“Essentially, we’re seven composers, not one.”
Christian Ruggiero and Sam Newman are old WAYJO buddies, trained town planners, the production side of hip hop outfit Childs Play, and horn players with emerging hip hop-soul band, Koi Child. The seven-piece are playing at the Fairbridge Festival in Pinjarra this weekend, as well as Groovin The Moo in Bunbury on Sunday, April 26, gigging intensely, and releasing a new single, Black Panda, via Pilerats next week. ZOE KILBOURN reports.
If anything embodies the breadth of Koi Child’s influences, it might be trombonist Sam Newman’s phone settings.
His voicemail message: ‘Hello, this is Sam Newman. At the moment blah-blah-blah (bebop skat riffing)”.
His SMS tone: 50 Cent’s I Get It In.
Koi Child is the merging of nu-soul four-piece Kashikoi and Childs Play, Newman, Christian Ruggiero and Shannon ‘Cruz’ Patterson’s hip hop trio. Kashikoi were interested in playing hip hop; Ruggiero and Newman missed the live band set-up.
“We saw the Robert Glasper Experiment play at the Perth International Arts Festival two years ago, and we’re all just in awe of how big their sound was,” says Ruggiero. “It was pretty inspiring. We sorta said, yeah, we’ll have a jam and try to come up with something relatively along those lines as a big seven-piece live band.”
“Me and Christian here missed the live band aspect,” Newman explains. “We used to be in WAYJO together. We’d kinda just been doing hip hop and DnB production for a while.”
“Essentially, we’re seven composers, not one,” Newman says. “With The Brow Horn, it’s Nick (Owen), he composes everything, with Tame Impala, it’s Kev (Parker). Fortunately or unfortunately for us, it’s every single member. So there’s this tedious three-nights-a-week process of going through every song. We went to this island down south for 10 days, which is when we wrote and recorded the songs. It was the transition from ‘Are we a jam band?’ to ‘Are we writing and composing songs?‘ We’re pretty non-jamming now. There’ll be times to jam.”
Koi Child’s first single, Slow One, emerged from those early jam sets.
“It’s funny – that name was a bit of a mistake,” says Ruggiero. “To remember all these jams that we had we’d just go, ‘Yeah. Just play the slow one.’ There was a bit of confusing when we were putting it up – what was it meant to be called?”
“A much better name than that,” says Newman. “And Shannon is now naming the songs, he’s doing damage control. I suppose in that vein – a bit of a disclaimer – this next one should be called Super Fast One.”
“I think the sound we’ve got is a combination of everyone’s ideas, especially in the horn section,” says Ruggiero. “Me and Sam have pretty similar funk, jazz influences. Jamie, the other sax player, he’s come from a classical background. Technically he’s brilliant. Me and Sam, we’ll come up with that traditional Fat Freddy’s horn line, and then Jamie goes, ‘how about you play this, change this note’.”
Newman and Ruggiero, who finished a Town Planning degree together last year, had a strong grounding in small jazz ensembles from primary school up – “farting louder than playing,” Newman says. “I think you, me, Jamie (Canny , alto sax) and Yannis (Vissac, bass) did TEE music. Shannon’s just black and natural. Tom’s WAAPA. Blake’s (Hart, drums) good fun – Blake’s the real Koi influence. He’s a drummer, a real psychedelic rock n roll kind of guy. Not having a jazz-trained drummer is really good for us, because he’s brought this whole different element through this droney rock influence. He didn’t know hip hop or jazz, so he just sorta smashes things out, and it’s great.”
Hart’s simultaneously killing it in Hideous Sun Demon. Patterson’s working with local producer Henry Kissinger. Childs Play just released a production-based EP featuring a Louis Armstrong tribute. Canny plays horns with Weapon Of Sound. Everyone seems to have production side-projects. It’s a testament to the sheer wealth of music coming out of Fremantle at the moment.
“We’re forming a collective out of Fremantle with all the various hip hop producers and acts that are coming out of here,” says Newman. “Jim from Strangelove’s got that Corduroy Clove outfit, Henry Kissinger’s been killing it, a bunch of other acts. The studio where we’ve got a range of artists and fashion designers, we’re all just working on projects together. We’re not going to really release anything ’til June, but hopefully our identity will come through.”