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Going Cuckoo for the Cuckoos

The Cuckoos from left to right: Eric Ross (bassist), Kenneth Frost (lead singer/keyboardist), Dave North (guitarist), and Cole Koenning (drummer).

(Photo Credit: Kenneth Frost.)

The Cuckoos from left to right: Eric Ross (bassist), Kenneth Frost (lead singer/keyboardist), Dave North (guitarist), and Cole Koenning (drummer). (Photo Credit: Kenneth Frost.)

Jaylen Moulton, Co Editor-in-Chief

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The current state of music can be described in one simple word: Manufactured. The passion that once dominated the music scene has diminished. It’s now replaced by whoever’s marketed best, not who has talent, but hope remains. Raw, fresh musicians are waiting to be discovered, but who’s looking? Deviation from the mainstream is a rare occurrence.

 

The Cuckoos are a rock band based in Austin, Texas. Their style is the perfect mix of psychedelia, funk, and pure rock that transports listeners to the 60s and 70s era. Put simply, it’s totally groovy.

 

Kenneth Frost is the lead vocalist and keyboardist for the band. His voice is a deep, smooth and exquisitely captivating baritone reminiscent of the likes of Jim Morrison. His keyboard skills are equally as great, really adding that psychedelic element to the music’s atmosphere. David North is lead guitarist and provides backing vocals. His guitar playing blends perfectly with the rest of the sound, and even when picking it apart from the rest of the music, North’s guitar skills are amazing. Cole Koenning is the drummer for the Cuckoos; he establishes a nice, steady beat that really solidifies and strengthens the sound. Eric Ross is the bassist. The Cuckoos started off as a three-person band, but Ross’ addition to the band has helped expand the musical quality and features of the band by providing a fuller, more resonant sound. As a whole, the boys play with glowing confidence and have really made a mark in their city, performing on local shows (like the one below) and out of the country in the U.K. and, just recently this month, Mexico

 

 

I first learned about the Cuckoos through Instagram by following Kenneth Frost’s account (which will be linked below along with the rest of the band members and the band’s own account). I decided one night after seeing a brief clip of the band covering “Shadowplay” by Joy Division (one of my favorite songs) that I’d look into them some more. After that I listened to my first actual Cuckoos song when it was still a three member band without newcomers Cole Koenning and Eric Ross. It was called “Mind Breakthrough” and gave off intense Doors vibes. Since the Doors is, and will always be, my favorite band, I was ecstatic to see the obvious influence in the song. What made me even happier was how the band was pushing boundaries. The type of music they were presenting was incredibly distinct compared to most current musicians. When superficial, mass-marketed celebrities are what make the big bucks in the music industry, seeing young, new artists who are taking a different approach is incredibly refreshing. The Cuckoos are genuine; watching them play in videos sends vibes of a group of guys who are invested in their craft and love performing. They were playing music for music’s sake.

 

 

I contacted Kenneth Frost for an interview and he accepted, so I’d like to thank him. I knew he was busy with the release of the Cuckoos debut album as well as upcoming performances, so for him to take the time and answer a student journalist’s questions means a lot to me!

 

 

Pre-Album Release Interview:

 

1) Why did you form the Cuckoos, and what are you trying to achieve with your band?

 

I just got really into music towards the end of high school, and it kind of consumed my life. I want to spend my life making earth shattering tunes, so I got The Cuckoos together to do just that. I’d like to create music that lasts forever and changes people’s lives. Music’s done a lot for me, so I feel like I need to give back. I feel like I’ve got things to say that I want the world to hear and feel.

 

2) What are you trying to achieve personally?

 

Purpose, maybe. That’s a good question. I definitely feel like I’ve got quite the fear of being forgotten when I die. I feel like if I pour my soul into something that people can play forever it’ll give people something to remember me by. I want to make music that brings me back to life.

 

3) Performing is an intimate experience for the audience and the musicians themselves. What is your favorite part of performing, and how do you engage with the audience?

 

I feel like we’ve got quite a bit of drive and raw energy that other bands don’t. People have been dancing a lot more at our shows, even moshing sometimes, so that’s nice to see. I really feel like the live experience is just as important as the records, but it is different. I think we rock it a lot harder in person. I try to go for that Iggy and The Stooges vibe; although, I’m nowhere near the level of wild as the Pop man, I feel like they’re a good example of a band that were just raw and real and in your face and there to melt your face. I feel like we do that sometimes.

 

4) Do you have a favorite Cuckoos song?

 

I do, haha. We have it recorded and will probably release it at some point; although, it didn’t make it on the EP, but it’s called P.G.L. (That stands for Pretty Good Lookin’). It’s just really wild, I get to push my voice a lot, and it’s probably one of our funkiest jams. We play it at like every show because I insist. I don’t know what it is about it, but i just have a ton of fun playing that one.

 

5) Lastly, what sets the Cuckoos apart from other bands?

