When the rise of COVID-19 spelled the end of concerts for the foreseeable future, it forced the four Kongos brothers to expand their thinking.
Live shows have been the lifeblood of KONGOS from the beginning, from tours back in their home country of South Africa, to club gigs in their adoptive home of Phoenix. And when their major label stay ended after two albums, touring, as well as a documentary series about touring Bus Call (outlined in Phoenix New Times back in 2018) outlined a path for them to navigate their career through independent means again.
This cataclysmic calendar-clearing has turned into a prolific period for KONGOS. In addition to recent collaborations with T-Pain and Hanson, they've just released their first post-pandemic single, the hopeful "Fly," which has the line, "You have the eye of a phoenix." It's a teaser for part three of their album 1929, which is going to be subtitled Phoenix and will see release later this year.
KONGOS also have expanded into nurturing undiscovered talent, putting their musical muscle behind a Germanic-sounding man who claims to be from Fresno, California, a self-styled artist/musician and megalomaniacal self-help guru named Chevy Mustang.
Mustang has all the makings of a dance-floor novelty act along the lines of Falco, combining minimal techno with maximum tomfoolery. His first single, "Because I Want To," is an expansive bucket list of things the monotone Mustang wants to do, which include having a birthday, owning a scented candle, and discussing infrastructure. Dylan Kongos describes this inaugural effort as "the essence of Chevy, his almost sage/childlike view of the world. He'd probably take umbrage with that description."
In addition to providing the necessary horsepower behind Mustang's music and mystique-making videos, KONGOS, no strangers to podcasts (the band have their own podcast, The Front Lounge), also aided in the launch of the guru's idobi Network podcast, Must Hang With Chevy Mustang, in which the argumentative acharya tries to be an influencer in matters of politics, music, and personal growth.
We recently spoke to Mustang, along with three-fourths of KONGOS (Jesse, Dylan, and Danny), on a Zoom call. Mustang takes umbrage with just about everything once he is invited into the ZOOM conference. I can't say I wasn't forewarned; Jesse had said earlier, "Chevy is very hard to put in a box. His mind works laterally. He won't take a side of an issue that's been taken before. He'll find the third side."
Mustang says, "I bring to the studio an X factor, a sort of magic, and what [KONGOS] do is they bring is a sort of the craftsperson, turn this little knob to make something sound a tiny bit brighter. Do I need them specifically to do it for me? No. Could I throw a rock and hit another engineer who could do exactly what they could do if not better? Yes. I could. Have I ever thrown a rock at my engineers? Absolutely. I believe for it to be important art, it must arise through conflict."
"When I make my art, I do not take credit for it," he continues." I am merely taking dictation from the Divine."
Having heard enough, Jesse interjects. "I would like to note that we're not just engineers; we're actually involved in the production and composition."
"Isn't it so cute, the mental gymnastics we all do to justify our existence?" says Mustang. "These fellows aren't producers. Chevy Mustang is the producer. In six to eight months, there will be a computer program that will get me the kick drum sound I want and push the buttons for me so I will not need the KONGOS anymore."
"Good luck with that," huffs Jesse.
Whatever possesses the usually clear-thinking KONGOS to want to play Dave Seville to Mustang's Alvin and the Chipmunks, it is obvious when they talk about Mustang, they are somewhat envious of his raw talent and unwavering commitment to the self that they have had to submerge individually in order to remain a harmonious brothers act.
In the Chevy pipeline, there are at least five videos and 10 tracks in various stages of completion so there'll be no end to his "I'm Chevy Mustang and you're not" nonsense anytime soon.
Sample, if you will, the heightened self-awareness Chevy Mustang brings to any discussion.
How to address a guru:
"You don't have to call me Your Highness. It's not mandatory, it's merely encouraged."
On his cult status:
"This is not a cult. My students and I are a group of like-minded group individuals who have come together as spiritual seekers. I do have them all prostrate at my feet, clean them, and beg me to respect them and some people think that that is wild and wacky. But this isn't about me or self-aggrandizement. I do this to teach them humility."
On his students:
"My students are trying to reach the level of spiritual awakening I have. So when they get close to the bar, almost touching the bar, I move the bar and make them reach for it a little bit more. And now they are encroaching the bar. And then I move the bar again, higher. And when I feel they are ready, I let them touch the bar. My top 50 students, most of them are female. And when I say most of them, I mean all of them. My female students really excel. I don't pretend to have the answer for this."
On his podcast:
"It's not on terrestrial radio. It is on extraterrestrial radio. I've had some tough conversations with the idobi Network. Even though they are this corporate entity, I look at them as being subordinates. I am the artist and they are the bean counter. I'm not knocking it. We cannot all paint on the cave. Some of us have to do the boring, mindless, tedious tasks. What would our lives be without these dullards? Terrible."
On why can't there be four in a threesome:
I don't know how you would qualify [conjoined] twins joined at the head with one of them looking the other way as a threesome or a foursome, I suppose that is possible. There are probably plenty of imposter [conjoined] twins in baggy T-shirts. If you are moving forward with [conjoined] twins, you should be sure they are the real deal."
On the coronavirus:
"The radio show is born of quarantine, It Is a quarantine baby, It started from the stillness and the quiet, no distractions. I should also say I have immunity to all corporeal diseases. I'm not worried about coronavirus or any other fevers and ailments. It's impossible for me to get any of these because I have done the work."
On what exactly is "the work"?:
"It is not fun work. If I tell you to be immune to coronavirus, you need to dig a hole, have a trusted friend bury you in the ground and give you a straw through which to breathe and meditate for six to eight hours in the hole and come out and not bathe or wash off the dirt for four weeks, would you do it?"
On taking his show to the next level:
"I like the idea of having a show that's an hour of absolute silence except for the ads I need to read for Century West BMW."