How do you describe a band entirely based on a vibe? What is the Khruangbin vibe? Simply put, it's whatever vibe you need them to be. The Houston-based trio has become the face of a new wave in music blending global influences, funk, hip-hop, rock, and psychedelic music.
Khruangbin (KRUNG-bin) didn’t just pop-up out of nowhere. They’ve been playing together since 2009, the beginning of a resurgence in psychedelic music with bands like Tame Impala and Foxygen. Crossing paths with the blog-era Chillwave sounds of artists like Washed Out and Neon Indian.
Artists like Toro y Moi merged as strongholds of this genre-blending. With mixing the atmospheric sounds of Chillwave, the funk beats of artists like Funkedilics, and the hazed-out singing of Kevin Parker.
However, what Khruangbin has done to expand that sound is their instrumental proficiency paired with an agreed-upon aesthetic. You can listen to a Khruangbin record and think that you’ve been listening to one long song, and that is the point. Their music is a vibe, and if it were to be diverted too much, it would take away from their entire listening experience. Sure each song sticks out, and there are singles from their catalog, but those songs are part of an overall idea, theme, and aesthetic.
Friday evening, the Houston trio, along with Toro y Moi, stopped by The Andrew J Brady Music Center to provide fans an evening of danceable tunes and chill vibes.
By 8:15, Chaz Bear, also known as Toro y Moi, took the stage to play his past hits and introduce fans to his new and outstanding record MAHAL. An album that harkens back to the beats of Underneath The Pine while providing some of his most experimental ideas to date.
A highlight from their set came when they played their 2019 single “Freelance” into their newest single, “Postman.” Both songs use that heavy funk bass that we have become accustomed to with Toro y Moi’s best tracks.
After a quick stage setup, the lights dimmed, and two glowing staircases led up to drummer Donald “DJ” Johnson’s kit emerged. From that point on, the three emerged from the stage with bassist and lead singer Laura Lee and guitarist Mark Speer already playing as they walked along. They wouldn’t stop their pace the entire time. Like the most chill spin class you had ever been to, the three kept playing.
Playing tunes off their 2018 record Con Todo El Mundo, like “August 10,” an easy-listening Latin-influenced song that relies on the best qualities of each member of the group. From Lee’s soothing bass lines to Speer’s melodic reverb-filled guitar to the backbone of DJ on drums bringing in a demanding yet subtle beat throughout.
Running through songs like “Lady and Man” that feature the harmonizing vocals from Speer and Lee throughout. Not saying too much; however, it’s on songs like this where the three use their harmonies as another instrument to create their atmospheric sound.
One of the many highlights came when they broke into a medley of classic tunes. Their beats and melodies are so iconic they didn’t even need to sing any lyrics for the crowd to roar each time transitioning to the next song.
The medley feature 15 different songs. Bowie’s “Let’s Dance,” Elton John’s “Bennie and the Jets,” Ice Cube’s “It Was a Good Day,” Warren G’s “Regulate,” and Dr. Dre’s “Nothin’ but a “G” Thang” to name a few.
This led to an incredible full cover of Kool & the Gang’s “Summer Madness.” In the past ten years, this song has become arguably the most influential song in this genre of chillwave rock. It has served as the archetype for bands like Khruangbin, Tame Impala’s The Slow Rush, and many others in this vein of instrumental-focused vibe music.
The set also included the three incredible singles from their 2020 record Mordechai. “So We Won’t Forget” is a beautiful blissful song highlighting Lee’s singing ability. I hope this song encourages her to continue to sing on future tracks. “Pelota,” a personal favorite from that record, translated well to the stage. Not leaving behind their Latin-influenced roots, “Pelota” is a danceable track that once again features Spanish harmonizing between Speer and Lee and places Speer’s guitar at the forefront. And, of course, “Time (You and I)” helps close the encore out. The tune also showcases the clear hip-hop influences within the band, as you could easily have someone laying down lyrics over this song.
This may have been the first time Khruangbin played to an audience this size in Cincinnati, but this will not be the last. A nearly sold-out crowd made sure the trio felt loved and welcomed with deafening cheers. Even garnering the band's attention where they seemed genuinely honored and grateful for the crowd’s reception.
You can see Khruangbin at festivals throughout the country as they have become a staple of festival lineups. You can also check out Khruangbin’s music wherever you stream music.