Today’s Song: “Take It From Me,” KONGOS’ Unrelenting Return

Take It From Me - KONGOS

It got a mind of its own and it stings

When I interviewed KONGOS backstage in New York City in early 2015, their biggest goal for that year was to focus on their third album. “That’s what we want, by year’s end,” said Johnny Kongos, one quarter of the band he founded with his three brothers Dylan, Danny and Jesse. “More than anything, that’s what we want to do – work on that… We’ve got it all written already, we just need to get it recorded!”

Lunatic - KONGOS

Lunatic, KONGOS’ sophomore album

At that point in time, the South African born, Arizona based band of brothers had been performing the same material – off their breakout sophomore record Lunatic – for over three years. Off camera, they were visibly tired and ready for a reprieve, but they were finally playing their first headline tour: Sure, it was the same set of songs again and again, but these songs were taking them all over North America! Charisma, laughs, and sheer willpower were driving KONGOS onward and upward.

That long-awaited break finally came for Johnny and his brothers in late March 2015, when the band completed their headline tour and went back home. They would play scattered festivals that summer and fall, but KONGOS otherwise avoided the spotlight, opting instead to work on that aforementioned third album.

April 2016 marks a full year since KONGOS’ last tour. It also marks the initial reveal of KONGOS’ year-long efforts: April 15 saw the world premiere of “Take It From Me,” the first single off the band’s forthcoming third album, Egomaniac, to be released June 10, 2016.

And the song is oh-so-very KONGOS.

Listen: “Take It From Me” – KONGOS


KONGOS are one of the most unique rock bands of their time, sporting a highly original and recognizable sound that radiates throughout everything they touch. Catchy as it is innovative, KONGOS’ sound takes both from Western rock music, as well as rhythm-based Western African music – Jesse Kongos noted Malian bands Tinariwen and Tartit as major influences toward the band’s hypnotic, entrancing performance. Entrancingly repetitive songwriting, Jesse Kongos’ finessed, heavy drumming, and Johnny Kongos’ masterful accordion work lay the foundations of what has come to be a trademark sound for the KONGOS foursome.

Woke up, don’t recognize the bed
Took me a minute to clear my head
Tried recalling, but the blanks won’t fill
Cameras rolling, but I forgot the film

“Take It From Me” finds KONGOS further exploring the depths of their sound, evolving on their own without any recognizable outside influence. Unrelenting as it pulses with a forward-driving momentum, the single finds the band reflecting on the inevitability of success getting to one’s head. Drummer/singer Jesse Kongos’ voice is loud and unapologetic as he barks the chorus’ lyric, “It’s just a matter of time – any minute you will cross that line.” An infectious call-and-response follows as the band sings “Take it from me” and Jesse responds, “It got a mind of its own and it stings.”

Take it from me
When you start it’s just a matter of time
Any minute you will cross that line
Take it from me
You never think about the prices you pay
It got a mind of its own and it stings
Take it from me
It got a mind of its own and it stings
Take it from me
It got a mind of its own and it stings

Vocal manipulations transpose Jesse’s voice down a few octaves on his last response, dehumanizing him as a means of further expressing the effect of things getting to one’s head. What’s more, the “Take It From Me” music video goes so far as explicitly depicting the band members in NBA Jam-like “Big Head Mode” – literally, inflated heads.

If that’s not an accurate depiction of the rockstar life, I don’t know what is.

The 1975 rejected their fame in comeback single “Love Me,” and KONGOS seem to be acknowledging their own shortcomings and success with “Take It From Me” – albeit with a different kind of bravado. Their last tour found the Kongos brothers at the peak of their success, and with a new album on the way, the band’s “rockstar” status is likely only to further grow in 2016. An initial single explicitly denouncing the vanity, egotism and overconfidence – the hubris of rockstardom – is KONGOS’ conscious means of reaching out to KONGOS fans everywhere and saying, “We haven’t forgotten who brought us.”

In another sense, “Take It From Me” is the band’s preventative measure of keeping things from getting to their heads. One can easily imagine one of the brothers calling out another in the song, or calling out himself and his own self-realized shortcomings. Of course, as we learn through the course of the song, “it’s just a matter of time” until it happens to each and every one.

KONGOS are back, making this a time for celebration! Rejoice in the best way possible: By blasting “Take It From Me” on repeat, and sharing the good news with everyone and anyone who will listen.

Egomaniac - KONGOS

Egomaniac – KONGOS (out June 10, 2016)

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“Take It From Me” – KONGOS

"Take It from Me" single art - KONGOS

“Take It from Me” single art – KONGOS

Mitch Mosk

Mitch is the Editor-in-Chief of Atwood Magazine and a 2014 graduate from Tufts University, where he pursued his passions of music and psychology. He currently works at Universal Music Group in New York City. In his off hours, Mitch may be found songwriting, wandering about one of New York's many neighborhoods, or writing an article on your next favorite artist for Atwood. Mitch's words of wisdom to fellow musicians and music lovers are thus: Keep your eyes open and never stop exploring. No matter where you go, what you do or who you are with, you can always learn something new and inspire something amazing. Say hi here: mitch[at]atwoodmagazine[dot]com