Khruangbin will have a bonus treat at his September 29 tour stop in Las Vegas in the form of virtuoso guitarist and vocalist Vieux Farka Touré. He will be joining the Houston trio on the heels of the collaborative project Alireleased September 23 and titled in honor of Touré’s father, the late African blues great Ali Farka Touré.
The album blends Vieux Farka Touré’s distinctive guitar, vocal and Malian style with Khruangbin’s cross-genre psychedelic cocktail of funk, reggae, soul and world music. One track, “Savanne,” finds a mystical guitar solo layered with reggae and Latin rhythms and Touré’s vocals, while the blues-rock hook on “Tongo Barra” morphs into a hip-swinging vamp amidst masterful riffs.
With this release, along with the February EP Texas moon with Leon Bridges, EP 2020 Texas sun (also with bridges) and 2020 LP Mordecai In their ever-expanding arsenal, the band is now in full performance mode, putting on stellar shows while pedaling with a variety of guest artists. Since Khruangbin’s space walking tour kicked off in July, Canadian indie group Men I Trust have joined the group on stage, and Thundercat is scheduled to open for them in Denver.
That Weekly caught up with Khruangbin bassist Laura Lee Ochoa and drummer Donald “DJ” Johnson ahead of their Brooklyn Bowl performance to talk about working with Vieux Farka Touré and Bridges and more.
What was it like making an album with Vieux Farka Touré? Ochoa: It was a challenge working with what is basically a one man band. He plays incredible amazing guitar – very full bodied playing style and he sings too. [So] It was a challenge for us to figure out how to work around his playstyle. Also, neither of us speaks the other’s native language. … It’s really nice to be in the studio and to appreciate the fact that music is a universal language. We could talk through games.
How has the pandemic affected the recording process with him or with Leon Bridges on these collaborations? Johnson: We had a really good 2019, recording a lot —[2020 EP] Texas sunMordecai and [some of] the Vieux Farka Touré material… basically simultaneously. [Then] In 2020 we closed it.
Ochoa: From processing plans to vital mastering, all of these things have been secured over COVID. And we were all stuck in our respective houses, which are not close to each other. So we were lucky that we burned out in 2019 (laughs). Because we just wanted to be protected for a while. That [“Texas Moon”] Video was the first time we were actually together during the pandemic I think.
The artworks, music videos and promotional posters surrounding these projects also stand out. How do you approach these visual elements? Ochoa: Everything Khruangbin does is carefully curated. Aaron Lowell Denton is behind it Texas sun artwork. He did one of the posters for our tour with Leon. … He was someone we were all fans with [and] We worked on making the landscape fit the content.
your tour for Mordecai was delayed by the pandemic. How did it perform these songs live two years after their release? Ochoa: It’s obviously bittersweet, because the pandemic took a huge toll, and it’s still taking a toll on everything. But I think as an artist it’s a really rewarding time to play. … It’s safe to say we’re still playing shows where it’s people’s first show.
KHRUANGBIN With Vieux Farka Toure. September 29, 6 p.m., $55-$75. Brooklyn Bowl, ticketweb.com.
Click HERE to subscribe to Weekly Fix, the digital edition of Las Vegas Weekly for free! Stay up to date with the latest Las Vegas concerts, shows, restaurants, bars and more, delivered straight to your inbox!