NORMAN — The Kamals play psychedelic soul music. Forty years after bands such as Big Brother and the Holding Company, Blue Cheer and the Jimi Hendrix Experience rocked America, this Oklahoma City quintet are carrying on the tradition. They are hosting a self-titled EP release party tonight at Opolis along with Old Dog Records label mates the Trading Company and the Black Jack Gypsys.
The Kamals are vocalist and guitarist Zak Kaczka, bassist Trey Allen, drummer River Meyers, guitarist Brad Nance and keyboardist Loren Williams. They’re all under age 30 with Meyers being the youngest at 19.
“We’ve been jamming together for a long time. We’ve been friends since junior high and have had various bands in our circle,” he said of old outfits like Plaid Rabbits and Vultures of Culture.
“Those bands died and we formed The Kamals last August,” he said.
Their new 4-track disc is the product of concentrated effort and they recorded it themselves using a variety of techniques during the last three months. Crashing percussion, stratospheric guitar heroics and Kaczka’s canyon deep vocals make for a trippy blend.
“In our live shows we do a lot of jamming and improvisation,” Allen said. “We played a show in a friend’s field on St. Patrick’s Day and pretty much played all night.”
At Opolis they’ll be performing original material from a songbook that’s been growing each week. Creating new compositions is a collaborative effort.
“Don’t look for deep meaning in our songs,” Allen said. “But some of the lyrics are poetic and pretty heavy.”
Penning the words often falls to Williams who described one experiential song chronicling a murder and the perp’s subsequent hard time in prison.
“I wrote the lyrics for ‘Between the Tides’ at a time when I was moving out of my dad’s house and also got out of a long relationship with my ex-girlfriend,” Kaczka said. “It’s about changing times and becoming a different person than you were.”
All the men recounted being influenced musically by their families. Kaczka is the product of an African American mother and Caucasian father, and they raised him listening to an appropriate blend of Motown and Led Zeppelin.
Williams’ father was an Afrika Bambaataa-digging break dancer which may take the prize for coolest parent ever. Meyers’ cousin turned him onto live hard rock that was being played by friends in a neighborhood barn in south Oklahoma City. That’s where he met his current band mates.
“My dad is 64 and he got me into a lot of oldies music,” Nance said. “I grew up on KOMA and the first tune I remember is Lou Christie singing ‘Lightin’ Strikes.’ It gave me chills down my spine and honestly still does to this day.”
When Allen was a toddler his mom discovered the most effective lullaby was Black Sabbath’s “Planet Caravan,” a track from the group’s 1970 album “Paranoid.”
“My mom hung out with Metallica when they came through here in the 80’s, mainly Cliff,” Allen said. “That’s why I play bass. I think there’s some of him in me somehow. My mom is a saint.”
The Kamals applied to play Norman Music Festival V and they’re waiting to get the nod.
“The Norman Arts Festival folks are coming out for our show at Opolis and we’re in the planning stage for another show for the Nompton Times,” Williams said.
Nance and Williams are former Norman residents and have key connections to the music scene here through musician Rhett Jones and mover-shaker Stephen Tyler Holman. The former two gents have recently launched new music ‘Zine, The Nompton Times.
“Those guys helped us get into the Deli when we were Plaid Rabbit,” Nance said. “And we know they’re going to help people hear us again.”
You can experience The Kamals shred the Opolis at full volume tonight.