You may have seen Koa at one of their sold out shows or just heard of them. Each instrument that layers another is truly an incredible sound and you can tell what musicians have influenced them. Koa is bound to find fans in people who usually enjoy both fast paced songs slow love songs. Their unique sound is what makes them so special and different than most bands.
MusicDash: What is your favorite song to play live?
Conor Kelly: For me, if I had to pick, that song right now would probably be Maybe Next Time. That song is in every set that I write because I think it has the deepest groove and is one of our “hookier” songs if that makes any sense. Lately we do a really fun drum break where Will and Ryan (drummer and percussionist) get to go off and explore some different musical territory. Its a cool moment in the set for me where I can just admire the talent of this band. Chase also has this hypnotizing vocal that tells such a great story and I love the guitar in that song! Maybe Next Time has a lot of attitude and speaks to many emotions, so right now I would say that one is my favorite.
Chase Bader: For me it depends. An extremely exciting part for us is to watch songs come to life and grow through playing them all over. I really enjoy our song “Gemini.” It was my first approach at a more narrative song and it’s one we love closing with. The groove and especially the sax lick are addictive!
MusicDash: What inspired you to make a band?
Conor Kelly: Well, Chase and I first met in fifth grade, so I would say our musical connection and him as a writer and singer was my original inspiration for starting this band. The short story is that for the better part of 10 years we have developed a friendship that has been nurtured so deeply through music. Playing and writing songs was never any sort of hobby or something we did to pass the time, writing songs was our life. So when it came time to go to make a move, we were either going to let playing together fizzle out, or make it really count and actually pursue it as a career. Two years later, here we are!
Chase Bader: yeah Conor and I have been friends for a long time and pretty much since the beginning of when we started hanging out we talked about doing what we’re doing now. We always envisioned writing and creating music that carried the emotion we both felt from our favorite bands. We learned how to write and record through just doing it ourselves and with the help of friends along the way. Ultimately, the inspiration came from wanting to create something that spoke to others.
MusicDash: When you write a song, what usually inspires you?
Conor Kelly: For me, the essence of a good song is the way it can emotionally move you. It is truly an amazing thing the way a song is able to connect with you on a deeper than surface level. For me, that is the inspiration enough! Being able to make someone truly feel something great with a song is everything I hope to accomplish in songwriting. Chase has a really special gift of being able to do that through his writing, so as a co-writer, I feel that I have a unique role in this process being able to listen to the original draft of the song (for the most part) unbiasedly and ask myself, what can I add to this song that really “adds to this song”? Songwriting itself is always inspiration enough for me.
Chase Bader: Agreed. A good test for us is removing all the instruments and if the song fundamentally with music and lyrics can work with a solitary vocal and an acoustic guitar or piano then you know the song has a depth that carries something special. Writing from experience is something I do constantly because you write best from what you know. That’s how I think we can connect as a band. You use your experiences to help find a similarity between others and this can allow the writer to talk about something that may have never happened to them before.
MusicDash: Where do you see yourselves in a few years?
Conor Kelly: I see us being the biggest band in the world! No joke! I really believe in our music and I really believe in our amazing team and band. I am so inspired by the rest of the guys and am constantly trying to learn from them and impress them. I also see our first record out there done the right way, and people hopefully digging it, as well as being on the road with bands like Moon Taxi, Widespread Panic, Tedeschi Trucks Band, and JJ Grey and Mofro! We work really really hard and put so much of ourselves into our songs, so in the end I want to accomplish nothing more then having a real emotional connection with our audience. So for me whatever that looks like, I hope that is where I end up!
Chase Bader: Haha yeah we really have big goals. We believe in our music and each other and we couldn’t do anything else. You find something you understand beyond everything else and you work at it. We’re working on developing a career out of this to provide an amazing experience for the people out there who enjoy what we do. It’s all about the journey for us!
MusicDash: What was your favorite Nashville show?
Conor Kelly: Definitely our last show at Exit In! We had an amazing audience and I feel like the band was performing really well that night. We actually ended up tracking that set and listening back to those songs has been really cool! It definitely was a night to remember.
Chase Bader: I loved Exit In as well. It was a huge moment for as a band. It cemented our progress as musicians to where we had started to where we were at that moment in time. Overall though, we’ve loved touring. Learning to interact with audiences different from Nashville and learning to play to huge crowds has been a complete joy.
MusicDash: What was the writing process for ‘Cool It Down’ like?
Chase Bader: “Cool it Down” was a song I wrote almost three years ago now originally. I had been going back and forth about the idea of the what I wanted in my life and how I was living at the time. At that point I was writing a lot of music by myself, playing with different bands, but I was kind of lost trying to find my voice as a musician and writer. “Cool it Down” was the beginning of a phase of writing that thematically spawned the early versions of much of Koa’s core catalog. I think back to those original days and playing cool it down at open mic nights I used to do in my hometown of Birmingham and I smile because it’s incredible where a song can take you.
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Interview by Megan Bennett