Flying First Class With Khruangbin On Friday Arvos

December 8th 2022

  • Khruangbin :: On Arvos with Grace and Al (Interview with Producer Allan)

After stunning audiences with three sold out nights at the Sydney Opera House as part of their ‘First Class’ tour, Laura Lee and Donald ‘DJ’ Johnson of Khruangbin stopped by to chat about their long awaited return to Australia and their new record Ali in collaboration with Vieux Farka Touré.

It has been an immense year for the Texas trio. Touring the world multiple times over, Khruangbin have found a newfound level of fandom at every corner of the globe. The stages are bigger and the sets are more intricate. But at their core, Khruangbin’s blend of influences from around the world still capture a universality that fans and critics can’t get enough of. On their most recent visit, the band found themselves on stage at the Sydney Opera House – a world away from their previous Sydney show at Oxford Art Factory.

Laura: “It was a dream, it exceeded expectations for me. Which I tried to throw out the window because it holds such weight playing a venue like that but it was really beautiful, the sound was absolutely incredible… The last night I ended up grabbing a slice of pizza and walking back to the venue at midnight to just stare at it to try and savour the moment.”

Khruangbin have been slinging their unique brand of globally (Thai, Iranian, Malian to name a few) influenced funk, soul and psych since 2010. Post pandemic however, the band feel like the appetite for their music has exploded. Not being able to see the gradual growth in audience size throughout the pandemic, this most recent tour has brought the reality of their impact to light.

DJ: “We were really bummed about not being able to come out here… It just makes this tour even more special. The fact we were able to come back here and finish our touring cycle in the place we were meant to get started in 2020, its a real beautiful arc in the story.”

A bigger platform has allowed Khruangbin to nurture an artistic community around themselves. With every show, a new artist is commissioned to create a unique tour poster. Designers are lining up at Laura Lee’s feet to style her. The band have embraced this, consciously creating a world for both fans and artists to enjoy that is bigger than the music.

Laura: “We want to make every show is special in some way so that you feel like you took home…something to commemorate your experience versus every other show, so the posters and the outfits kind of hallmark each show. But then it’s trying to work with as many independent artists in both of those fields because there are so many talented people out there and if we can have one little piece of throwing their name out into the world hat, its a real privilege.”

Alongside the fostering of community in both art and fans, Khruangbin have been busy collaborating with musicians from Paul McCartney to Leon Bridges and beyond. One extremely special collaboration came in teaming up with Vieux Farka Touré, the described ‘Hendrix of the Sahara’. Their record Ali, released this September, was a tribute to the life and work of Vieux’s father Ali. He was a juggernaut and pioneer of the desert blues genre. DJ spoke about the process of recording the album.

DJ: “Vieux kept it all under wraps and wanted us to come in with fresh ears without having a reference from where (the songs) came from. He showed us the songs… and we’d play through it a few times and he’d be like, ok that’s good, and collectively the three of us would look at each other like, ‘Is that good?’ And he’d be on to the next song but it was a really beautiful way to honour Ali’s Legacy. It’s kind of opened up the door for me to the music of Mali.”

It has been a busy few years for Khruangbin. In 2019, the trio were simultaneously recording their 2020 record Mordechai, began sessions for Ali and began and completed work on both the Texas Sun and Texas Moon projects with Leon Bridges. On their work ethic and what’s next for the band, Laura and DJ had to say;

DJ: “We were touring and in the breaks… We literally recorded Mordechai, started the Texas Sun project and then Vieux came through. It was all back to back to back. We were in a sense working like we knew that there would be a pandemic… Sometimes you don’t know why you’re doing things the way you’re doing them but you have a good reason.”
Laura: “We are going to write and we are going to keep making music but in terms of what it’s going to sound like I have no idea. But I’m so excited.”

Want to hear more from our chat with Laura and DJ from Khruangbin? Listen to the full interview on Friday Arvos up top! You can also stream Ali below.


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