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Back To Their Roots

10 July 2013 | 5:45 am | Matt O'Neill

"Sometimes I think we’re not as successful as we should be. Depending on how you gauge success. You know, overseas touring or releasing more albums."

Kooii have been around for over a decade. In that time, they've released multiple albums, delivered award-winning songs and toured and performed alongside genre heavyweights like The Cat Empire and Blue King Brown. However, their greatest contribution has arguably been one of culture. Namely, the culture of leftfield grooves they've played an integral part in developing within Brisbane's West End.

“I think there are a lot of Brisbane acts that don't get a lot of recognition,” bandleader Peter Hunt says of the community. “Sometimes I think we're not as successful as we should be. Depending on how you gauge success. You know, overseas touring or releasing more albums. I think there is definitely an audience out there for this kind of music that's coming out of Brisbane but whether it's as big as those acts deserve, I'm not sure.”

Kooii's upcoming performance at The Hi-Fi this weekend is geared around exposing that community. Ostensibly to celebrate the band's return to the live circuit after taking a break at the end of last year, Hunt has nevertheless attempted to craft something that's more representative of the band's community than their sound – enlisting fellow veterans like Chocolate Strings and returning expatriates like Georgia Potter to round out the line-up.

“Yeah, for sure,” he confirms. “Particularly because we're doing it at The Hi-Fi. You know, The Hi-Fi is one of the prestige venues for bands in Brisbane. I'm really excited to be taking the local music from that scene and putting it all together in one of the big venues in Brisbane. It's a good thing. You know, you need to publicise this community somehow, I think, make people aware of the music.”

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It's a doubly fitting line-up for how it coincides with Kooii's own expansion. Typically identified as a reggae outfit, Kooii have always had more to their music and, following their return, Hunt seems intent on making that manifest. Currently preparing to record, the band's new work takes in elements of jazz, electronics and Africana to craft a more idiosyncratic and expansive sound – one more emblematic of their eclectic West End fraternity.

“It's kind of a new direction. It's something that's been seeded a long time ago but is only just starting to break to the surface now,” Hunt says. “There's a real focus on rhythm and the intricacies of rhythm and how they interlock and connect. It's almost like a forest of sound. We've always had that to a degree but I feel like we're only just starting to really tease it out now.

“It's a bit more African. I don't know... A bit more out-there, for lack of a better description. It reminds me of jams that I had with people down in Byron Bay. Even sounds coming out of some new bands in Brisbane. Bands like MKO, that sort of thing – but still drawing inspiration from really rootsy, stripped-back music from areas like Jamaica or the Virgin Islands. Not trying to be tricky or clever but just raw and spiritual.

“It just happened organically,” the bandleader says. “You know, one of the biggest changes is that I used to write all the songs and now we're all taking part in the writing process. Our sound's just gradually evolved and changed and now we're getting ready to move onto the next thing, really. I'm really excited by it all. I'm really looking forward to it.”