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Koo Koo Kanga Roo on kids music, dumpster diving, and hugging haters

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Koo Koo Kanga Roo, with Steve Weeks, Saturday, Jan. 18, 6 p.m., The Black Sheep, 2106 E. Platte Ave., $15/adv, $18/door, $40/VIP, all ages, 227-7625, blacksheeprocks.com
  • Koo Koo Kanga Roo, with Steve Weeks, Saturday, Jan. 18, 6 p.m., The Black Sheep, 2106 E. Platte Ave., $15/adv, $18/door, $40/VIP, all ages, 227-7625, blacksheeprocks.com
The video has gotten more than 17 million YouTube views, the song has been covered by reformed punk Frank Turner and children’s TV franchise the Mother Goose Club, and the chorus (“Pick up your foot and stomp it, stomp it / Open up your jaws and chomp it, chomp it”) has been known to send children into paroxysms of glee and give parents recurring migraines.

It is, of course, “Dinosaur Stomp,” Koo Koo Kanga Roo’s kiddie-pop dance hit, whose tongue-in-cheek video boasts all the aesthetic subtleties of bargain-basement workout tapes, ’80s MTV programming, and late-night public access television. One of the band’s signature songs, it helped turn former Minneapolis indie-rockers Bryan Atchison and Neil Olstad into the most celebrated “kid’s band for adults” this side of The Aquabats!

Hailed as Sesame Street meets the Beastie Boys, the duo has spent the last decade recording eight albums and six EPs (most of it available online as pay-what-you-want downloads), playing elementary schools as ambassadors for the UNICEF Kid Power charity, and participating in both the Warped Tour and the Austin City Limits Festival.

They even got a shoutout last month from a biomedical ethics professor in an article on kids music that appeared on Daily Nous, a site for philosophy professionals. “A group like Koo Koo Kanga Roo,” he noted, “appeals, in part, because they transgress.”
In Koo Koo Kanga Roo’s case, transgressing is academic jargon for recording songs about bodily functions. Their 2015 EP Gross featured tracks like “Everybody Poops,” “Pick It and Flick It,” and “Who Farted?” They promoted it by releasing a video of themselves performing live inside a decrepit dumpster in the dead of a Minnesota winter.

“We did it in February, and I got pneumonia afterwards,” says Bryan, the one who always wears the baseball cap. (Neil is the one with the handlebar moustache.) “We were dancing so hard, we got really sweaty, and we stayed outside way too long. It was like negative 2 degrees. But it was a wonderful experience and we were really happy that so many people came out despite it being atrociously cold.”



Koo Koo Kanga Roo started out performing in local venues, rapping over homemade electro-pop tracks that they loaded onto an iPod Touch, a practice they continue to this day.

“There were all these hard rock bands that were being hypersexual, so our gimmick was to be like the opposite of that,” says Bryan. “We just wanted to be inclusive and really interactive. So we added the simple dance moves, because we wanted to include everybody in the bar. We were singing “Awesome Rainbows” and “Dinosaur Stomp” — songs we still sing now — that are basically like, ‘Here’s this dance move, repeat after me, repeat after me.’ Our songs are kind of like camp cheers set to a beat.”

While the duo’s music, which draws heavily on pop-punk and hip-hop, continues to improve, Bryan is still surprised when people tell him they listen to it at home.

“In the early days, it was really just meant for that live experience. Like the Aquabats!, who took us out on our first-ever national tour, their crowd and our crowd are perfectly aligned; they’re the most perfect band for us to open for. But we also opened four shows on their tour with Reel Big Fish, who have a lot of fans that are like, ‘No, this is what music is, it’s so pure, I’m real rock ‘n’ rolling.’ And it’s like, you do know who you came here for, right? Like Reel Big Fish? [Laughs.]”
Koo Koo Kanga Roo responded by asking people who liked their music to “go over and hug those angry guys.”

“So that was our way of battling haters,” says Bryan, “to just, like, annoy them more. That was our goal.”



But mainly, Koo Koo Kanga Roo want to please.

“We’re going to use every tactic possible to get you involved,” says the performer. “And the difficult thing sometimes — now that we play a family show, like at The Black Sheep, where the doors are at six and the show will be done by eight — is that a lot of the audience are families with 5-year-olds. So those people come thinking ‘This is just for my kid.’ So we have to battle to change their mind. We’re not happy until everybody’s yelling and doing stuff.”

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