Kids These Days School Us On What Music Can Be
Mensa was fearless and not intimidated by Lollapalooza. He tried to attend the festival last year -- by sneaking in. He jumped a fence near the Metra tracks, but brushed against an electrical transformer. He not only took several thousand volts through his left arm, he fell 30 feet to the pavement and spent three days in the hospital. "I almost fuckin' died trying to sneak in here last year," Mensa told the crowd. "This is way better." The rest of KTD chewed up the scenery to pump up the crowd. And on it went.
Easily one of the best shows I saw all Friday, Kids These Days is an eight-piece group comprised of 18- and 19-year-olds, half of them from Whitney Young High School. Mixing up blues, hip-hop, funk, rock, jazz and most other genres, KTD has come up through the ranks during the last two years. They had a buzz worthy showcase at SXSW last March, and now here they are at Lollapalooza.
I sat down with them the day after their show and was taken in by their energy, their passion for music and camaraderie . And their freaking eery ability to finish each other’s sentences and still hold on to their own very unique personalities.
It all came together naturally, organically it seems.
“We are not a genre,“ starts Nico Segal, trumpet. “You cannot honestly say we are just one thing or that our music is just one thing. But WE call it Traphouse Rock.” Adding Rajiv Halim, saxaphone, “Once I got in this band, I stopped thinking of music as a genre. We just appreciate GOOD music.”
When I asked about the commonalities between the eight of them considering their diverse backgrounds and musical styles they start blasting away, Sly And The Family Stone, Aretha Franklin, Miles Davis. Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, John Coltraine, punk, electronica, musicality, focus…
In the background during this interview, you can hear the wild sounds of Fitz and the Tantrums. The only girl in the group, Macie Stewart seems to get lost in the rythym and the voice of Noelle Scaggs (of FATT) before rejoining the group with her full attention. She readily admits the guys may “annoy the shit of me”, but she likes being the only girl, the soul sister. But her distraction at the sound of another hot female singer seems to come from both admiration and a desire to bond in a different way.
Noelle Scaggs, Fitz And The Tantrums, photo Bret Grafton
Another sign that these kids love music is their incessant beating, thumping, rearranging songs, rapping and wanting to travel and do more, more, more. But is this youthful exuberance that can easily get lost in the hype of being a “band on the rise”?
“We are eight equal musicians who keep each other grounded and put music first, as do our managers. In spite of the differences and the hype as we get more exposure.” says Greg Landfair, Jr., drums. “It’s hard to get lost if we are musically driven and the music is the core of what we do.” emphasizes Segal.
KTD photo Bret Grafton
After watching their high-energy show and a young crowd grow equally as energetic, I notice there were a few interesting dynamics on stage. The personalities seem to range from cocky to shy. So I pose the question to the group if those were true dynamics that carry off stage as well.
“Not so much cocky, Gil, but aggressive.” Mensa quickly interjects. “In fact, me and Nico spoke about this last night. Obviously our music is broken down by a lot of influences from hip-hop, to jazz to blues. From soul and funk to gospel. But I can tell you hip-hop certainly brings the arrogance it reps to our band.”
As if on cue to demonstrate, Mensa crosses his arms and leans back to his right with that telling swagger and says, “It’s that over-confidence (almost), that rappers have. That confidence that you are the best.” KTD translate that aggressive assuredness into their music. Confident in each progressive piece of music there will be smooth transitions. They know they will get the sound they want and they will improvise like the best of them to fill in the holes with artistry. Never doubting themselves.
They lead a prayer before every set. It’s a straight up way to get grounded and trust in each other. Very demostratively, they all wanted to make it clear it was not about organized religion, it was about them trusting in each other and the music. To them, just as there is no doubt in their abilities, there is absolute certainty that music is spiritual and moves people.
“Shout out to the church of John Coltraine.” Adds Halim.
Look for Traphouse Rock coming your way soon a free slice of KTD music for everyone to enjoy.