Q&A: Kalu and the Electric Joint talks about ‘shaping sound,’ everlasting bond

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Photo Credit: Anthony Mireles | Daily Texan Staff

In today’s age, it’s hard to find a band that lasts past its early stages. But after a whole decade, the spark that ignited Austin-based psychedelic funk outfit Kalu and the Electric Joint’s still burning strong.

Since 2009, band frontman Kalu James and guitarist Jonathan “JT” Holt have blended together the euphoria of psychedelic soul, the grittiness of rock ‘n’ roll and the rhythms of Africa. Their 2017 album Time Undone has garnered the attention of publications ranging from Texas Monthly to Billboard. Before their upcoming SXSW-affiliated March 14 performance at the Continental Club, The Daily Texan spoke with James and Holt over their strong relationship and musical individuality.

The Daily Texan: What is your music-making process like?

Kalu James: There's a lot of life in it. It's very much life and evolution. There's a constant movement forward without (our music) being in a box. It's always changing, and it's wanting to write a song about anything and being able to find a way to push that through.

Jonathan “JT” Holt: It’s just shaping sound.

DT: Your music has a lot of varying elements like psychedelic soul, African influences, etc. Do you ever have conflicts putting these different parts together into one song?

JH: You don't sit around and decide what you're going to be, you just are what you are. We don't occupy one specific genre. That's been a beautiful thing for us because we've been able to open up for shows like Moon Taxi and Widespread Panic and very different kinds of (groups), and it all fits with everything because it's just not a box.

KJ: (These multiple layers result from) playing with silence, really. Because then you can (make music) in a lot of different ways. I think that straight up is fun to do. There's an interesting thing that just happens, magnetism, when you don't have a box. It all starts coming together, and it grows.

DT: You’ve stayed local in Austin for 10 years. What’s made you stay so long?

KJ: It's an incredible community when it comes to artists, and you have the city itself and the government, you know, that absolutely believes that that should be nurtured. And then you have these organizations (like HAAM and SIMS) that pretty much put a stamp in validating that, 'Yes, what you do needs to be supported, what you do needs to be taken care of.' That absolutely makes this a place where the creativity is here, people are getting together, at the same time the city itself believes and supports to make (these things) happen.

DT: How has Austin’s changing landscape impacted you as a band?

JH: I don't know that it impacts us. We just are, you know? I don't feel handicapped because Austin is getting bigger.

KJ: If you're not growing, you're dying. I'd rather be around a force of progress of the city going forward. That fully feeds everything.

DT: What’s the secret behind this long, healthy relationship as a band?

KJ: We’re friends, and we push each other to be better. We always push each other to create, and it always comes from a place of love 100 percent.

JH: It’s been a reliable friendship. It allows itself to shift. (Our friendship) doesn’t have a box. (laughs)

DT: What do you want listeners to take away from your music?

JH: Feel good.

KJ: Yes. (We want people to) feel good and tell stories of our life. We’re painting a common scene and feeling things, there is an acceptance of darkness and light and the struggle and fight. We're all here really to, to test the ice and to have someone else say, 'Man, I relate to exactly what you're saying. Yeah. I have felt that before.' And if we can get that out, whether it be that you feel good, whether it be that it reminds you of something that you've been through … that's all I ever want to do. To put out positivity and support, with the acceptance of you can't love too much one part of the wheel.