Is Kulululu a band from Portland, a group of space aliens come to Earth to observe humanity, or some kind of new age lifestyle choice? Chatting with a press representative from the band (all members remain anonymous, I’m told) and the answer is… well, all of the above.
From the opening track on Kulululu’s self-titled latest release, they sing: “We are Kulululu/and you are Kulululu/and they are Kulululu.” But what is Kulululu?
The band’s press representative says those lines from the song are all you really need to know.
“It’s kind of an all-encompassing term,” he says. If anything, Kulululu is the “ability to identify with what you feel is most true to your own character and your own interests.”
OK, I get it now. Sorta. So I listen to to Kulululu, and it starts to clear up.
What Kulululu is for sure is an insanely fun, joyously weird, omni-genre collective, splitting time between Portland and occasionally Tucson, Arizona. There are elements of Devo, and Oingo Boingo in the sound. But there’s also ska-punk, pop-punk, Zappa-style revelry, and even hardcore punk on album-tracks like the 47-second-long blaster “Crab Dad.”
The band always performs in masks and disguises of their own making: from mime make up and scarves, to elaborate French revolution-era wigs. The press representative says the practice of disguising oneself “totally informs the freedom of creativity” for the musicians
“In a lot of popular music on earth,” he goes on, “we hear songwriters exploring their emotions and their feelings: telling their story, getting a lot of individual experience.” Kulululu, on the other hand, wants to get outside the human experience. To observe it “from a different perspective.”
Playing along with the premise the band members are actually space aliens (who says they’re not?), I ask him what, if anything, he’s learned or observed about humanity while on Earth.
“One thing that is most frustrating for me, and that I’m constantly troubled by, is the immense inequality that exists across the broad,” he responds. “In a global perspective and an economic perspective.” But amidst all this inequality and injustice, he goes on, “we are able to find beauty in the world.”
“Being joyous is important,” he says. “It’s important to be sad, frustrated, angry,” but “it’s also really important to have fun while we’re here. If more people took the time to seek out, or cultivate the positive in their communities, some of that negative might be outweighed by the positive.”
In the end, I’m still not sure exactly what Kulululu is. But as their song says, we are all Kulululu, and that’s good enough for me.
Kulululu lands locally with Eugene’s VCR and Surfsdrugs 10 pm Friday, Jan. 4, at Luckey’s; $5, 21-plus.