Most bands do not feature a saxophone, vibraphone, triangle, trumpet, bass guitar, drum set, keyboard, electric guitar and soulful vocals all at once. Then again, Austin group KP and the Boom Boom are not like other bands. They consider themselves to be something more. By Maria Núñez
“It’s a family, first of all. I think we can all agree with that,” bassist Nick Wong says, looking to the rest of the band for a sign of approval.
The band, comprised of seven members in their mid-20s and 30s, does not fit one particular genre. Instead, each band member’s unique influences contribute to a sound lead singer Kate Priestley (the “KP” in KP and the Boom Boom) describes as “neo-soul funk with hints of world music.” When asked who inspires them, the bandmates rattle off artists in rapid-fire succession. Stevie Wonder. Michael Jackson. Maceo Parker. Cyro Baptista. Chaka Khan. Prince. Hiatus Kaiyote. “Did we say Jamiroquai ten thousand times already?” drummer Anthony Ortega asks, triggering a rousing “Oh yeah!” from the rest of the group.
Despite their vast array of influences, Priestley says “there’s not really a conflict when it comes to the creative process. It’s taken time to get to a more cohesive way of writing and usually it depends. Sometimes I’ll bring in an idea for the melody and they work on the rest, or they’ll come to me with a melody and I’ll write the lyrics. It’s definitely a collaborative effort when it comes to the music.”
Percussionist, vibraphonist and keyboardist Carolyn Trowbridge, whose bright red leggings sporting the word “sriracha” earned enthusiastic praise from the rest of the band, says this stylistic diversity allows the band to stand out from its peers, but also limits its opportunities for exposure. “Since we don’t have a definite sound or a definite genre, we don’t really fit into the soul festivals or the R&B festivals, so that makes it a little hard for us,” she adds.
The group’s ambiguous genre does not interfere with its live shows, which never have a dull moment. Priestley’s dancing, Wong’s jumping — in sync to the bass line — and Trowbridge’s switches between three or four instruments during a single song keep audience members on their feet, even prompting strangers to dance with one another. “We make people have a good time. They feel our music, it’s all about the heart and the soul," Priestley says.
Everybody chimes in when the discussion turns to band difficulties — day jobs, time management, funding. Manager Jenny Dugas says the band will launch a crowd-funding campaign to help with the recording of their first full-length album. “It’s very hard to make money as a musician in Austin. Some venues do pay you earnestly and very well and other venues don’t, but you might take the gig ‘cause of the exposure you’ll get,” Priestley explains.
In just the first six weeks of 2014, the band has already racked up two of its greatest achievements. “We were just voted artist of the month for The Deli, which is a really good online magazine for music,” Priestley says, her eyes bright with excitement. “We didn’t even rig it or anything! We totally won!” she adds. The city of Austin has also proclaimed March 20 KP and the Boom Boom Day, and the group will perform at City Hall that evening. “KP and the Boom Boom will officially be a part of Austin's history and that's pretty special. We're incredibly grateful to the City of Austin's Music Division for this great honor and for all that they do to support local artists. It feels like we hit another milestone as far as moving up the ladder with the band, and when you get new opportunities, it does feel good to be recognized,” Priestley says. “I don’t really know what to expect. We’re just sorta taken aback by the whole thing,” Wong adds. But Dugas and Priestley agree: “It’s time for KP and the Boom Boom.”
KP and the Boom Boom’s EP is for sale on their website.
On KP and the Boom Boom Day, March 20, the band will be performing at City Hall at 5:30 p.m., and the performance will air on Channel 6 at 6 p.m. Mayor Lee Leffingwell will then declare the day to the city.