BONNAROO SPOTLIGHT: Khruangbin
Photo by David Black

BONNAROO SPOTLIGHT: Khruangbin

Today’s “Bonnaroo Spotlight” is on Khruangbin, a American musical trio from Houston, Texas. The band is Laura Lee Ochoa on bass, Mark Speer on guitar, and DJ Johnson on drums. The band is known for blending global music influences, such as classic soul, dub, rock and psychedelia.

In 2007, Speer met Ochoa through friends, where they initially connected over a shared love of Afghan music and Middle Eastern architecture. In 2009, Ochoa, who had trained on guitar and piano, started to learn the bass with guidance from Speer. After playing for six months, she auditioned and got the gig to be the bassist for Yppah on his upcoming tour. Speer already had the gig as guitarist for Yppah and had encouraged Ochoa to audition. In 2010, both Ochoa and Speer went on tour with Yppah.

The tour motivated the two of them to make music together more seriously, leading them to form Khruangbin. Speer and Ochoa went to a barn where they developed the bass-heavy, psychedelic sound that became the basis of the band’s aesthetic. Upon their return, they asked Johnson to join the band as drummer, to play simple break-beats under the guitar and bass. The barn, located in the 300-person town of Burton, Texas, would become the site of all future Khruangbin recording sessions. The band has a long-term working relationship with Houston-based engineer Steve Christensen.

From the get-go, Khruangbin’s journey has been emphatically its own: a sound and visual representation with few precedents, ignoring pop expectations, relying only on internal inspirations, and a multitude of visions. It’s a mindset of penetrating the self, connecting to the surrounding world, modeling your own life experiences. The building blocks for their new album, A LA SALA’s, were jigsaw pieces found in Khruangbin’s creative past, parts of the band not lost, but not yet tapped into. Having stockpiled ideas originally set down as off-the-cuff recordings (voice-memos made at sound-checks, on long voyages, as absentminded epiphanies), they began fitting those pieces together in the studio for A LA SALA. Listen to “Pon Pón” from the album above.

Over the last two years Khruangbin has remained unwavering in their musical vision, selling out shows at New York City’s Radio City Music Hall, Los Angeles’ Greek Theatre and London’s Alexandra Palace.

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About Jerry Holthouse

Music editor for Nashville.com. Jerry Holthouse is a content writer, songwriter and a graphic designer. He owns and runs Holthouse Creative, a full service creative agency. He is an avid outdoorsman and a lover of everything music. You can contact him at JerryHolthouse@Nashville.com

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