So You Want To Know About the Eggplants....
"The amazing Kenny Young and the Eggplants are a very well kept secret. But now the time has come for everybody to know the Eggplants are the most amusing, wonderful, whacky band in this or any other town."
- Alexander McCall Smith
Claiming to be from Brooklyn (but possibly from some other galaxy altogether), Kenny Young and the Eggplants are a not-easily-described semi-acoustic trio who perform songs about giant squirrels, scary bits of cheese, inebriated crime-solving birds, and malevolent washing machines, among other important rock and roll topics. Various attempts to define their music have been made, but perhaps the most entertaining quote comes from the New York Times, which said that the band gives “eloquent voice to the multifaceted neuroses of prolonged adolescence.” In the U.K., the Sunday Herald said the Eggplants “mix the wit of Jonathan Richman with the sound of the Nico-era Velvets to create a surreal and satirical gumbo.” They have also been called a “deeply eccentric pop band” (The Guardian), and a “wonderful weird band” (The Scotsman). The Village Voice said, “The naivete Kenny wears on his sleeve is genuine - think of an East Village Brian Wilson, without the money but still tilted in his own wacked-out way.”
At the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in Scotland, the Eggplants won a coveted artistic award known as a Herald Angel. The Herald Angels, which span all the Edinburgh Festivals (International, Fringe, Film, Book, Jazz, etc.), are awarded to "celebrate excellence across the spectrum of artistic activity" and to recognize "outstanding contributions to the festival."
In addition to the award, the Eggplants have received 4-star reviews from Scotland's most prestigious newspapers. The Scotsman called them an "endearingly oddball Brooklyn trio ... carving their singular niche somewhere between whimsy, psychedelia and classic lo-fi pop." The Herald has described an Eggplants show as “gentle insanity with irresistable tunes … It’s like a kid's party that's continued for the grownups and possibly the most charmingly diverting hour on the Fringe."
Perhaps because no one can figure out exactly what the heck they are, the Eggplants get invited to play an intriguing variety of venues. In New York City, where they have performed at countless clubs (including the much-missed CBGB and its acoustic annex, The Record Canteen), they have become regulars at The Living Room on the Lower East Side. They played at BB King’s club on 42nd Street on an evening hosted by Dr. Demento, they performed during the New York City Marathon, and they were Tom Robinson’s back-up band at The Mercury Lounge. They have played at prestigious British venues like the Royal Festival Hall, the Barbican, Ronnie Scott's, The 100 Club and the Burton Taylor Theatre. They have performed for college audiences, for children, and at science-fiction conventions. They have also played at a number of festivals, included CMJ, Clearwater, and Planet Pop, in addition to the Edinburgh Fringe.
The Eggplants frequently stray from their Brooklyn vegetable patch to the UK, where there is an apparent need for more songs about 6-foot squirrels. They have performed live on numerous BBC radio shows, including The Tom Robinson Show, The Musical Mystery Tour, Kaleidescope, and The Phil Jupitus Show. Their UK tour stops have included such places as London, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Oxford, Chester, York, Falkirk, East Kilbride, Penicuik, Kings Lynn and Bristol. Unfortunately, no matter what the destination, they always seem to get stuck in traffic somewhere around Wolverhampton.
In 2010, an Eggplants BBC radio session was selected for The Live Music Hour on BBC 6 Music. The show, which presents “gems from the vast BBC sound archive, including concerts and live sessions from a variety of artists,” featured the Eggplants and Led Zeppelin. A BBC press release described the Eggplants as “a band capable of lifting the heaviest of souls.”
Across North America, songs from the Eggplants’ five CDs have been played on hundreds of college radio stations. In the NYC listening area, the band has enjoyed substantial airplay on a wide range of shows on WFMU, including Teenage Wasteland with Bill Kelly, Three Chord Monte with Joe Belock, Greasy Kid Stuff, and the Irene Trudel show.
The band members, who insist that they first met while training to be astronauts at an undisclosed location near the New Jersey Meadowlands, are as follows:
Eddie Logue (percussion of various sorts);
Gil Shuster (bass and role model for children);
Kenny Young (acoustic guitar and vocals).
The Eggplants say that the prevailing mood at their shows is 'cheerful chaos.' But it's always good to hear what others think. Reviewing a show in Edinburgh, the Sunday Mail said: 'They don't come much zanier than this New York trio. They sang goofy songs about partying worms with artistic temperaments and Rambo going on shopping sprees . . . But behind the surreal antics were technically proficient musicians who know how to write a good pop tune and work an audience. Alien Love Song had a chorus so infectious I was humming it all the way home. There is genius among the Eggplants . . . Energetic, unpredictable and fun . . . if its surreal entertainment you are after then they're your boys.'
The BBC Collective website gave the Eggplants 4½ stars (out of five), with the following explanation: 'The songs are quirky, yes, and funny, but they also stand up as songs in their own right. Even though they have whimsical lyrics about aliens, families comprised completely of lawyers, and things growing in the sink, the dry delivery and quick guitar playing mean that they don't lose their appeal simply because you know the jokes ... Kenny Young and the Eggplants would be a fun band to watch if they simply stuck to girls and cars, which is why they work - the jokes and surrealism are part of the act, rather than the act itself.'
For now, the final word on Kenny Young and the Eggplants will go to DJ Adam Walton, host of the Musical Mystery Tour on BBC Radio Wales, who coined the term 'aubergenius' to describe the band. Mr. Walton has posted the following musings on the Eggplants:
'I can't remember the last time a band made me laugh, whilst still marveling at their ability to pen an interesting tune. Actually, I can. The band concerned was Kenny Young and the Eggplants, and I nearly wet myself drinking in their peculiarly surreal and litigiously funny show at Telfords Warehouse in Chester last year ... I love this band. I love to heckle this band, but sometimes that doesn't work out so well. Other patrons of their gigs get a bit pissed off and think that I'm being disrespectful - but nothing could be further from the truth. I'm down with Kenny, Gil and Eddie. When they're in town, the stars are smiling ... See you soon, most egg-celent musical auber-geniuses from Brooklyn.'
Kenny Young and the Eggplants - Discography
“Even One is Quite a Few” (1996, Coney Island Records)
“Toxic Swamp and Other Love Songs” (1998, Coney Island Records)
“The Search for Eggplantis … or Glam on the Half Shell” (2002, Coney Island Records)
“Arrr!” (2006, Cheese Thing Records)
“The House at Creepy Lake” (2009, Cheese Thing Records)