KB Jones & The Kontraband: The Conscience X The Unconventional
*This article was originally written for Decompoz Magazine*
New York is a place where only the tough survive; it’s a city of fighters who strive to be the best at what they do. To persevere takes self-belief, courage and a whole lot of determination. Whether it’s through serendipity or through sheer hard work, musicians KB Jones & The Kontraband possess these qualities in abundance. The group fuses funk, hip-hop, pop, and classic rock to create a sound that is uniquely their own. Their music feels like a combination of the diverse styles of music that can be found all across the city of New York.
The lead singer, Daniel “KB Jones” Muñoz, has the instantly recognizable accent of a New Yorker, and a swagger that can be heard even through his melodies. Stylistically, his voice sits somewhere between hip-hop and rock; he calls it “alternative hip-hop,” though it references what could be called a contemporary American sound. Add to this the musical influences of The Kontraband members – guitarist Steve Gornic, drummer and percussionist Mike DeConzo, and bassist Andrew “Smooth Action” DeMatteo – and the music is a true fusion. At times, the group even incorporates classical jazz sounds by introducing a saxophone into the mix.
Although on paper it might sound like such an amalgam of sounds wouldn’t work, the result is captivating and infused with a whole lot of fun, which is something the group strives to recreate at its concerts. According to KB Jones, their goal is to bring a party vibe, while making people think about some of the important issues facing society today. The band also organizes charity events to support New York’s homeless, and those suffering with poverty-related issues.
“I want our audience to feel happiness,” said Muñoz. “It’s always a positive vibe. We throw parties, but with a little bit of consciousness sprinkled in there too. It’s not just blindly having a good time, there’s also something being said, which I’m proud of.”
This community-minded aspect of their work is directly manifested in their Hot Soup events, which are held every four to eight weeks. At the Hot Soup concerts, attendees are able to make monetary or food donations to local NYC-based charities. The idea started when the band realized they could better give back by taking event organization into their own hands, working with people they know, and making a difference within their community. They put on these shows with other musicians as a way to raise donations. Some of the organizations they’ve supported include the Food Bank, Soles 4 Souls, and Curtis High School, which are located on Staten Island.
Lyrically, the musicians also speak to many issues affecting society today. When Muñoz writes lyrics, he draws on his own experiences and the people he sees struggling, and begging for money, on his way to and from his day job. He says, “What I write is real. Whether I’m writing about the hierarchy that we live in as Americans or whether I’m writing about love, it’s about the human experience, giving back, and being kind to your neighbour.”
In a song like “Running,” the band speaks to the idea of following your dreams, and in “Bits & Pieces,” they reference mental health issues. Another particularly insightful track, titled “My Generation,” highlights our culture’s obsession with celebrities and video games in place of subjects like politics and social issues.
Another one of the group’s great influences when writing is New York City itself. According to Muñoz, “There’s an energy you get in the city that you don’t get anywhere else. Every day, you meet a different kind of person, whether it’s a good encounter or a bad encounter, a smile or a nod on the train. It’s this energy that really hits me when I write.”
He does add, though, that New York’s tough music crowds plus the financial difficulties of living in NYC can intimidate some musicians. In fact, he discusses this while the other members of his band are at their day jobs, which are an unavoidable part of life in the city. Ultimately, though, he says he finds the crowds to be very honest, and the band uses their feedback as inspiration, allowing it to push them to create better and better shows.
“You’re going to run into people that are obnoxious and don’t like your music. Not everyone’s going to like what you’re doing, but you just have to roll with it.”
With such forces of passion and self-belief driving the band, they’re sure to succeed as they continue on their path. Their future plans include releasing a new EP, as well as setting up another Hot Soup NYC and turning it into a festival that will provide a platform for other local artists. Like they sing about on their most recent single “Big Bear,” they’re working day and night chasing after their goals – they’re driven by their hunger to succeed.
Instagram: @ kbjonesandthekontraband