Who: Ku (vocals, guitar), Lu (guitar, vocals), Lu (bass), Lu (drums), Lu (saxophone), Lu (trombone).
For Fans Of: Man Man, Gogol Bordello, Captain Beefheart.
Sounds Like: The house band for a Portland version of
Yo Gabba Gabba.
Seated at a booth in B-Side Tavern, Kulululu’s frontman is trying to decide on a backstory. He’s already decided that he and his bandmates will remain anonymous for any and all things Kulululu, so real names are out. Ditto day jobs, personal histories and anything outright sad. If you can recall the time before every aspect of local culture had been mocked so extensively that Portland became a social experiment in city-wide solipsism, you might start to see exactly where Kulululu is coming from.
"There's definitely a time and place to stand and listen and be really serious," he says. "We take a different approach and just try to make people laugh, smile, move around."
Here's what we know for certain: The members of Kulululu are trained musicians from different parts of the country who all relocated to Portland separately but for the drummer and frontman—known as Ku and Lu, respectively. The term "Kulululu" is used by the band in an interchangeable elasticity. It's a verb, a noun, a philosophy. If you ask them what it is they'll tell you it could be anything. You might have Kulululu and not even know it. You might be Kulululu right now.
The conceptual details are really just an avenue for the musicians in the band to keep everything surrounding their music erratic, jovial and perpetually exciting. The humdrum details of life or promotion are only considered as forms to wrap a gleeful scream around.
"Our shows will start with a rampage of silly antics—running in from outside the venue, trying to get everyone's attention with bells and whistles," the band leader says. "We want to drag you in from the beginning so you can see every aspect of our performance."
Without the benefit of spectacle, Kulululu's debut album sounds more like a Southern California ska-punk outfit than anything their heavy conceptualized ethos might imply. Songs are short, fast and intentionally puerile. "My dad's a crab and I call him crab dad" pretty much sums up the entirety of the lyrical content of two songs, "Crab Dad" and also "Crab Dad Again." Another tune, "Skateboard Song," rattles off a long list of skateboard tricks that the author is unable to perform in a stoned repose of drowsy, melodic mumbles.
Whether or not Kulululu's irreverence is enough to lure anyone not present at one of their gigs in what could likely be ascertained by how that person responds to the simplistic, boneheaded subject matter. But the band isn't concerned so much with mass appeal as with attracting the exact kind of creative types they themselves are. It's an ethos best described in their song, "We Are Kulululu": "I am Kulululu/We are Kulululu."
SEE IT: Kulululu plays Turn! Turn! Turn!, 8 NE Killingsworth St., with An Atomic Whirl and Plastic Cactus, on Saturday, July 29. 8 pm. $5. 21+.