Blue King Brown
Where once they busked on the now-gold-plated streets of Byron Bay, weaving rhythmic tapestry to feral hill folk and sandled city-slickers alike, now they play to the world. Where once they played to few, now they play to many and are embraced by anyone with a penchant for dance and a predilection for reggae-soaked grooves, the latter of which they’ve fought, tooth and nail, to meld to their own whim, slowly but surely distancing themselves from the other, mundane and painfully stereotypical replicas of bands gone by. They are, of course, Blue King Brown, and life for this eight-piece collective is far from the same as it once was.
So to heights before unimagined they’ve risen, and yet still they’re a part of those streets they began on all those years ago. As well, to those same people they play, more of them yes, but still the same message they preach and the same ears it reaches, although now, with close to a decade of experience under their belt, Blue King Brown are able to spread that message wider and further than ever before, and if the truth be told, there’s no end in sight. Yes, they were cut from the same cloth as countless others before them, but they’re now woven a new one and it shows in their live sets, their recorded work, their ethos and their music as a whole.
To talk with frontwoman, Natalie Pa’apa’a these days, is a different scenario than it once was. In speaking to her numerous times in the past I’ve found her haughty and distant, but with the growth (and indeed success) of the group she co-founded with bassist Carlo Santone around seven years ago, she seems to have mellowed out and come to accept that the (media) interest in this group is a positive thing and so she talks without restraint and gives out an aura of calm and confidence. As well she might, for Blue King Brown are taking on the world, they’re becoming world-wise you might say, and this is, whether you care for them or not, just what they deserve.
“In between three and four weeks, we hit up Canadian Music Week in Toronto, we did a showcase in New York with a bunch of other Australian acts, we did SXSW in Austin, plus our own shows in LA and London,” Pa’apa’a outlines on what the band have been up to over the past couple of months, showing exactly how big the interest in BKB is getting overseas. “So it was really great fun for us to get over there and perform at these industry events because we’re obviously always trying to expand our opportunities in international territories.
“We’re still largely unknown in those territories too,” she goes on, “so it’ll be a struggle (to really break it), you’ve gotta be prepared for years of it because it takes a long time of returning to these territories with continuity to actually build up a strong fanbase. So we’ll be returning to Canada in June and July, and I think Europe as well.” Blue King Brown started making forays overseas in 2008, they’ve already got a steadily building following in the UK and Canada, and last year they toured through the States supporting roots rocker, Michael Franti – it’s a slow build, as Pa’apa’a says, but it’s one that’s worth following up given the exposure and the response they’ve had thus far.
Later this month, the group will tour Australia, their first headline run here in a year and a half, which is a long time by anyone’s standard. The reason for this touring gap is also the reason the band are starting to garner genuine overseas interest, the making of their second record, a double disc set, Worldwize. In 2006, BKB released their debut long-player, Stand Up, a record which set the Australian roots scene on fire and branded them as a band to watch. Such was its home-grown success, that a stellar second effort was called for, hence the two-disc set that is Worldwize.
Samuel J. Fell