I get the call that I’m about to speak to Tom Kenny, keyboardist from Koi Child.
Instantly the thought hits me.
Does this man know that he shares the same name as the legend who voices seminal cartoon character Spongebob Squarepants?
He must be stoked, I mean people have to ask him about this all the time, right?
‘Actually surprisingly few people do, and I’m thankful for that. You can have worse names that happen to be popular.’
….Things took a turn for the awkward quickly.
Surely though, he has to be a fan of the show.
‘There’s a lot of respect for Spongebob… I mean yes, I guess I have to be a fan’ Tom chuckles.
It was about this time that I decided to get off my amateur diversions and talk about Tom’s band, the jazz hip-hop group Koi Child, who have been gaining substantial momentum over the past year.
Koi Child comprises an expansive 7 man line-up, which is the amalgamation of two Perth acts, the electronic Child’s Play and the jazz centric Kashikoi…leading to the name Koi Child.
‘We saw each other at a gig, we played the same night, and thought that would be a really cool idea if we were their rhythm section’ Tom explains.
‘From there, we just had a couple of jams at a rehearsal studio and then played a mostly improv set. Kevin Parker happened to be there cause his friend work at this café, X-Wray Café, which is now sadly closed. It was a weird surprise cause it was such a casual night.’
‘He came back after, and none of us knew him before then, and he offered to support Tame in one their silent gigs the next night and we were on Cloud 9.’
‘It was such a huge leap of what scale we were use to working at.’
One minute you’re playing at a café, next minute you’re supporting Tame Impala. It seems that my dreams do come true…it’s just Koi Child living them.
Starting off a 7 person band is an audacious challenge in today’s music industry. Money is sparse enough as it is for local acts and when you add in the fact Koi Child have twice the members as many other bands, you could imagine that finances would be constant issue.
Nevertheless, Tom asserts that it never has become an issue that has affected the band.
‘We didn’t really think about, we kind of knew and accepted our fate that having 7 people means that we could never really treat it like a full time job. It’s a shame.’
‘I mean the costs are divided by 7 and the profits are divided by 7 but it’s hard to say how much having a huge band helps.’
'We have been so insanely lucky, we have hit this tiny spot of viability. Every time something good happens the chances of us going full time goes from .1% to .2%. And I don’t we would think about downsizing. Like Sasquatch I think recently fired their horns and apparently their live show has taken a hit.’
On the flip side to the obvious restrictions, having a large hip-hop line-up that features a horn section, live drums, funky jazz bass and keys plus a rhyme spittin’ MC must make Koi Child an exceptionally intriguing act to festival organisers and punters, right?
'Oh absolutely’ Tom quips.
‘It’s a hard thing to work out quantitatively, because the fact you have 7 people jamming on stage, all live, is such a huge drawcard. And that’s kind of the reason we started in the first place, like big fun dumb jam band and that’s the heart of the band.’
Live instrumentation and its unpredictable tendencies is at the core of Koi Child. With hip-hop artists embracing live instrumentation more and more (see; Kendrick Lamar), Tom believes that this is path within hip-hop with a viable future.
‘It’s more this song is written with a lyricist and composed at the same time, and it’s more tightly woven. I like the elements of that, where the music and the lyrics can’t swap out each other.’
‘Seeing the power you can get like the power of something like Kendrick live. That Grammy performance was incredible. Just having that kind of energy beyond people just giving a great performance and it’s worth a lot’
As Tom mentioned earlier, a big fan of Koi Child is Tame Impala mastermind Kevin Parker. The front man produced the band’s self-titled debut LP, which provided the band with an invaluable learning experience.
‘It was extremely inspiring and educational in lots of ways. I think the main thing is that he’s not magic. You don’t have to be a superhuman to make superhuman music. All his genius comes from staying switched on all the time, just always thinking creatively and analytically at the same time and never turns off his creative juices. It’s not this magical aura that he can just touch a song and it’s better, he’s always very careful with his decisions.’ Tom says.
‘You don’t need great gear or a ton of arcane expertise. As long as you’re always thinking about it, you can do something. And he’s really cool, normal chill guy…. which is kind of hard to remember when you see him at the Grammys.’
Everything I read in my research for this interview, whether it was to establish the band’s artistic credibility or to simply get more clicks, promoted Koi Child’s connection to Kevin Parker (Lucifer’s Monocle included).
I asked Tom if Koi Child was at all concerned about simply being labelled as ‘Kevin Parker’s side production project’ and not breaking out to be their own reputable act.
‘Yeah that’s been a thing form the start that we have been worried about’ Tom admits. ‘When you’re playing live, none of that is Kevin at all, so when people are impressed, I feel we have earned it to an extent.’
‘But it’s hard since he’s labelled as a producer, and in modern hip-hop that means, made the whole instrumental. So when you have a video with 7 people in it and people are like ‘Oh this is a sick beat, Good on Kevin’ we’re just like what? What do you think the other 6 people did?’
‘But it’s a first world problem. Definitely more of a boom than a bust.’
A first world problem I'd like to have any day of the week.
Koi Child's self-titled debut album is out on Friday March 18 via Pilerat Records
Koi Child Tour Dates
Friday, March 11 - Karova Lounge - Ballarat, Vic
Sunday, March 13 - Golden Plains Festival - Meredith, Vic
Thursday, March 17 - Northcote Social Club - Melbourne, Vic
Friday, March 18 - The Brightside - Brisbane, Qld
Saturday, March 19 - Newtown Social Club - Sydney, NSW
Saturday, April 2 - The J Shed - Perth, WA
Alex Capper, once affectionally called by Ross & John of 3AW as the '7 foot fucker', loves the Essendon Football Club, stalking reddit and dabbing. He thinks he can speak French, but he can't.