Arizona alt-rock band Kongos’ genre-bending single “Come With Me Now” is a universal success by every measure: It’s sitting pretty with nearly 50 million YouTube and Spotify plays. 

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Arizona alt-rock band Kongos’ genre-bending single “Come With Me Now” is a universal success by every measure: It’s sitting pretty with nearly 50 million YouTube and Spotify plays. It’s funny because not too long ago, the quartet performed that song — and others like it from its hit record Lunatic — for meager, indifferent crowds in small clubs.

“We were playing venues to 20 people. Four were there to see us, and two of them were our parents,” bassist Dylan Kongos said. “A year and a half later, we’re playing to 10,000 people at Red Rocks [Park and Amphitheatre in Morrison, Colorado]. It’s one of those ‘Pinch me, holy shit’ moments.”

The band’s rocketing popularity is a shock, Kongos said. But it’s a well-deserved one.

Dylan and his brothers Daniel, Jesse and Johnny worked for this success for most of their lifetimes. A self-titled debut dropped in 2007 and was followed up in 2012 with Lunatic, which also was self-released in the U.S. in 2013.

Though a chart-topper in their homeland of South Africa, Kongos remained undiscovered here even after its 2013 U.S. release. Near the end of 2013, Epic Records (Modest Mouse, Judas Priest) discovered the band. Epic inked the sibling foursome to a deal based on the potency of tunes “Come With Me Now” and “I’m Only Joking,” and Lunatic earned its major-label album release in 2014.

“We were giving up on it,” Dylan said. “We had moved on to starting to record another [album] when all of a sudden, it took off in a way we could have never expected.”

To do it as brothers is rewarding. To do it with respect to your father’s legacy is even more special. Family patriarch John Kongos is a singer-songwriter known for his 1971 Top 10 glam rock hit “He’s Gonna Step On You Again.” John’s career carried his brood across the globe, including London and an extended stay in Johannesburg.

“South Africa is our second home. We go back at least once a year,” Dylan said. “There’s a special place in our heart for that world, and sharing that with people who might not have any idea of what Africa really is can be a special experience.”

There’s a higher purpose behind the band’s worldly take on music. (Reggae, kwaito, surf rock and chamber pop each make appearances.) Kongos’ unique blend exposes global sounds and cultures to many American youth who otherwise might not encounter them.

But more than that, it is a good time. And playing to energized crowds — as the brothers will at Sunday’s concert at Cain’s Ballroom, 423 N. Main St., in Tulsa — helps them hone in on the best ways to maximize everyone’s fun.

Lunatic’s unexpectedly lengthy shelf life also means the band developed nearly two albums’ worth of unrecorded material, Dylan said. Those songs are performed at live shows, and every gig shapes what the anticipated follow-up (the band plans to record this year) will become.

“You play those songs live and see what works and what doesn’t,” Dylan said.

Print headline: Provident sons, A band of brothers builds Kongos’ fame with its steady beat of road shows and worldly influences.

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Joshua Boydston

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