14 May 18
For years in these parts rock’n’roll survivor Kid Congo Powers was renowned for having played guitar in three of the coolest bands on the planet, but after two recent Australian tours fronting The Pink Monkey Birds he’s quickly becoming a celebrated frontman in his own right.
His current outfit revel in that undefinable rock’n’roll alchemy that, in the live realm, elevates their music to a transcendent place where dancing to guitars seems more decree than suggestion and the rapport he’s quickly built with Australian crowds has been both immediate and primal. “Sometimes in Europe I feel a bit like an alien from outer space, but in Australia I don’t feel that way at all, strangely enough,” Powers laughs. “We’re definitely a live band, a band to be best ingested live. I got really inspired by the very last Cramps tour they did when I hadn’t seen them for maybe ten years – mainly because they never toured, but also because I was always out of town when they did. But I saw them and it was like the first time I saw them, my jaw dropped on the ground. It was, like, ‘What on earth is this?’
“It’s just three chords and a couple of people but it really sounded like heaven and outer space at the same time, and I thought, ‘Oh yeah, I know about this, I’ve been a part of this even!’ It’s just a matter of unlocking a door – a little magic door – and you’ve really just got to go for it and let whatever it is happen and believe that it’s magical and believe that it’s transcendent and believe that something’s happening. All of the bands I’ve been in, they’re all like that and The Pink Monkey Birds kinda operate on that same intuitive level.”
Powers admits that it’s a whole different kick fronting your own band rather than being a hired hand. “It took a long time for me to come into that role, it didn’t happen instantaneously, I had to work very hard at it,” he reflects. “I’ve worked with some great singers and when you come from that pedigree of The Cramps, Nick Cave and The Gun Club, and those singers – who were very strong singers, but unconventional – it was hard at first, because everyone expected me to sing as good as, or like, these people like Jeffrey [Lee Pierce] or Nick or Lux Interior.
“And I was like, ‘Well, I’m not that kind of singer and I won’t be doing that,’ and I think it took a while for people to get used to that, but it also took me a while to find my own voice, because I had to learn in public over time what my strength was and what worked. I had to let it cook in the oven for a while so that it could mutate into its own thing.
“Being in someone’s band you’re serving someone else’s vision, so say, ultimately, The Cramps were Lux and [Poison] Ivy’s vision, and obviously Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds was Nick’s vision. With The Gun Club, although it started out mine and Jeffrey’s vision, when I left to join The Cramps it became very much his vision, although it was much more of a collaborative vision than the other bands.
“So that’s different, you have to think, ‘What’s my vision? Oh, god, I have to have a vision!’ and to an extent The Pink Monkey Birds is a culmination of everything I’ve done before. I think my vision is, ‘What have I learned from all of this?’ and, ‘What have I learned from what I call “The Big Three” and all of the other projects I’ve been in as well?’ That became, ‘Who am I and what is my vision?’ and we came up with The Pink Monkey Birds, with the help of the other guys in the band.”