If you’re yet to witness the energetic prodigy that is Koi Child, do yourself a favour. Their raw energy is infectious. Their arrangements are downright impressive. There’s a wild ferocity to their sound, but at the same time, everything seems to have its place, and with seven heads coming together to forge the hip hop/jazz fusion, there’s good reason.
We chatted with Shannon in what is arguably one of the busier years of their collective lives to get the scoop on working with Tame Impala’s Kevin Parker, how their momentous sound comes to fruition and the uprising of jazz.
Seven is a few people to fill the stage. Has having so many of you in the mix contributed to your distinctive sound?
Yeah, definitely. In terms of writing, you know how they say two heads are better than one? Try seven. It makes a huge difference having all those minds being productive. Yeah I think it changes our sound a lot and then of course the fact that we all actually make different sounds. It makes quite a big difference.
What’s your creative process like when you all come together to write? Do you have a loose formula you try and follow or is it just a big old lush improvised session?
It’s a bit of both. It usually starts with a bit of a jam. It’s usually the rhythm section. The drums and the bass and the keys will do something cool. The horn section will have a twenty second discussion and come up with something cool. Once they’re done, I’ll just rap over it. That’s the general vibe, the general jam that will happen. When we’re ready we’ll just structure it all.
Do you tend to write a lot of your lyrics beforehand, or are you inspired by the music? Do you bounce ideas off that?
With the album that we released, most of the stuff was written before hand. They were just raps that I had from my rhyme book. So with that, most of it was pre-written, but all the stuff we’ve been working on since then, they would make the beat and I would try and get them as ready as possible, as satisfied with their half of the work and I’ll start writing to that. There’s a lot of changes, you know, time sequences change; it’s kind of good to know what I’m getting into before I start writing.
Now the story of how you guys came to be is pretty interesting. You were two separate bands – Childs Play and Kashikoi. Do you guys still play in those bands at all?
Yeah, yeah. Not very often. I mean it’s probably been a few months since either of us have tried. You know, whenever the opportunity arises, we definitely do. Now that we’re in Sydney, we wanted to play a gig last night, but the logistics just didn’t work out. But you know, if we end up in Sydney or Melbourne, we sometimes play in our separate bands. We wanted to play with 30/70 last night, but it just didn’t work out.
Those guys are amazing. I know you guys came together because your two bands decided to do a collaborative night back home in Fremantle, but how did that even come about? How did you decide that you were going to merge your sounds together for the night?
I think the trombonist wanted to do it. Kashikoi were vibing our music and they were thinking of approaching us, but we kind of beat them to it. We sort of decided to just do a jam and have a big night. We ended up doing it; we had a few sessions before the actual gig at X-Ray. It was pretty simple. We sort of knew each other beforehand, just because Fremantle is such a small place. We’d partied together and stuff, so we knew each other.
Yeah, as you said, Fremantle’s a small place. But it seems to be producing some pretty amazing musicians and groups. Tame Impala, The Growl, Pond, Koi Child and countless more. Do you think that there’s a particular reason for why it might be such a creative hub.
I don’t know! It’s weird. It’s really weird. I mean, people feed off each other in different ways. The rock scene is big there. We kind of feed off that scene. Everyone intermingles. It’s like a cesspool of talent, it’s kind of weird (laughs).
Yeah it’s cool. Tell me about working with Kevin Parker on your debut album, Black Panda. Was it kind of surreal?
Yeah, it was very surreal. It was crazy, especially for Blake because Blake’s a massive, massive Tame Impala fan. I think he always had this dream that one day Kevin Parker would mix his drums. (Laughs) And it happened! But yeah, working with him is really cool. He’s super chilled out and easy to hang with. He’s a really cool guy. It’s weird because you wouldn’t think… I mean you might think, but he’s really, really famous. But all those guys, like Nick Allbrook as well; he’s a really cool guy too. I guess it’s just that Freo vibe you know? Everyone’s just keen to hang out with each other.
Yeah definitely. Lately, we’ve seen an unequivocal shift in the popularity of acts that engage in jazz influences. Do you think that this movement encourages a different scope of music in the mainstream market?
Yeah, I definitely think so. I think with anything, once one person does something really well, you’re bound to be influenced by it. In the same way that Tame Impala killed it in the psych rock scene, now there’s a huge psych rock scene in Perth. We’re getting into this jazz/hip hop thing, whatever you want to call it, and it already seems to be picking up in Freo. I think it’s been in the country for a while, but it might be getting a bit more recognition now. We’re definitely starting to look around and see bands like 30/70 and Astro Travellers. Our eyes are more open to it. I think fans eyes are more open to it too. They like what it tasted like and now they want to try the same sort of vibe, but maybe a little different. Different flavours of the same feel.
It’s been a pretty crazy year for Koi Child. I saw you hit the stage at Golden Plains, you’ve released your debut album. On top of all that, you’ve just released your most recent single, ‘Touch ‘Em’ and you’re hitting the road to share it across the country. Your momentum doesn’t seem to be wavering. Do you guys like the business? What does the rest of the year hold?
After this tour, there might be a few months where we get to chill out, but you never know, anything could come up in that time. We try to keep between work and music, practicing and writing. Personally, I want to go back home and see my family. Whatever happens, happens. We’re always happy to get on a plane and come over. It’s what we look for. I’d rather do this than anything else.