanga Roo. Photo by Nicole Mago
by Chris O’Neal
Bryan and Neil just want to have fun, and they want you to have fun, too. Since 2008, when Koo Koo Kanga Roo was formed to take part in a Battle of the Bands contest, the pair have toured internationally, become a viral sensation on YouTube and released a music video alongside the Harlem Globetrotters.
All of this while waxing poetic about pizza, fanny packs and dinosaurs.
“We’ve always been a clean, kind of campy band, singing about unicorns and rainbows, trying to be a juxtaposition to other bands that use shock and awe,” said Bryan, who, like his bandmate, prefers to use his first name only. He spoke with us from his home in Minnesota as he prepares for a California tour with Neil.
Koo Koo Kanga Roo will perform at the Brite Room at Music Freqs — formerly Rock City Studios — in Camarillo on Friday, Jan. 31.
VCReporter: You’ve referred to yourselves as a “kids band for adults.” How does entertainment for kids and adults overlap?
Bryan: You keep it goofy and silly and don’t patronize people, you don’t talk down to anybody, keep it fast and fun. We’re Pixar — because we’re not really injecting innuendos, we’re just being the weirdest ones in the room and bringing this intensity to the table that no one else is.
You started out playing for adults in bars and clubs and then transitioned to kids. It usually goes the opposite way.
Yeah, there’s a lot of bands that say, ‘hey, we’re a band’ and then they have kids and transition to play for families. We’ve always just walked the line and it confuses people, but we’re cool with it.
Are the dance moves a collaborative effort?
Neil thinks of most of them, I guess, but everything we do is a collaborative effort. I honestly don’t know how solo performers can do it, who do you bounce off? I would go crazy if I didn’t have a partner in crime to bounce everything off of. When I’m stuck, he has something in the hopper. When he’s stuck, I do. The dancing thing is hard now because we’ve done too many videos, almost, of these simple forward-facing movements that everyone can pick up on in 10 seconds.
You sometimes get a mixed reaction when opening for some bands. How do you respond when a crowd isn’t exactly feeling what you’re giving?
That’s our favorite, that’s what we like the most. It’s a challenge for us. We’ve created our show to be all-inclusive and we’re trying to break an audience. When an audience is kind of against you, then we have to be tighter and smarter. It’s nice when everyone is in 100 percent, but we’re always up for a challenge. We’ve been lucky enough to open for this UK artist Frank Turner, who took us on a full U.S. and UK tour and had us be his sole opener for his entire UK tour, in tiny places, too. Usually if we opened for punk bands in the U.S. it’d take 2-3 songs to get the audience to warm up, but in the UK it took 4-5. People came up to us after the show, though, and said, “you guys don’t make any sense and are dumb, but you’re amazing.” We step on stage in attack mode and the songs are just punching rah-rah. There will be people who we never do break who’ll boo us, but that almost makes the people who get it and like it like us more. We’re down for whichever way.
How did your upcoming single “My Jam” with the Harlem Globetrotters come about?
A couple of people on [the Globetrotters] PR team had kids who like us and they reached out. They were probably the easiest entity to work with that we ever experienced. It was the best video shoot we’ve ever had; I had the best time ever.
You guys are good at making people happy — what makes you happy?
I like salad, and composting, and hanging out with my family. I don’t really have a… “I like sugar and ice cream!” Neil and I are very fortunate to be our own bosses. We’re marching to the beat of our own drum. Definitely making our weird songs together for as long as we have makes me happy.
Koo Koo Kanga Roo will perform on Friday, Jan. 31 at 6:30 p.m at Music Freqs, 2258 Pickwick Drive, Camarillo. Tickets $15-40. For more information, visit www.rockcitystudios.net. For more information on Koo Koo Kanga Roo, visit www.kookookangaroo.com.