 

I think this could kind of go into the point I was touching on earlier about really rocking out and having energy. The only other band in our realm or genre that I feel also jams super hard is King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard. Those guys are extremely energetic and they know how to rock out. Maybe we should challenge them to a Battle of the Rock. But again I feel like we have a special energy and that sets us apart. Also, the chemistry between us is great. It’s so easy to play off the other guys. We will just go off into little impromptu jams in the middle of songs, and I always feel comfortable and know its gonna work out alright because I’ve got these guys. I think our desire to experiment and discover new ways of music is unique as well. We’re just barely tapping into what we want to be doing right now; it’s gonna take lots of practice and evolution, but we want to make some never before heard cosmic jams. We listen to so many different genres and styles of music that we want to incorporate into our music. I do think we also have a pretty unique sound. We’re not doing anything that hasn’t been done before, but no one else plays like Dave, Cole, and Eric, and nobody’s singing like me right now (that’s alive anyways haha) so I think that sets us apart. Like we could do a funk song, or a heavy rock banger, or a piano ballad, and they would sound pretty different altogether, but i think us as individuals have enough character in our own playing that people will always go “oh, that’s The Cuckoos” no matter what style or genre of music we’re playing. I’m so happy and proud of how much we’ve accomplished as a band in such a short period of time, but we can still get better, and we have a lot of work to do before we’re where I want us to be, not on a level of success, but with our musicianship and effectiveness as a well-oiled Rock machine. We’re young. We’ve got time. We’re banging around making a name for ourselves now at 21, 21, 19, and 18 but I feel like with hard work and persistence, we can really evolve into a force to be reckoned with.

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https://www.instagram.com/p/Bb5Pk3kg7jd/?taken-by=thecuckoos

I listened to the Cuckoos debut mini album and to say the least, I was impressed! I felt like I was transported to a smoky club in the 60s. The soft ethereal and hard psychedelic vibe made me feel like I was floating. There aren’t many modern bands that make me feel like I’m having an out-of-body experience! When I listened, my mind thought of all the bands and artists who the Cuckoos reminded me of: Tame Impala, David Bowie, Joy Division, The Doors, Sonic Youth! I was amazed that all these styles (and probably so many more that I could list if I took a harder listen) were able to fit together so well in not only an album, but also within one song! The mini album is available on a few streaming sites (I listened on Spotify), so if you have the time I really recommend giving it a listen. The whole album takes around 30 minutes to listen to and has some great music just waiting to be heard. It’s hard for me to choose a favorite song off the album because they all fit so well together and worked off of each other, and I want to say “Mind Breakthrough” simply based off the fact that it’s a song I listen to all the time when I’m in the mood for the Cuckoos, but I have to say my favorite song on the album was “You’re Gonna Work For Us Until the Day You Die.” The lyrics, the theme of the song, the heaviness of the song, I loved all of it and it was a great way to end the album. On a final note, the album’s charm comes from the fact that it’s got an old time atmosphere surrounding the music. The Cuckoos are bringing the vibe of half a century ago to the youth’s ears!

 

 

Kenneth also agreed to do a post-album release interview (once again, incredibly thankful he wanted to do this with me!), so here is what he has to say about his experience with the album!

 

 

Post-Album Release Interview:

 

1) When I listened to the songs, I heard lots of different sounds and vibes. What groups/artists are your musical influences?

 

Personally, I love Iggy Pop, Prince, The Doors, Joy Division, Rick James, The Talking Heads, Kate Bush, Michael Jackson, and Tame Impala just off the top of my head.

 

2) Was there a theme/reason behind the songs you chose for the album, or were these just some you thought meshed well together?

I kind of had an idea and a group of songs that kind of took the listener through the experience of moving to a new place, meeting a girl, falling in and out of love, and growing up a little in the middle of it. We ended up shortening the record and cutting a few songs, but the same vibe is still there.

3) Are any of these songs about real life experiences?

 

I would say most are.

 

4) Are there any projects, shows, etc. the Cuckoos are working on currently that people can look forward to?

 

We are trying to play some shows locally since we’ve been out and about so much. And also have started working on the next batch of songs. We should have some new stuff out the beginning of 2018 for sure.

 

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Again, huge thank you to Kenneth for doing these interviews with me, and I cannot wait to see what the Cuckoos have in store for listeners in the future. I truly encourage all of you to check out the links to their music, band website, and personal pages that I have provided in the article. You might just have a mind breakthrough like I did!

 

If you want to learn more about the Cuckoos, visit their website at http://www.thecuckoosaustin.com/

 

Follow their instagram accounts:

 

The Cuckoos: @thecuckoos

 

Kenneth Frost: @kennethfrosty

 

David North: @thedavenorth

 

Cole Koenning: @moleysworld

 

Eric Ross: @mike.from.mikes.hard.lemonade

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