Inside the positive vibe world of KBong
“Smiles on Faces”, “Livin’ Easy”, “Middle of the Ocean”, “Into The Light”, “Hope and Dreams” – these are some of top song titles you will find under reggae artist, KBong’s extensive catalog. The titles alone are filled with cheer and spirit. On April 17th, KBong added to that feel good list with the release of latest single entitled, Good To Hear Music” featuring Mihali of Twiddle.
Though the song started to take shape over a year ago, it’s launch into the public came at a time nobody could predict, in the middle a worldwide pandemic. As the song states – music is a large part of the healing and calming amongst the storm. During this time of much uncertainty, it’s refreshing to have a message so simply laid out before you that does not require immense thought to unearth its intent. From the opening notes of “Good To Hear Music” you tend to feel as the song implies, and like much of KBong’s songs you are then carried away into a blissful escape – a breathe of fresh air that as long as you have the sunshine of music, you will be alright.
I recently had the chance to speak with KBong from our respective confines as part of our Instagram Live Interview Series. We dug into the balance between his solo material and playing a integral role within the reggae/dub group Stick Figure. Whether it’s solo material or rockin’ in a band, the greater community that KBong is a part of is one of great support, just like his latest single, “Good To Hear Music”
How is this social distancing / quartatine life going for you?
I have been songwriting a lot and continuing to grow the KBong brand, focusing on how to get that out more and how to get my music out to more listeners; as well as adapting to what is going on. We don’t have live shows going so for me it’s, how do I take the energy of what I’m usually out there doing on stage and use that to benefit and engagin the fanbase. Live streams, doing interviews and writing more is really adapting to what is going on right now and I’m seeing it happen across the live music industry. It’s really exciting what a lot of musiciains have done. Every day I see something new that an artist has done.
How did your plans change? I know you had just come off of a tour, but had did you have to pivot and change plans for what you had lined up?
Well, I got incredibly lucky with my KBong tour. It was my second KBong solo tour that happened in February, we did all the dates we had on the routing. It was like a week after that where everything started ending. It’s a bummer that our Stick Figure tour got postoned, but there’s nothing we can do about that situation. Man, that would have been such a good time, but we are adapting and I’m seeing full bands play on live streams and that’s the next thing I am working on right now. I’ve done a lot of acoustic live streams and the next thing I am doing is getting my full band together to do a live stream.
I find Hawaiian culture to be so inspiring in terms of music being a large part of the culture. How did you get started in music and how did the Hawaiian culture influence you?
My first instrument was the ukulele. Being in Hawaii and having that option to learn the ukulele was cool. If you are learning an instrument for the first time, I encourage you try the ukulele. It’s such a fun instrument to learn and it feels great. Growing up in Hawaii definitely lead to that, growing up somewhere else, I’m not sure I would have had that experience. Music is such a big part of the Hawaiian culture. I’d say one in three friends that I grew up with are into music.
Reggae is obviously a big part of the culture there, and obviously the ukulele is the heartbeat of the sound of Hawaiian culture.
I find Hawaiin culture to be so inspiring in terms of music being a large part of the culture. How did you get started in music and how did the Hawaiin culture influence you?
My first instrument was the ukuele. Being in Hawaii and having that option to learn the Ukuele was cool. If you are learning an insturment fo rthe fitst time, I encourage you try the ukuele. It’s such a fun instrument to learn and it feels great. Growing up in Hawaii definetly lead to that, growing up somewhere else, I’m not sure I would have had that experience. Music is such a big part of the Hawaiin culture. I’d say one in three friends that I grew up with are into music. Reggae is obviously a big part of the culture there, and obviously the ukuele is the heartbeat of the sound of Hawaiin culture.
Your entire catalog of music whether it’s solo material or with Stick Figure is just synomous with feeling good. There’s such a good vibe to your music that translates to a a good feeling for the listener. What do you do when you are feeling the opposite? If you are feeling very down, what are some of the things you do, that translate to music, to combat that?
Part of it does comes natural to me. I have this natural enthusiasm, happines and postivity. I feel very fortunate for the situation I had as a kid, with a very loving and supportive family. My brother runs a record label in Hawaii. Even now in San Diego, there are so many great people around me. I do get bummed out, I don’t tend to stay in that sitation too long, but when I do, I just take time. I practice yoga, listen to music and just chill out. That really helps me reset and balance. Yoga is crucial to me in order to recharge. It’s really all about taking care, doing something for me and just having time. Music of course is crucial to me, just picking up and playing.
With your new song “Good To Hear Music”, I would assume you and Mihali would not have expected it would be released during this crazy time. But the song is really applicable to the current climate. In particular, I am really taking to the line “It’s good to hear music in my town” because it makes me think of all those people out on their balconies playing music for their communities to hear. What is it like for you to have this song out at this time?
Yeah, the statement “Good To Hear Music” is coming at a crucial time. A lot of people are dancing when I’m doing live streams. Listening to music and playing music is such a nice balance right now because we use music as an escape. The lyrics then help us get through the situations that we are going through. But I think music in general is crucial in this time.
How did “Good To Hear Music” come to be?
It was leading up to the Levitate Festival last year. I was out on the east coast for a week before the festival last year. Johnny Cosmic and I were playing together and I had this idea in my head. In Stick Figure we had toured with Twiddle and that’s where we met. I thought Mihali was a great guitar player and songwriter, and someone I’d love to collaborate with. So, I had this song and thought he would be perfect on the track. Twiddle’s front of house guy, Sam Johnson had this studio in Vermont where he lives. We met up there. Everything came together so nicely. We tracked the song live. In my left ear I had Mihali, in my right ear I had Johnny Comic and then I had my acoustic down the center. We did a total of seven takes and then put the best of it together. To hear Mihali work and do his thing was such a great experience.
As a songwriter, how do you know when to keep a piece of music you are working for solo material vs. having it be a part to a Stick Figure song or another collaboration?
The vibe of the song determines where it goes. Like I just came up with this piano riff and chord progression and my first thought was that I needed to show Scott (Woodruff of Stick Figure) because it had this dreamy feel. The song I wrote with G.Love a few weeks ago right away felt like a G.Love track. It was all about as long as the sun will shine, we’ll make it to the other side. I heard harmonica over the top and I could hear G.Love saying, “Yo, we got to keep on moving, we’ve been stayin’ inside for song..” It was awesome. I knew I had to show him and we finished it together. It will be on the new KBong solo record that I’m working on right now. When the gates open up, I’ll be heading into the studio with Johnny Cosmic on production, I’m really excited about that. But for now, if someone told me that they are having a bad day and they put “Good To Hear Music” on and starting dancing in their living, that’s inspiration to me and I start working on the next one.