Have you ever wondered what it would sound like if The Allman Brothers and The Dave Matthews Band cooked dinner for John Mayer and Jack Johnson, and they had so much fun together that they decided the party should never end? Me too! That’s why I was so excited the first time I heard Nashville-based band Koa!
Here’s the story; once upon a time in far away land (Colorado), fellow musical fifth graders Chase Bader and Conor Kelly met and began writing what I like to call the “playground blues” together. As they progressed in their musical prowess (or maybe “got the wiggles out”), they began taking seriously the art they were creating together; in 2013, that project became what is now known as six-member-strong fun-rock band Koa.
The band attributes their sound to their collection of influences, which can be legion in a group this size–a roster that includes Mahalia Jackson, Joe Cocker, The Allman Brothers, and Marvin Gaye. “It all happened so naturally. Our bassist, Ryan [Ladd], was really into prog rock—King Crimson, Pink Floyd, he brought that element into the band,” says co-founder Kelly, who is a Koa guitarist. “He also brought our drummer, Will [Youngclaus], with him, who, being a fan of funk and classic rock from the 70s, brings that aspect to the group. Meeting Alex [Mathews] was totally random—he brought his saxophone over one day to practice with us on a night when we were writing a song, and when we heard it all together, I remember everyone looking at each other and being like ‘this is really cool, this is what the band is supposed to sound like.’” Newest member and auxiliary percussionist Ryan McClanahan was added to to bring even more flavor to the mix. “At the end of the day, your band is only as good as your drummer,” Kelly says with a laugh. “Will and McClanahan are the backbone of the band; they really complement each other.”
“Most people don’t know that Chase has been a drummer for the last 12 or so years. We always felt like we were ‘settling’ on a singer in high school; when we would write together, he would do the singing, and I could hear some really unique qualities in his voice. When it came time to take things more seriously, he took the leap to become lead guitar and the singer. Chase brings the soul,” adds Kelly.
Koa has accumulated quite the following in Nashville; the band has recently shared the stage with bands like Moon Taxi. SWOON. Kelly promises that a new full-length is in the works, and that there are exciting things to announce ahead of festival season. Until then, you can download their newest EP for FREE at Noisetrade (http://noisetrade.com/koamusic/this-is-koa). You can also go to their website and sign up to be a part of the Koalition (see what they did there), because, as they say, it’s not just a band. Koa is an experience.