YEARS FROM now, it’s probably starting already, people will speak about King Kong Company’s show in the main tent at Electric Picnic 2017 with near mythical awe, and will boast ‘I was there!’. Everyone else, to preserve their credibility, will pretend they were.
This year has been an extraordinary one for the outrageous, brilliant, electronica, funk, brass, rock, but in reality genre-defying, Waterford band (“we call it dubby electro rock,” says Mark Graham ), not only stealing the show at Picnic, but playing Glastonbury and festival on the European continent. To round off 2017, they tour Ireland and undertake their first British tour.
King Kong Company’s Mark Graham is still taking it all in. “We sat down last year and gave ourselves a list of goals we wanted to achieve - one of those was playing Glastonbury - and we achieved all we set out to do.”
Just before this interview the band had played the prestigious Amsterdam Dance Event (“we were pinching ourselves. It was cool!” declares Mark ) - their second visit to The Netherlands, having played Vestrock in June. The shows were a success, but the band found continental audiences much more reserved than Irish gig goers.
“You hear a lot of bands saying ‘We love playing Ireland…’ and you think ‘Yeah, yeah, yeah,’, but having played shows on the Continent we now see, they’re not just saying that,” says Mark. “Continental audiences don’t react the same way. They’re more sedate. It takes them a while to get going, but there’s always Irish people turning up at our shows, and they’re dancing and moving straight away, they get the rest of them going. Our lunatics lead by example.”
And King Kong Company fans are nothing if not dedicated. “We played Bath recently, and there were people travelling down from Wales to the gig. There was a guy who cycled from Waterford to London to see us play." It is a dedication deeply appreciated by the band. “We’re very conscious that people are paying to see us and taking time out to come to the show,” says Mark. “There’s a lot of s**t happening, times are still hard for many people, you have a responsibility to give the fans a good time. It’s something we take seriously when we go out and put on a show.”
KKC are also pleased to see how their audiences are becoming something of a community, through interactions with the band and fellow fans on social media, but more importantly, through meeting at the gigs themselves. “One fan posted on Facebook that at the shows it feels as if everybody is part of the same community,” says Mark. “At a show in London there were two Limerick girls and two people from Dundalk. They didn’t know each other but met at the gig and have since remained good friends and kept in touch. To facilitate something like that is wonderful.”
That Electric Picnic performance remains the highlight of the past 12 months. “That was 10,000 people at 3.30 in the afternoon, we were blown away!” A close rival however just might be a concert at the Cork Jazz Festival. “The venue we played in has balconies and the show before us, the bouncers told the audience they were not to be dancing and jumping and causing the floors of the balconies to shake,” says Mark, “but the second we started the whole place erupted, everyone was dancing, and we could see the bouncers looking at each other going, ‘Oh well, nothing we can do about that’.”
In December King Kong Company play the Róísín Dubh, and for Mark, that gig will be something of a homecoming. “The Spanish Arch is the Irish capital of Buckfast,” he says mischievously, “and that suits us just fine! I used to live in Galway, I worked in Monroe’s and going past Oranmore feels like coming home. Galway has been good to us. People there got us before the other places did.”
The band’s brilliant, inventive, mix of music genres, and their high energy live shows, featuring gorilla masks; tracksuit sporting dancers wearing cardboard boxes on their heads; and assorted other costumes, mean a KKC show is as much for the eyes as it is for the ears and the feet. “Everyone shares the load,” says Mark, who himself plays drums and trombone in the group. “Boxhead does a lot with energy and crowd interaction. Boxhead is our crowd fluffer, like Bez from the Happy Mondays, just a bit more extreme.”
When speaking of inspirations, Mark notes how the band members are into LCD Soundsystem and Hot Chip, as well as dub and ska, but perhaps the most, yet conversely least, surprising inspiration is The Muppet Show. “The biggest inspiration is The Muppet Show,” says Mark. “When I was young I wanted to be in the Electric Mayhem Band! Think about it - King Kong Company; Mayhem? Yes. Electric? Yes. We have it nailed.”
After a successful 2017, the challenge for 2018 is, How do you follow 2017? “Every year is getting better, so what we want to do next is something we’ll have to think long and hard about,” says Mark. “New music will be high on that agenda, and a new show, as we want to give people something new to look at.”
King Kong Company play the Róisín Dubh on Saturday December 2 at 8pm. Tickets are via www.roisindubh.net, the Ticket Desk at OMG Zhivago, Shop Street, and The Róisín Dubh.