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By Brian Ives 

Today, Kongos release “Take It From Me,” the first single from their hotly anticipated Egomaniac  album, the follow-up to their 2014 major label debut, Lunatic. The song may sound a bit familiar to the band’s die-hard fans.

Related: Q&A: Kongos Turn South African Success into a U.S. Radio Hit

The quartet, made up of all brothers, have been playing the song in their shows for some time, as bassist/singer Dylan Kongos tells “It was actually written by [drummer] Jesse, who sings lead on it; it was written quite a long time ago. When Lunatic took off for us in the States, we were kind of already in the writing process for Egomaniac. We toured with this song and played it live and we got a sense for how the crowd reacted to it. The groove got people moving so we knew it had potential.”

However, something about the live version was getting lost, so the band dressed it up with some studio magic: “Recording it was a difficult process, because the live version was not coming across as we wanted it to. We changed it up a bit and now it’s got a really good mix of something studio-sounding and the live energy. The arrangement changed: when we played it  live, we had a long slide guitar solo in the middle of the song; it worked live [but not in the studio]. We also added layered drums: Jesse played every African drum and every western drum kit to make a big huge sound.”

There’s also some studio treated low pitched vocals, which fit in with the theme of the album: “The song was written before the we had the album cover image,” which is of a angry looking gorilla looking at the camera. “And it was written before we had the album title, but then when we came up with that, and we saw this gorilla looking at the camera, like he just doesn’t take s— from anyone,… when we heard that section of the song… it’s kind of a self-aware song, it’s not literally saying, ‘Nothing can stop me, nothing can hold me back,’ it’s about this ego inside of you that’s out of your control, that kind of gets away from you. So it was perfect to lower the pitch on that voice and make it sound like this big beast saying, ‘It’s got a mind of it’s own, nothing can stop me.'”

Johnny tells that all four brothers – Dylan, Jesse, Daniel (guitar) and Johnny (accordion, keyboards) – all wrote and sang songs on the upcoming album. Does it get intense with all four brothers vying to get their songs on the album? “Luckily we have enough songs, and the egos weren’t too bruised. There were some instances where we said, ‘That won’t work, that song isn’t ready.’ But for the most part, we’re too embarrassed to bring a song to our brothers, if it’s not at a point where we are confident [in it]. We kind of all bring our best to the table. There weren’t any songs this time where we said ‘That sucks.’ There were some songs that didn’t fit the album, or didn’t fit Kongos.”

But he has a diplomatic attitude about the song pitching process. “When anyone writes a song, it doesn’t do any good to just shut it down . In every attempt of a song, there’s always something that can be extracted. There’s a song called ‘Hey You Yeah You’ that we wrote with a pop singer in mind, but then we gave it a shot, and we realized that it works as a Kongos song.”


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