Koo Koo Kanga Roo

2008 - Present
July 10, 2020 Basilica Block Party 2020 (CANCELLED)
Basilica of St. Mary
Minneapolis, MN, US
Koo Koo Kanga Roo is an American comedic dance-pop duo from Minneapolis, Minnesota, consisting of vocalists Bryan (Bryan Atchison) and Neil (Neil Olstad). Billed as an "interactive dance party duo" and described as "the Beastie Boys meet Sesame Street", Koo Koo Kanga Roo showcase a colorful live show that relies heavily on audience participation, featuring overtly silly sing-along songs that are typically accompanied by their own individual dance move. The duo has toured nationwide, performing for both children's events and at mainstream music clubs with rock and punk bands (including Lee Hartney & The Smith Street Band), and is notable for releasing all of their recorded music under a "pay what you want" price.

The genesis of Koo Koo Kanga Roo began in 2004, when Bryan and Neil met while occupying the same student dormitory at

Along with a consistent output of recorded music, Koo Koo Kanga Roo built up a strong word of mouth following by releasing numerous comedy sketches and music videos on YouTube, as well as through relentless local touring, playing venues ranging from traditional music venues and 21+ clubs to children's birthday parties, preschools and elementary schools, to weddings, nursing homes and church basements. In 2009, the group began touring out of state, eventually striking up a touring relationship with the family-friendly superhero rock band The Aquabats, playing numerous shows with them across the nation in 2010 and 2011, as well as accompanying them on tour supporting ska punk band Reel Big Fish and a ten day stint performing on the Yo Gabba Gabba! live tour.

As the group regularly performs in front of adult audiences on tour, Koo Koo Kanga Roo have met with a polarizing reception from punk and rock crowds, leading the Dallas Observer to label them "the epitome of the love them or hate them musical act". In the fall of 2013, Koo Koo Kanga Roo were selected to be the opening act on an American tour with popular folk punk artists Frank Turner and The Smith Street Band, where the duo played before large venues to audiences which were typically hostile towards their seemingly out-of-place appearance. "People don't know what to make of them", Turner mentioned in an interview, "They've booed them. I don't care. I love them". When asked how the duo responds to hecklers, Neil replied "We ask people who are having a good time to go over and hug those angry guys".

On October 2, 2013, Koo Koo Kanga Roo independently published their own children's book, Unicorns R Real, which was followed shortly thereafter by the DVD release of House Party with Koo Koo Kanga Roo, a tongue-in-cheek "dance-a-long" workout video featuring seventeen of the group's songs. Early the following year, it was announced that the duo had signed to Fun Fun Records, a children's music-oriented offshoot of noted indie punk label Asian Man Records, to release their next album Whoopty Whoop on May 14. In mid-2014, Koo Koo Kanga Roo will tour the East Coast as support on the first leg of The Aquabats' 20th anniversary tour.

Though Koo Koo Kanga Roo are often labeled as a "kid's band", the duo never intended to write music strictly intended for children. They began focusing on composing songs easy for audience members to sing and dance along to; after a while, the lyrical content began to inevitably shift towards "goofball" material. "We shoot for goofy, more than kids' music specifically", Neil elaborated. "It's not about being a kids' thing it's about being a fun thing". Koo Koo Kanga Roo have described themselves as "like a kid's band for adults", something which they hope people of all ages could enjoy and participate in. Neil has also mentioned that Koo Koo Kanga Roo's songs try to touch on a nostalgia factor for older audiences, drawing on the two members' memories of elementary school; some examples include a song about friendship bracelets and the group's tradition of bringing a playground parachute out into the audience at the end of their sets. Dinosaurs, food fights, the alphabet, ninjas and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches are among the many topics Koo Koo Kanga Roo have addressed in their songs.

Appropriately, Koo Koo Kanga Roo's merchandise table is just as mired in kid-friendly activity, featuring a station for fans of all ages to make their own friendship bracelets or play with an assortment of games, while the group sells such irreverent items as a "mustache-on-a-stick" and their own coloring book. Another notable feature of their merchandise table is the "Koo Koo Kamera", a webcam where concert attendees can take their pictures and have them uploaded to Koo Koo Kanga Roo's website.

Koo Koo Kanga Roo release all of their recorded music as "pay what you want" digital downloads on their website, essentially making the entirety of their catalog available for free. According to Bryan, all of the duo's songs are written explicitly for their live shows and the audience interactivity which will accompany them, and thus are never considered outside of that specific context. He stated "I'm surprised people can even listen to those songs [outside of performance]", though noted the importance of releasing their music by itself because "[w]e want people to have access to the songs so that they can sing along at the shows. We want them to know all the words. We want people to have the music as immediately as possible".