New York rock trio The Kin really love heist movies. Brothers Isaac and Thorald Koren (who hail from Australia) and drummer Shakerleg, formerly a Big Apple subway performer, appreciate stick-ups in general.
So a few years ago, the three began a series of what they and their fans call “musical robberies.” The way it works is simple: without any permits or other notice, they will barge into a public place — library, diner, store — and announce, “Ladies and gentlemen, this is a musical robbery!” And they will play until they get booted.
Because robberies don’t always go according to plan, some have ended with the trio in the hands of authorities. One such occasion came last week at South by Southwest in Austin.
“At the Crystal Hotel in Austin, by the time we got to, ‘Ladies and gentleman, this—’ two securities guards basically tackled us and took our camera,” singer-keyboardist Isaac Koren said. “It was a shit show.”
Nevertheless, the band, which performs Saturday at Bruno’s in the Mission at Party Corps’ Music for Good show meant to inspire the public to support local non-profits, has recorded enough of their musical robberies to release a collection of them next month. They’re also planning another one in San Francisco while they’re in town.
“We met Shakerleg (real name: Mark Nicosia) in the subway, and he was already a street performer,” singer-guitarist Thorald Koren said. “He brought that spirit to the band. But we…wish we were diamond thieves. We thought we’d go find innocent victims at random — play a song without telling people who were are, just see their reactions. It was never about the promotion.”
The Koren brothers have been performing together since 2001, at first in Adelaide, Australia, where they were raised in a musical household and studied jazz. After moving to New York City, they began working with a variety of drummers, keyboardists and bassists and released three albums and a live record.
The encounter with Shakerleg occurred in 2007. At the time, he was struggling to make it in the big city. After moving to New York from Buffalo to try his hand at acting, a job tending bar at a Planet Hollywood didn’t work out because “I didn’t know the alcohol list.”
“So I looked in the back of the Village Voice (and) saw an ad: ‘Drivers needed!’”
The ad was for a job chauffeuring escorts. His roommates tried to talk him out of it, but he persisted.
“It was three years of hell, driving from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m., every manner of woman in my vehicle; a wide variety of life,” he said.
Eventually, he got sick of that job as well and resorted to performing for commuters and tourists in the New York subway. And he became an underground sensation because of his unique drumming style — no sticks, fingers wrapped in tape, hammering away until he was too sore to go on. Shakers attached to his leg and no bass; space is limited in the subway, after all. To this day, he uses his eye-catching kit to bring a new spin to rock music. After getting off the ground, he started a website called Shakerleg.com. It was only a matter of time before the name became associated with the drummer.
“He’s totally changed our sound for the better,” Isaac Koren said. “For better or worse, my brother and I are constantly changing our sound and constantly searching for something else. We’re not the kind to settle on something forever. It will either be the worst thing about us or the best thing about us.”
The band currently blends pop with prog-rock, tribal and world flourishes. In 2011 they signed with Interscope and released an EP, Get On It, late last year. But their biggest break to date came when they played a house party that happened to be attended by Pink. She was impressed enough to attend a second show, and then invited the trio to open for her, first in Australia and then in America.
“The first thing we were anticipating was a lot of booing,” Shakerleg said. Instead, the trio picked up a new legion of fans.
“We love arenas,” Isaac Koren said. “We’re fixing on getting back as soon as possible.”
Party Corps‘ Music for Good party with The Kin in concert and in conversation with Global Glimpse, a nonprofit organization working to inspire young Americans to become responsible global citizens.
Saturday, March 22, 2014
8pm, $11.50 at Eventbrite. Proceeds from ticket sales will go to Global Glimpse.