Interview: Killamonjambo

Having recently supported Ed Sheeran, fellow Next Big Thing finalists Killamonjambo return to Norwich for a home town show starting what could be a big year. SIMON PARKIN reports.

Killamonjambo is a mad name for a band that offers a mad sound and could yet follow in the hugely successful footsteps of the original mad band.

The energetic, wacky Norwich outfit could be the younger version of the ever-popular 1980s nutty boys Madness. But while Suggs and the gang built their pop success on a love of classic Jamaican ska, the sound of Killamonjambo is a far funkier and far filthier skank.

The six-piece — made up of vocalist Jamie Hagon, guitarist Frank Youngs, bassist Lake Kearny, drummer Pete Warner and a lively brass section of Jonny Lawes and Sam Bramley on saxophone and trumpet — have built up a strong local following based on some fantastic live performances and an ability to involve the audience and get a crowd — whatever the size — moving.

And having won more fans when they supported Ed Sheeran at his sold-out shows at the UEA and the Junction in Cambridge, the band play their latest home town headline show at Norwich Arts Centre tomorrow to mark the release of their latest EP, Thunder Thighs.

The three-track EP, made with the help of legendary producer Dave Bloor, marks the start of what could be a big year for the band with dates in America, festival appearances and their debut album all on the agenda for 2012.

The band have worked hard for their breakthrough moment since emerging from some bedroom jamming almost five years ago.

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Explaining the band's origins, Jonny Lawes said: 'It all started with our guitar and bass player really, bedroom jamming, then they decided it didn't sound so good and we needed to get other people in. I joined the band about four years ago and then we decided we needed to change drummers and then as me being the sax player I decided I didn't want to do it on my own anymore so we needed to get a trumpet player in.

'Then Bramley arrived. We had two singers for two and a half years but that didn't work out so we decided to roll with Jamie in the short term, but then we decided he could do it on his own and we haven't looked back so we are now a full six piece.'

The band's sound has developed into a melting pot of influences and sounds. 'I would say it's an energetic mix of ska, dub, punk, rock — predominantly it's based around interacting with the crowd in a way that eliminates the line between the stage and the crowd,' says Jamie. 'In a way it's like non-generic pop and dance music. Hip hop dance skank maybe…'

Supporting Ed Sheeran was a big boost for the band. How did they get that gig? 'We know Ed, we have played with him for years in Norwich so he's a good friend. I remember once he was playing a gig and snapped four out of his six strings, but he just went with it and carried on. We are really proud of him! I went to see him at the Waterfront and asked if he could sort us out with a gig and there we were!'

After putting the finishing touches to the EP, the band are keen to get back on the road in 2012 and are hoping for more high profile support slots.

'That is one of our main goals, to get on tour with a bigger band we are working with a band called Magazine Gap a little bit at the moment and we want to get something going with them. We really want to get on the road, it's really fun. We are working on an American tour at the moment which would be great. Paul [Wilson, band manager] has been great, organising us and we are getting really close. Our tour in Norway last year was amazing and has just made us want it more.'

Summer festival dates are on the horizon too. 'We'd like to do Latitude, we are hoping to get into BBC Introducing so hopefully we will be able to do Latitude, we are doing PlayFest. Also Fieldview Festival, that's the festival one of our favourite bands set up.'

Whenever a band is on the road there is always a fight over the tour bus playlist but Jonny reveals its not an issue that affects Killamonjambo. 'Ha ha well…basically we don't have a playlist as we ripped out our tape player then we brought a CD player out of all our money but Jamie took a fancy to it and put it in his car and gave Frank �50 to buy a new one but he spent it on a new pedal, so now we just have Lake on guitar.

'We had a good event on a three day tour we did in our van where we made a sign saying call if you want some music so people could ring if we want to hear us at one point a guy drove past at about 70mph and we were going about 65mph and he threw 50p in the window! We reckon we unofficially hold the world record for fastest buskers…'

For tomorrow's show the band are promising something special with the first preview screening of the new video for the EP title track, Thunder Thighs, and a number of guests specially invited including Xo Man, a 6ft 10in tall rapper from London who has also recently just finished touring with Ed Sheeran.

Also on the bill are fellow Norwich up-and-coming band Solko and Gorleston beach-pop duo Dumbfoundus, who in the past have co-opted four Killamonjambo members for the 'Dumbfoundus Big Band'.

And who would be the band's dream collaborators? 'The Cat Empire, Miles Davies but he's well dead so that's probably off the cards, Frankie wants to work with Reef too. Also Yes Sir Boss down in Bristol and the Mad Caddies, we toured Norway with and at a gig someone in the crowd said we sounded like them, made my day! Peter Andre too…but only from the Mysterious Girl period!'

t Killamonjambo play Norwich Arts Centre on January 14.

t Thunder Thighs is available now.

t Further listening: