SXSW Austin Locals: Kalu & The Electric Joint

Following the release of their debut album, Time Undone, Austin-based soul-rock group Kalu & The Electric Joint bring their unique sound to SXSW. Lead guitarist, Jonathan “JT” Holt, brings a thunderous wave of bluesy, psychedelic rock that crashes against the beach that is lead singer Kalu James’ soulful voice and is beaten back out to sea by percussionist John Speice. Reminiscent of an early Black Keys mixed with the classic Texas blues of Stevie Ray Vaughan and a dash of modern day rocker Gary Clark Jr., Kalu & The Electric Joint have created a well-deserved buzz around themselves that recently resulted in a 2018 Black Fret nomination. We caught up with James and Holt last week at Native Hostel before their official Traffic Music Showcase to talk about SXSW.


How has your SXSW 2018 experience been so far?
JT: “Overall, super positive. It kind of feels like what SX is supposed to feel like. It hasn’t always felt that way, but this this year it does. I like to think it has something to do with our record and the steam behind that, but who knows?”
KJ: “Coming from someone who has played for well over 10 years, mostly unofficial showcases, it has been a lot of fun. It’s like when you ask the artist who painted a mural what it feels like seeing it completed. They’re never going to tell you about all the times the world was sleeping and they were out with a flashlight trying to paint. They are only going to tell you it feels great.”

Is there a preference between playing official SXSW shows and unofficial SXSW shows?
JT: “Not really…if you have a flow and know how to work SX it can be a much easier trail. As a local band you have to endure SX for a few years. Once you’re polished, then I think SX can be real positive. Bands don’t pick themselves for official or non-official and both experiences are great if you are there for the music.

You were just nominated for a 2018 Black Fret grant. How do you feel about the more artist-inclusive atmosphere that has developed in Austin by new organizations and non-profits that caters to the well-being and advancement of local musicians?
JT: “It’s just great that we have all of these organizations and non-profits that support music in Austin, such as HAAM, SIMS, Black Fret and supporting clubs like the Continental Club, Antone’s, and Stay Gold. We really are lucky to have this as an epicenter. We, as musicians and artists, over the last 50 years have been building this community and we’re grateful to have its support.”

Time Undone is now available for download on Apple iTunes and Spotify or can be purchased directly from their website.


Photos and article by: Demetrius Judkins @wolfspiritofthesun

Kalu & The Electric Joint Unwind With Time Undone

Inspired by a return home to Nigeria to mourn the loss of his father, soul singer/songwriter Kalu James has resurfaced with a new group, album, and purpose. Led by the rich timbre of James’ soulful tenor, Kalu & the Electric Joint have released Time Undone – a nine-track venture into loss and defying the underdog stigma.

A solo-artist by origin, James originally made a name for himself with his residency at Austin’s Continental Club. During this time, he released four solo albums that helped to define his Afro-funk-motivated blues sound. James’ time in Nigeria, however, left him a bit lost – unsure at times if he wanted to come back home. James did return to Austin and brought back a renovated spirit that was determined to succeed.

Enter the Electric Joint, the fantastic completion of James’ sound. Consisting of guitarist Jonathan “JT” Holt and drummer John Speice (Grupo Fantasma, Ocote Soul Sounds, Brownout), the instrumental powerhouses add wide-level dramatics with a flourishing blend of varying effects, instruments, and influences.

From the heavy fuzz of “Too Low to Get High” to the fusing of southern blues and African rhythms in “Testify,” the trio explore the plains of American and West African sounds. The large-scale influences ameliorate the core heavy-blues sounds of the group rather than oversaturating the album with meaningless dives.

Holt’s energetic American rock-and-blues guitar melodies push a southern rock sound akin to Stevie Ray Vaughan and Eric Clapton. “Get It Right” features a solo from Holt that is fueled by distortion and American soul. In contrast to the liveliness of “Get It Right,” “Sea of Life” features a dialed-down and focused Holt, shining through simplicity.
No need to fight it / I am here to stay,” begins “Stay.” While the entire album centralizes around the idea of fighting for what you want and not backing down, “Stay” is the concentrated proclamation. James’ refined voice is put to work on this track, using layers of different effects and notes to fill the soundscape.

The blending of each of the trio’s talents feeds into the charisma of the thirty-minute LP. Pure musicianship and personality play into the group’s dynamic, which more than definitely shows a fully-realized Kalu & the Electric Joint. Laced with an indescribable quality that begs for continual listening, Time Undone is very well done.

Check out the photos below from Kalu & The Electric Joint’s Saturday show at The Mohawk along with a sample of what Time Undone has to offer.

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Article by: Sawyer Click

Photos by: Demetrius Judkins @wolfspiritofthesun