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Khruangbin makes Aspen debut

Texas trio will play sold-out Belly Up

Shannon Asher
Special to the Aspen Times
Courtesy photo

 

IF YOU GO …

Who: Khruangbin

Where: Belly Up Aspen

When: Wednesday, Sept. 22, 8 p.m.

Tickets: Sold out

More info: bellyupaspen.com; Pachyman opens

Before becoming a global phenomenon, the members of Khruangbin — a trio of guitarist Mark Speer, bassist Laura Lee and drummer Donald Ray “DJ” Johnson — were friends.

The friendship started when Speer and Johnson began playing in church together. They would rehearse Tuesday nights to prepare for the church service Sunday. After practice, the two would have a burger at a local joint called Rudyard’s in Houston.

“Mark and I became friends, and I crashed their Tuesday night hangouts one week and I never left,” Lee said in a recent phone interview from her home in Austin, Texas. “We had burgers together every Tuesday night for three years before we were ever a band and before I ever played bass.”



Khruangbin (pronounced KHRUNG-bin) will make their Aspen debut at Belly Up Aspen on Wednesday evening.

When listening to Khruangbin’s psychedelic, mostly instrumental sound, it’s evident that each member contributes something entirely different.




“I mostly come from a church background, so a lot of my influences come from gospel music,” Johnson said. “I also listen to a lot of hip-hop and R&B. I would say a lot of what I infuse comes from that side of things that have influenced me over the years.”

Speer’s influences are largely from non-English speaking aritsts, Johnson said.

“You can find him in the world music section of the record store,” Johnson said. “He’s our guru on that end. He’s always finding stuff in just weird corners and pockets of the planet that are unheard of that are hidden gems. Playing the guitar, the lead instrument of Khruangbin, he’s kind of like our vocalist in a sense.”

Khruangbin released a new album in August called “Mordechai Remixes” — its first full remix record.

“Personally, I always wanted to have remixes of our stuff,” Speer said. “Growing up, going to record stores, there was always the section where it was just full of white labels — 12-inch dance edits or dance mixes. The idea is that it’s designed to be played by a DJ. It’s meant to make the DJ’s job easier. In the remix world, you make sure that stuff is all lined up so you can keep that party going. Just one never-ending beat.”

When it came to selecting partners to do the remixing, Lee explained, they hand-selected artists who know the band personally.

Courtesy photo

“If you are asking someone to do a remix, I think the only way to really do it is to let them have full creative control,” Lee said. “Otherwise, you’re not really letting them fully express themselves.”

The band’s highest-charting collaboration is their song “Texas Sun” with Leon Bridges, released in February 2020. The whimsical tune is essentially a love song to their home state.

“It was a beautiful experience working with Leon,” Johnson said. “We met touring in 2018. When you tour with another band or another artist, you get to spend a lot of time with each other on the road. That birthed the ‘Texas Sun’ project. It was a natural fit for collaboration. We’re both Texans (Leon being from Fort Worth and us from Houston). Since we’re a primarily instrumental band and Leon has a world-class voice, I think it was a match made in Texas.”

As for the Belly Up show, Johnson said, “Expect the unexpected.”

Lee concluded by saying, “We tend to play to the room. Whatever the room is bringing to us, we’re going to bring it right back.”


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