There are breakthrough hits, and then there's "Come With Me Now." The foot-stomping rabble-rouser — first released in 2011 by the South African-bred, Arizona-based family band Kongos — marked one of the most impressive rises to the top by an obscure artist since Evanescence's "Bring Me to Life" back in 2003.
What happened next was even less expected by the band, which consists of brothers Dylan on vocals and bass, Daniel on guitar, Jesse on drums and Johnny on accordion and keyboards, all of them sons of '70s musician John Kongos.
After reaching No. 1 on the alternative charts, the single seemed to take on a life of its own. It thundered its way into film soundtracks, television commercials, and WWE matches, not to mention NFL, NBA and NHL stadiums. In fact, it provided a veritable licensing cornucopia, over 150 to date, swears Dylan. "Someone told us that it's one of the most-used songs, ever, which is pretty strange."
"Come With Me Now" went double-platinum, as the band's Lunatic album spawned other accordion-wheezed smashes like "I'm Only Joking."
It was all a big change for a group whose first album had done virtually nothing. When "Come With Me Now" started blowing up, the group's dad — who'd had a couple of UK hits himself back in the day — would offer ego-grounding advice: "Don't believe your own press," he'd tell them. "Don't let it go to your heads."
So when it came time for album number three, Kongos were faced with the obvious question: How do you match that level of career-defining success?
For the follow-up Egomaniac, Dylan and his brothers didn't even try. While a handful of tracks, especially "Repeat After Me" and "Take It From Here," bear unmistakable echoes of Lunatic, there are also a number of whimsical sonic experiments, such as the folksy "If You Could," a Zydeco-influenced "I Want It Free," the Gospel-revering "Underground," and a pair of pointedly political commentaries, "Where I Belong" and "The World Would Run Better."
The album began coming together after the brothers came off an extended period of touring. They'd decided to take time apart and individually write the best material they could, then reunite in their family studio in Arizona's Paradise Valley. Once the siblings started playing their songs for each other — more than 40 of them in all — they began to notice how egomania kept cropping up as a recurring theme.
"Whether external or internal, that was our template," says Dylan in retrospect. "But we don't want to tie the word to really obvious egomaniacs like Donald Trump or Kanye West."
If success had taught Kongos anything, it was a level of self-awareness that some of us never achieve.
"I think everyone you ever meet is an absolute narcissistic egomaniac, including ourselves," says Dylan. "And there's no separation between Donald Trump and, say, the average person on Instagram, posting selfies."
I miss you, Lenny! My family and I thank you for all the special times…
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