King Holiday Accesses The Old-School With New Verve

By Amelia Mason - February 25, 2014


A self-described “astro-soul” band, King Holiday is so much more. The 10-piece outfit, which includes a horn section, harkens back to the big band era of jazz. Their music, though swathed in a pychedelic haze, is rooted in funk-inspired grooves. Frontman Les Kujo sings of earthly concerns in transcendent, cosmic language. From Bushwick basements to downtown art galleries, King Holiday’s mission is to help its audience reach a higher plane of existence through dance.

The band hails from Bedstuy, Brooklyn, a scrappy neighborhood that, like so much of the borough’s outer reaches, has become a haven for hip, bushy-bearded artists. Appropriately, King Holiday have made a name for themselves as much through appearances at underground house shows as gigs at popular Manhattan music halls. They are known for playing long, exhaustive numbers that rise and fall from cacophonous breakdowns to smooth, trance-inducing riffs. Kujo especially is renowned for his stage presence, a lithe, liquid-limbed being who is never at rest.

King Holiday have produced only an EP, but a stunning swath of musical history is traversed in just those two tracks, from jazz to funk to soul. Track two, “Breathe,” is particularly dynamic, with a funky, electronic-tinged beat and a cast of jittery saxophones. Kuja intones the opening verse: “Are you falling into the plan/ Workin’ a Monday job once again?” At the hook, the music swells and the backup chorus joins in with cries of “free, free!” About three-and-a-half minutes in, the rising euphoria collapses, and we have no choice but to bask in a cool jazz interlude before the song ramps back up to its triumphant conclusion.

In addition to the two original pieces found on King Holiday’s Bandcamp page, there is a remix of each song by producer Cabo Blanco. It’s a telling gesture on the band’s part. Though the group draws from a wellspring of musical nostalgia, they are also deeply plugged in to the trends of the day. For King Holiday, dance links the past to the present, and is the basis of a vision for the future.

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