It’s not easy to explain Koo Koo Kanga Roo. We guess we’d start by calling the group a zany reappropriation of an overenthusiastic kids’ dance duo, with matching costumes and songs about dinosaurs, pirates, and unicorns. Koo Koo’s two members, Bryan and Neil (“They use first names only,” their manager explains), had a terrible time booking shows in the early days of the act, precisely because it so defied description. These days, they’ve gained traction thanks to word of mouth and YouTube clips that begin to encompass what a Koo Koo show is like: a goofy, participatory joy, with corny ninja dance moves and props like a big rainbow parachute straight out of a kindergarten gym class.
The Minnesota natives were recently rollin’ in their minivan while on a national tour with Yo Gabba Gabba! They're back home now, opening a show Wednesday evening for 4onthefloor. Befitting the duo’s personalities, we decided to interview Bryan and Neil using exclusively questions culled from huge fans of theirs, our 8-year-old cousin and his 9-year-old friend. Don’t worry—they asked the tough ones.
The A.V. Club: I should start by saying that this interview won’t be pulling any punches. So… uh. What’s your favorite color?
Neil: I don’t want to pick sides on the whole “color” thing. I’m just not going to single anything out.
Bryan: I don’t care—my favorite color is blue. I have blue eyes, and I find that color really appealing on me.
N: Because then ninjas wouldn’t exist anymore. We’re not big on cannibalism.
B: No, it’s not cannibalism.
N: Oh, because dinosaurs—
B: Well, I think it’s that we really take time periods seriously. Everybody knows that ninjas came way before dinosaurs, so it just wouldn’t be realistic.
N: It’s just historically inaccurate, and our fans would see through that.
AVC: Are your songs based on true stories?
N: Oh, like that time that we met a unicorn? Yeah. We saw a unicorn in the woods a few years back, and we knew we had to tell that tale to the world. Same for being a pirate—we’re pirates, we’re ninjas, and not many people can say that, so we figure we’ve got to tell these stories.
B: We’re less like musicians, and more like journalists. We need to tell these stories.
AVC: Are you really best friends, like you say in your songs?
N: Of course! We met in 2004. We were both music students and got to know each other through the music scene. Since then, I’ve probably spent more time with Bryan than anyone else in my life.
B: Which is good and bad.
N: Before this started, we were in other bands together.
B: One was a more general pop band. A paint-by-numbers kind of thing.
N: We made this indie label audition video right when we first started Koo Koo Kanga Roo. We didn’t really know what we were doing with the band, but we knew it would be goofy, so we started making funny little skits and such.
B: We’d actually get asked [questions from the video] in real life.
AVC: What does “Koo Koo” mean?
N: At the time we started this, we didn’t mean anything, we were just kind of goofing around—and the same goes for the name. We like it because it’s weird and goofy and something you might want to look more into.
B: We were watching some weird, trippy Sesame Street-like show, and they said “Koo Koo Kanga Roo” in it. That kind of stuck. We had a big, long list of weird names: something something Gadzooks; Rick and the Flashy Four (we had other people in our band at the time). It’s just coincidence that the name fits what we do now. We could have easily become, like, a metal band.
AVC: How did you decide to do this kind of music?
B: We like dance music, and dancing in general. We got bored with normal bands, because they don’t put on a show. We wanted to be entertaining, and have a good time. That’s the premise behind Koo Koo Kanga Roo: including everyone and having a good time.
N: The music just happened accidentally, sort of. When we first started Koo Koo, we just wanted to do something fun that was more interactive and hip-hop dance-based. As we kept going, the songs started becoming more and more about goofball kids’ things that we remembered.
B: We shoot for goofy, more than kids’ music specifically. It’s not about being a kids’ thing; it’s about being a fun thing. It’s more of an overlap that way than purposefully trying to do stuff for kids.
AVC: Why do you hate crust?
N: Oh! It’s the worst part of the sandwich that basically has the least amount of coverage of all the things that are on the sandwich that matter. It’s also the most dry, disagreeable part of any sandwich experience.
B: There’s a lot to say. I could go on for three hours—I have a PowerPoint lecture on it. My dad used to say, “You’ve gotta eat your crust, because it’ll put hair on your chest.” But I’ve talked to tons of people that I’m friends with, and they’ve never heard that before, so my dad just made that up. And anyway, why would you want hair on your chest when you’re 3?
AVC: You sing about minivans. Do you really have one?
B: We do. We’re riding in it right now.
N: It’s good. The seats are really comfortable.
AVC: Is there anything you like more than rainbows?
B: Gummy bears. And Cinnamon Toast Crunch! Those are tangible. You can’t hold a rainbow.
N: The rainbow is cool to look at, but you can’t actually do anything with it.
B: Yeah, we love rainbows. But I don’t like Skittles whatsoever.
AVC: Why don’t you have a girl in the band?
N: Girls don’t like us very much. We generally don’t smell very good, so I don’t think any girls would want to be in our band.
B: Besides, girls always mess up the best-friend dynamic.
N: Also, cooties. You can’t downplay the risk of cooties here. We like our jobs, being Koo Koo Kanga Roo, and we don’t want to risk getting cooties and ending it all.
AVC: Neil, is that mustache real?
N: I put a different one on for the show, because I don’t want to damage it. The one you see at the show is a fake one I put over it so I don’t damage the real one.
AVC: Were you ever on TV?
B: No TV so far, but we were on the Yo Gabba Gabba! live tour for 10 days.
N: We’re always talking about TV, though. We’re hoping to have a variety show, with different skits, musical performances, games, and such: The Koo Koo Kanga Roo Show.
B: More recently, we’ve been talking about a game show. What would you want to see on a Koo Koo Kanga Roo game show?
AVC: Well, dance battles, for one.
B: We could do like a History Channel show, a maritime battle. A dance-off, pirates vs. unicorns.
AVC: Not exactly what we envisioned, but that’s a way better idea.
N: Well, we’ll call it your idea anyway.
B: We’ll cut you a check when we get big.
AVC: Do you want to do more kids’ shows or more grown-up shows?
N: We want to be playing all-ages club shows. It’s a little early, and anybody can get in: little kids, high school kids, parents—whatever. Those are the shows we try to do all the time; they’re the most fun, and people get into it. But we also do weddings all the time. We do kids’ shows in Minnesota. Stuff for charity—lots of different shows.
AVC: Are you on iTunes?
B: We’re not. We host all of our music on Bandcamp, pay-what-you-want style. We want everyone to have the music.
AVC: What’s your favorite song to perform?
B: Our favorite songs to play at our live show aren’t people’s listenable favorites, because we like ones that bring out certain things from the crowd. My favorite is “What’s That You Say?!” which is a singalong. It fits in our formula. We write songs on our records for what we need in the live show. We do a couple singalongs at the beginning, then [songs with] easy dance moves. Then it’ll be full dance moves. Then we’ll end with singalong favorites.
AVC: What should someone do if they’re at your show and they don’t really like to dance?
B: Just yell really loud, and look like you’re not having the worst time in the world.
AVC: Finally, what do you think people should do while listening to Koo Koo Kanga Roo?
N: Man, you’re really driving the hard ones. I would say riding a Ferris wheel. One that you can stand up and dance in, but still be safe.
B: I would probably say blasting it very loudly through a PA while you’re having an epic 85-person water-balloon battle. In a field. In slow motion.