Local blues and rock band KALO launches crowdfunding campaign for new album 

click to enlarge Bat-Or Kalo and Mack McKinney of the music group Kalo poses for a photo, Monday, Sept. 19, 2016. - GARETT FISBECK
  • Garett Fisbeck
  • Bat-Or Kalo and Mack McKinney of the music group Kalo poses for a photo, Monday, Sept. 19, 2016.

KALO’s new album doesn’t have a name yet.

The Oklahoma City blues and rock band named for its singer, guitarist and Israel native Bat-Or Kalo will decide those details after it settles more pressing matters, like making the album the best it can be.

A prerelease campaign for the band’s upcoming album was launched in early September on Kickstarter, the online crowdfunding platform often used by bands, artists and creators for large-scale projects. 

KALO lists a $15,000 goal on its Kickstarter page. Its campaign runs through Oct. 7, with an album release date planned sometime in February. In the meantime, KALO plans on releasing a compilation album recorded live from New York City’s historic The Bitter End music venue before the end of 2016.

The band’s last album, 2013’s Dear John, was also funded through a Kickstarter campaign, though one with a smaller funding goal. The new studio album is being produced by Trent Bell, guitarist for former alternative-rock outfit Chainsaw Kittens and owner of Norman’s Bell Labs Recording Studio.

Dear John featured an easy, contemporary blues feel. On Bell’s watch, KALO shows off a decidedly more rock edge. Kalo described the band’s sophomore effort as a partial mixture of gospel and punk rock.

The new album’s first single, “Isabel,” (available for digital download with at least a $10 Kickstarter donation) has Kalo delivering her familiar soulful vocals, but she’s backed this time by jarring, grittier riffs that set it apart from the band’s older work. 

Kalo said Kickstarter has been a godsend for small music labels and independent artists. She does not like the idea of selling herself, but she looks at the platform as an opportunity maker.

“I do ask to create something that comes from me,” she said. “I think it’s really important to be creative and give someone a chance to do that.”

New journey

Kalo is in the United States on an O-1B artist visa. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services awards these visas to people who possess “extraordinary ability in the sciences, arts, education, business or athletics.”

Making music is more than satisfying a creative itch for her. It’s a literal mandate.

“I’m on a mission,” she said.

Kalo moved to Oklahoma in 2009 as an exchange student studying classical and jazz guitar at Oklahoma City University. After graduating, she spent a short while in New York City before moving back to Oklahoma.

A general sense of restlessness convinced the artist to leave New York. Her legs have a hard time keeping still when she knows it’s time to make a move. Kalo listened to her instinct.

“One day, I had the same feeling,” she said. “I was just like, ‘I need to go. I need to go.’”

KALO formed its current roster, which includes bassist Mack McKinney and, later on, drummer Mike Alexander, after her return to Oklahoma City. She also began touring America’s Deep South for the first time while with her former record label.

Elvis Presley’s impact in the U.S. is obvious, but the King of Rock ’n’ Roll made cultural waves big enough that his music even had influence on a young Kalo, born thousands of miles away and more than a decade after his death.

Kalo’s exposure to Presley’s music helps explain her affinity for the blues and America’s other Southern sounds. It was a dream come true when she visited his Graceland estate in Memphis, Tennessee, but nothing in rock ’n’ roll prepared her for what it would really be like in the American South.

Instead, her visit recalled Mark Twain’s words from The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, a book her father read to her when she was a child.

“I could absolutely see it, the way it describes the sweat and the heat of Mississippi,” she said. “I could feel it, man. I couldn’t take a step there without sweating all on my back. I needed a new T-shirt.”

Kalo said her experience in the South was critical to fully understanding her music and growing as an artist. The band’s upcoming album will be its first with Alexander on drums. In the years since Dear John, the band has been touring and playing a number of shows. Kalo said the band has come into form.

“When you travel, in my opinion, that’s the best way to learn,” she said. “You learn about the sound and you learn about the people and where it comes from.”

Reaching goals

McKinney’s introduction to KALO was after the band reached the prior Kickstarter goal for Dear John, and he was around in time to ship off the reward tie-ins to everyone who donated. The bassist remembers how excited people were to actually say they had a role in the album’s creation.

“The people were just really, really happy to take a part in something,” McKinney said. “Whether it was a $15 donation or a $500 donation, people were just really excited. It took me a while to say, ‘You know, that’s a great idea,’ but I really think it is.”

Anderson was out of town on the day of the Oklahoma Gazette interview, but Kalo and McKinney both stressed the importance of each member as a component to the unit’s updated sound. The new album’s rock edge might, in part, have something to do with McKinney’s influence. Kalo called him as a “punk rocker at heart.”

Still, KALO is not shifting too radically from its core sound.

“There’s always the blues roots,” McKinney said. “You can still hear some blues roots in a lot of the songs between guitar riffs and stuff like that, little things here and there.”

“They’ve really adopted me as a stranger,” she said. “I’m very, very grateful for it.”

Visit kaloband.com for a link to the band’s latest Kickstarter campaign. 

Print headline: For kicks, Rock and blues band KALO launches a crowdfunding campaign for an upcoming album.

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