When Arron D is on top of his game, he's a sight to behold. But the frontman's relationship with the bottle is a tenuous one. When he's imbibed too much -- or even worse, too little -- he can barely lift a microphone. "I've got a touch of stage fright," he admits. "But tequila has a tendency to take all the edge off of playing."
Arron's D's stage fright surfaces the following afternoon, when the now-sober supergroup performs at an end-of-semester festival in Warrensburg, Missouri. Clutching a cup of meager iced-tea, the singer clenches up, barely squeaking out a few notes before walking off the stage in disgust. "I choked," he says afterward. "My leg was shaking. My arm was shaking. I woke up fifteen minutes before the show, so I didn't have time to get my drink on."
Welcome to the world of KB Posse, where booze and music blend like martinis, sleep is a precious commodity and the parties often last till dawn.
"Drunk, really drunk, sorta drunk, so-so, drunk," smiles Prozac, KBP's DJ, summarizing a recent round of local gigs. "If they had a place called Stoner's Island, we'd headline every weekend."
"If you come to our show, you take your chances," drummer Roach adds. "You might get a good show, depending on how drunk we are."
Getting toasted does more than fuel KBP's boisterous sonic concoctions; it's the music's very essence.
"You can't separate 'em," Roach insists. "We're drunk, and we're fucked up and we play."
What kind of music are we making here? reads a handwritten sign plastered to the wall at KBP's studio and rehearsal space, located in an innocuous Kansas City, Kansas, basement. The answer isn't a simple one. Few acts blend genres as freely or fiercely as KBP. Hard ska, reggae, dance hall, hip-hop, soul and punk all crop up, and songs such as "Jumbalaya" and "Rush Ska" marry these elements within the space of a few bars. Upon first listen, however, many are quick to point out that KBP's aural aura owes a great debt to Sublime.
"That's a compliment, man." Arron D responds. "Sublime was definitely a huge influence, along with Bob Marley, Suicide Machines, Goldfinger, Elvis Presley, Peter Tosh, fuckin' Frank Sinatra, Louis Armstrong, Charlie Parker."
It's true that Arron D's voice contains eerie echoes of Sublime frontman Bradley Nowell, and KBP likes to mix it up musically, but the group also includes elements not found in the Long Beach denizens' sound. This comes largely courtesy of rapper J.R., whose stream-of-weirdness freestyles shade the band's output with kaleidoscopic colors. On "KBP," from the quintet's 2001 debut, I Said Weed Bitch!, J.R. offers the following non sequitur: KB's about makin' it rock with hip-hop/Especially with the blunts laced with opium red-rock/Two breasts, two legs, two thighs and a biscuit/Give J the mic, and watch how I kick it.
"He's old-school; he's got a style that nobody's really doing anymore," Arron D says enthusiastically. "He freestyles damn near everything, just makes it up as he goes along. Most of the time, I'm way too drunk to fuck with something like that, but the drunker or higher that motherfucker is, the colder his shit comes out."
Indeed, the Weed album is a ten-song bender, and its song titles -- "Weed Dub," "Livin' Da Life," "Speed" -- speak volumes. Though KBP was pleased with its debut, the band was equally frustrated by the chaos surrounding its creation.
"The way it was put together was a fuckin' mess," Roach recalls. "It was the first time we recorded our own shit. We had the freedom to do whatever the fuck we wanted to do, and it was beautiful, but we were kind of virgins."
Weed has become a minor hit on mp3.com, where it was posted in its entirely, but few listeners actually own the disc. A mere 200 copies were printed, but 90 were swiped on the day of release, plunging the already limited-edition CD further into obscurity. Fortunately, six Weed tracks have found their way to KBP's self-titled sophomore effort, set for a mid-July unveiling. KB Posse also introduces a plethora of new material, including the fast and furious "Cadillac," the bluesy ska of "Don't Be Late" and a faithful rendition of the Bob Marley chestnut "Turn Me Loose." Filling out the release are guest appearances from KBP's extended family, including members of DVS Mindz, Phat Albert, soul diva Lala, guitarist Dusty Commodore and other assorted gypsies, tramps and thieves. The ensemble also received plenty of assistance from the local stripper community, with area exotic dancers contributing emotional and financial support.
"Actually, the girls paid for our CD," grins Prozac, who moonlights as a strip-club DJ six nights a week.
"Thanks to the girls at Bada Bing and Satin Dolls," Roach cheers. "We couldn't have made it without them."
"It's an album sponsored by Ron Bacardi," adds Arron D, noting that the rum maker is thanked prominently in the liner notes. Coming from this tawdry environment, KBP is quick to downplay anything resembling musical maturity.
"It's kind of spontaneous. I don't really think it's evolving," Roach says, grimacing at the very word.
A few weeks after the Granada show, KBP makes its Bottleneck debut, playing before a few dozen onlookers who seem far more interested in the pool tables than anything happening onstage. As usual, the band is sloshed, having spent most of the evening getting hammered in a Lawrence strip club. It's a rough set, cut short after five songs by Arron D, who apologizes to the attendees
"This is the last tune of the evening, thank God," he mumbles, glancing at his inebriated band mates. "I'm drunk as fuck; he's drunk as fuck; he's drunk as fuck. Why don't we just end it for y'all?"
The first audible cheer of the night can be heard. This tepid response may have something to do with the show's lineup, which is metal-heavy to say the least. Headbangers, in particular, tend to be unsupportive of KBP's multifarious musical soup, according to the band.
"Our audience is drunk people in general, especially the college crowd, stoners, hippies, a few of the ravers," Arron D explains. "The metalheads don't really like us that much. In fact, they want to beat us up."
"Yeah, but the ones that don't, really like us," Roach adds. "It's a real love/hate relationship."
Rather than adjusting its live show to suit a particular audience, KBP prefers to play from the gut and let the chips fall where they may. Last year, a local promoter asked the group to temper its punk and hardcore material in favor of the reggae and hip-hop aspects of its sound. KBP opened the evening with a surging hardcore number called "She Loves My Dick" and closed with a fur-flying rendition of its punk anthem "Fuck You."
"We didn't get asked back," Roach says flatly.
"There's been gigs when it might've been beneficial to change the set," Prozac explains. "Like if we're playing a rock place, instead of playing the rap stuff, you play more of the rock stuff. But we don't change our show, no matter where we play."
KBP's staunch commitment to making music from the heart might finally be winning over area fans. Those in attendance for recent gigs at America's Pub and the Bunker were treated to some of KBP's finest performances to date, where the band seemed to discover the perfect combination of gear-stripping musicianship and public intoxication. But where it will all end up is anyone's guess -- particularly KBP's.
"I'd say ditches and alcoholism," forecasts Arron D.
"Big livers," Prozac speculates, "Very hard."
"It's a muscle. It's just like the heart; you have to exercise it to make it strong," Roach adds. And we exercise the shit out of our livers. We really do. We'll have livers like fuckin' rocks in about two years."
Anthony Barnett, the demure, bespectacled bassist who plays with KBP when he's not slapping the strings for Phat Albert, offers an outsider's perspective.
"I think their future's up to them," he says. "However far they want to go with it, I think they can take it. They don't like to talk about that, though."
"I don't know. It fascinates me," Barnett muses. "I bust my ass to be half as good as Arron and Roach are naturally. That's the curse, I guess. If you have it, you don't want it, and if you want it, you don't have it. The weed is always greener on the other side."