Left to right, back – Courtney, Josh, Mateus, Nate, JD, Amanda. Front – Udoka, Yale, Maikerly
Interview by Zander Kim and Auriane Benabou
Article by Zander Kim
Photography by Joey Han
Michelle Bazile ‘18.5, Bass
Maikerly Reyes ‘18, Vocalist
Udoka Oji ‘18, Vocalist
Josh Kirschenbaum ‘18, Saxophone
JD Fishman ‘18, Trombone
Mateus Picanco ‘18, Guitar
Yale Friend ‘19, Trumpet
Courtney Mankowski ‘19, Drums
Nate McDermott ‘20, Piano
Auriane and I got to sit down with KiwiiSour, who performed at Brown’s Annual Gigs on the Grass on October 7. KiwiiSour, who describe their music as neo-soul, jazz, and R&B, started out as a band just this past January, led by vocalists Udoka Oji ‘18 and Maikerly Reyes ‘18. They'll be around, so be sure to check out this nine-member group at other events for some funky covers and originals of their own!
Auriane Benabou: Could you guys introduce yourselves and tell us what your roles are in the band?
Courtney Mankowski ‘19: I’m Courtney, I play drums.
Udoka Oji ‘18: I’m Udoka, I’m a vocalist.
Mateus Picanco ‘18: I’m Mateus, I play the guitar.
Yale Friend ‘19: I’m Yale, I play trumpet.
Nate McDermott ‘20: I’m Nate, I play keyboards.
Maikerly Reyes ‘18: Maikerly, I’m also a vocalist.
JD Fishman ‘18: JD, I play trombone.
Michelle Bazile: I’m Michelle, I play bass.
YF: And Josh plays the sax.
Zander Kim: How did you guys get started as a band and how long have you guys been around?
MR: Dokes (Udoka) hit me up, it was like the end of last semester, and one of our—
MP: —Last last semester.
MR: Yeah last last semester, sorry. And [our friend] was like, “I want to have this conversation about wanting to start a band” but not really like having—not really knowing people in the music community as much. And then I got this random text message from Udoka in December and it just started from there.
JD: And then she just used her amazing music world connections and reached out to all of us and was like, “Hey, I’m thinking about making this dope band. You should join.” And then we all said yes. And then we all came together and we started rehearsing some songs that Maikerly had written, with Dokes, and one of them was called “KiwiiSour Cherry Sweet Love” and that’s how we came up with the name KiwiiSour.
YF: That’s a royal we, right there. (laughter)
UO: But two “i’s” now. Kiwi, I.
AB: So how would you guys describe your sound?
YF: Like neo-soul, jazz, R&B.
ZK: Do you guys have any inspiration for your music? Or artists you try to emulate? Or trying to pave your own path?
JD: I feel like as a group we all are coming from different places, and so it’s like very much like a synthesized vibe of many different things.So there’s a lot of artists that we really jam to, like The RH Factor is a big one. Who else?
YF: That’s the only group we’ve played multiple songs of.
JD: So yeah, I guess if you had to tag one band that is closest to us, I would say RH Factor. But at the same time, we definitely deviate from their songs.
YF: Yeah, like the originals are all very different.
MR: So I would say to get a sense of our sound, we write a lot of originals which I think is something that I’ve enjoyed just working with this group of people. We, Dokes, transcribe a lot of music and we hand it out to people and then experiment with it, like we’re looking for this to be a little faster, and it just becomes the songs, so, I mean it’s not one person but it collectively comes alive together as a group.
CM: Occasionally, we’ll have a song that they come to us with just chords and they’ll say, “Okay this is sort of, like sometimes you guys will mention a song that you want it be similar to. Right? Like, oh it kind of wants more of a vibe of this versus the vibe of that. But overall, it’s mostly just taking bits and pieces from each of us as we kind of figure it out.
AB: Along the lines of it being a collaborative effort, what is it like being in such a big group? Do you guys collaborate well, do you guys have similar tastes in music, and how what’s it booking shows for such a big group, do you divvy stuff up?
YF: I would say you do most of the booking—well, so we have a Facebook page that people message and we try and communicate everything together and you definitely do a lot of the booking.
UO: Yeah. And JD and Maikerly helped me too.
YF: I think as far as the taste, I think we all have slightly different tastes in music which I think is a good thing because at the same time also we accept each other’s tastes very well. So we had this one thing we did the other night, where we put a playlist together of 20 or 30 songs that we are interested in and we had to narrow them down. And it didn’t go so well because a lot of people hadn’t heard the songs but we were suddenly all into them. But it was a very eclectic list that we all ended up loving.
MR: I’m so excited. I remember suggesting three songs and none of the ones I suggested made it to what we’re going to play next month, but I was listening to the playlist and I was like all these songs are amazing and I’m so excited to do these songs with these people.
