Khruangbin (Thai for airplane, or literally “engine fly”) are a jet-setting trio from Texas whose smooth, groove-heavy music is heavily inspired by Thai rock and funk from the 1960s and ’70s, as well as a multitude of other influences ranging from surf rock to dub to Iranian pop. Active since the early 2010s, the group’s indefinable yet singular and highly accessible sound has attracted a remarkably wide audience. Following the release of their second album, 2018’s Con Todo el Mundo, Khruangbin were regularly playing sold-out concerts around the globe and their music had become a fixture of various streaming platforms. While the band’s material was primarily instrumental throughout the 2010s, they began incorporating more vocals into their music in 2020. Collaborative EPs with Leon Bridges preceded and followed Mordechai, Khruangbin’s likewise song-driven third full-length. The band collaborated with Malian guitarist Vieux Farka Touré on 2022′s Ali.
Khruangbin formed after guitarist Mark Speer and bassist Laura Lee performed with Yppah while opening for Bonobo’s 2010 American tour. Speer and Lee began working on music together, and Speer’s bandmate Donald Johnson, Jr. — also a prolific Southern rap producer — became the group’s drummer. The trio debuted with a self-released cassette and a 7”, and their song “A Calf Born in Winter” was included on Bonobo’s 2013 LateNightTales mix. Response to the song was overwhelmingly positive, and the group were signed to Night Time Stories Ltd. Following a limited Record Store Day 7” of “A Calf Born in Winter,” the band’s 10″ EP The Infamous Bill was released in 2014. History of Flight, a 2015 Record Store Day EP, featured covers of songs by some of the group’s influences, including Serge Gainsbourg and Yellow Magic Orchestra.
Khruangbin’s full-length debut, The Universe Smiles Upon You, arrived by the end of 2015, and a remix EP followed in 2016. The year proved to be an important one for Khruangbin — they opened for Father John Misty throughout his tour of the U.K. and Europe, and they embarked on headlining tours throughout the U.K. and America. The band’s second album, Con Todo el Mundo, was released in early 2018 and reached the Top 20 of Billboard’s Top Independent Albums chart. They then hit the road on highly successful tours with the Mattson 2 and Leon Bridges. By the end of the year, the group had issued a limited concert LP (Live at Lincoln Hall) and a cover of Vince Guaraldi’s “Christmas Time Is Here,” in addition to collaborating with Maribou State for the song “Feel Good.” In mid-2019, the band released Hasta el Cielo, a dub reggae version of the album. It featured different song titles, echoing mixes, and two versions whipped up by legendary dub producer Scientist.
Khruangbin next teamed up with retro-soul singer and fellow Texan Leon Bridges for the EP Texas Sun, which appeared in February 2020. The group incorporated more of their own vocals onto their third album, Mordechai, which was issued that June. The following November, the band issued their own LateNightTales volume, highlighting some of their favorite record finds from around the world. The set also included a studio recording of their cover of Kool & the Gang’s “Summer Madness,” a staple of their live shows. In 2021, Khruangbin issued a set of limited 12” singles containing remixes by artists like Knxwledge, Kadhja Bonet, Ron Trent, and Quantic, then collected them all on Mordechai Remixes. A second EP with Bridges, Texas Moon, was out almost exactly two years after the first one. Their next collaboration was Ali, a 2022 full-length with Vieux Farka Touré, named in honor of the Malian guitarist’s legendary father, Ali Farka Touré. ~ Paul Simpson