Australian urban roots band Blue King Brown emphatically returns to the region this month, with performances at the Drake Inn on June 26 and Wild Bill’s on June 27.
The Outlook spoke with lead singer Natalie Pa’apa’a by phone last week, just as she walked off stage as the opening act at a Michael Franti concert in Baltimore.
“We’ve been over to Canada three or four times, and this time we’re really stoked because we get to do pretty much the entire country,” she said. “We’re going from coast to coast and play a bunch of jazz festivals and play other towns that we haven’t been to before, or haven’t been to in a couple years, so it’ll be good to be back.”
The band was last in the region two years ago, for a show in Banff.
“Little places are awesome. We’ve had great times in those places,” she said. “Banff is a huge party, Wild Bill’s is pretty crazy and we like it.
“And we love being able to come back to the small towns. We do get to play some bigger festival shows these days and some big stages, but there’s always a spot for the more intimate shows, especially when they’re our own shows, we really get to perform our full show, and that’s something we really value.”
Playing live is the best part about the music, said Pa’apa’a.
“There’s no substitute for live music and the interaction with a live crowd,” she said. “Since the start of this band we’ve always been very focused on performing live and wanting to tour, because we love touring and playing and going to new places and meeting new people. It’s very much part of the foundation of this group; we tour a lot and we like it like that.”
Describing their sound is a difficult thing, said Pa’apa’a, as their styles and influences range dramatically.
“We call it urban roots music, and the roots side of it encompasses a large part of the music that inspires us; everything from roots reggae to blues and roots to afro beat roots,” she explained. “And then the urban side of it is the more modern edge that we like, the hip hop and dance influences that come into it as well.
“We’re a pretty eclectic sounding band. People find it hard to put us into one genre, but we call it urban roots.”
Touring as a nine-piece band, Pa’apa’a stressed their music is high energy and full of meaning.
“We have a high energy show that we like to engage the crowd with, and at the same time as that the lyrical side of our music is very conscious – we sing about what it’s like to be alive from our perspective at this time in the history of the world – what we witness and are able to see and feel throughout the streets and cities of all the different countries we’re able to visit,” she explained.
“And we sing about different issues and there’s social commentary, but one underlying theme through most of our music is that of unity and remembering our interconnectedness, not only as human beings, but our connection to the earth and everything around us.”
With this tour, the band is debuting the Canadian release of its self-titled album, Blue King Brown.
“It was a name that just came together for us out of words that we liked individually,” said Pa’apa’a. “We wanted a name that didn’t mean anything else in the world, didn’t exist already. The blue is like the blues in roots, which is so much a part of the music that we’re inspired by, king is power and strength through music, and brown is the soul and the groove.”