JD: So we’re doing a lot of covers from all over the place and you can hear them at Gigs on the Grass next week or at ANOCH [A Night on College Hill] two weeks from now, or at 52 John.
YF: Or the week after that. (laughter)
ZK: Is this your first time playing Gigs on the Grass?
MR: It’s our first time.
YF: Some of us did it last year.
JD: Yeah, we did it for different groups, but we’ve only been a group since January.
ZK: Are you guys currently working on anything new right now?
All: Yes yes yes!
MR: A lot.
NM: When we started we had somewhere around an hour of music prepared that we had from before summer. And then we had to have two one-hour sets at ANOCH so we’re basically like what’re all the covers that we can put together?
YF: We have new stuff.
UO: And new songs that we’ve written.
CM: I think at this point we could make like two albums if we wanted to.
JD: One cover album and one originals album.
UO: We’re thinking that once this sort of dies down with ANOCH, then we’ll go more into trying to record, right we sort of talked about that, wanting to do that.
AB: So you said people messaged you on Facebook, and you guys, out of all the groups I’ve seen on campus, you guys seem to have the biggest social media presence. Is that something important in getting people interested and finding out about the group or is it more like a friends tell friends kind of thing?
YF: I think we’ve had the luxury of having friends that are very supportive.
UO: That’s true, we have very supportive friends.
YF: I think that’s Josh calling me right now.
JD: I think also something to think about us as a group is we’re all coming from different music backgrounds and different social scenes so I think if you have close friends from all nine of us, you already have filled up a big space. So for like our first show, I’m like, “Who are all these people? Where’d they all come from?” (laughter) I think social media is also important. We definitely want to get the word out, we want people to know about us and we’re really excited for people to come and hear our music.
MR: I love taking pictures. Whenever we’re about to do a show, I’m like, “Oh we’re getting ready, come see us.”
MB: Also social media helps up connect with other people. I think some people have come to our shows because they’ve seen our posts and we’re active.
ZK: Have you guys been trying to book gigs in the Providence area or mainly around Brown?
YF: We’ve actually been looking into Boston. We’re thinking about doing a show at Berklee this year. So we’re doing that, we haven’t really done much in Providence though.
JD: Find us on Facebook: KiwiiSour, two i’s after the “w” (laughter).
AB: Who did the art for the Facebook page?
UO: Oh, our good friend Georgianna. She’s an artist.. She’s a great person. She sells her art to raise money for refugee organizations and stuff like that. But yeah, we were like G, we need a picture and she was like, “Oh, I got you.” And she made one in five minutes. She also made our logo.
MR: She also did the logo for Strawberry Generation too.
UO: Also, Allyson’s really good at photoshopping things in. Our cover photo, the picture of all of us, Joshua wasn’t looking, at any of the photos. So she ended up finding a photo of Josh when everyone else wasn’t looking and Allyson photoshopped that into the picture.
ZK: If you guys could have anyone play at Spring Weekend, who would it be?
MR: Hiatus Kaiyote.
JD: Oh, Snarky Puppy.
CM: We really liked Erykah Badu last year too. We’re doing a song that features her as one of our covers, so that’s pretty cool.
JD: Anderson .Paak.
AB: What advice would you give to Brown or RISD kids who are just starting up a band?
MR: Talk to other musicians and go to events where people are playing music. I didn’t know anyone personally but I knew a lot of these guys here doing Jazz Jam? I went to all the Jazz scenes.
YF: There’s definitely a tight music community at Brown which is awesome. Even if you don’t necessarily play in a group with someone, you have a sense of a lot of the musicians here, so it’s very easy to meet people and find out about possible gig opportunities. I’d say the hardest thing is space. The rehearsal space at Brown is definitely not great. We usually rehearse in TF Green which is just a mess. So if you have a space, you’re already a step ahead of a lot of people.
UO: Also just being comfortable to step out of your comfort zone.
JD: I think also being vocal is– (laughter)
*Josh enters the room.*
AB: What’s your favorite place to perform at Brown?
Josh Kirschenbaum: Basements (laughs).
YF: Having professional sound helps.
AB: What other groups are you guys excited to see at Gigs?
CM: Interabang is fantastic.
MR: I talked to someone named Temma (Schaechter) and it turns out we went to the same high school.
ZK: Anything else you guys want to say or add?
*The group calls out Josh for being late and tells him to say something.*
JK: Every interview, whenever there’s been a format like this, somehow I’ve told this story about why September is the ninth month of the year even though it’s “Sept.” but it’s—we don’t have to—it’s not that long of a story.
ZK: Alright, well thank you guys.
JK: Apologies (for being late).