Reviews/Press

"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

"New York City seems like a much nicer place these days than it used to be.  I am convinced that no small part of that has to do with Kenny Young and the Eggplants, who have been making music there for a bit over a decade now.  The Eggplants mix brainy, funny lyrics with a fine sense of what makes pop music wonderful, and they are intensely dedicated to showing their audience a good time."

 - Dr. Demento

"A band capable of lifting the heaviest of souls."

[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. The above quotation about the Eggplants comes from a BBC press release for that show.]

"Giving eloquent voice to the multifaceted neuroses of prolonged adolescence.”

 - The New York Times

Edinburgh Fringe Preview – Part 1

Every year a host of top musicians and acts descend upon Edinburgh as part of the annual Fringe Festival. With so many artists of all genres and styles to choose from it can sometimes be an overwhelming challenge to skim through and find the ones you like. Luckily, we have taken that challenge on so you don’t have to, and picked out some of the acts we are most looking forward to.

Kenny Young and the Eggplants have a sound as weird as the name suggests, actually perhaps even weirder. The trio come from Brooklyn, but are no strangers to Scotland having won a Herald Angel at a previous Fringe Festival outing. They have also won themselves a famous Scottish fan in the shape of author Alexander McCall Smith who said “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.” Their songs include topic matters such as giant squirrels and malevolent washing-machines, so expect a show not entirely rooted on the serious side of reality.

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.... The New York Times said of the band that they give eloquent voice to the multifaceted neuroses of adolescence. I say they're the three funniest kids in your year at school, after one too many kool-aids with the Merry Pranksters. Somewhere between the two statements is a tuneful, inventive, amusing truth.

... 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.

 - Adam Walton (BBC Radio Wales) (http://adamthomaswalton.co.uk/?this_blog=199). 

[This piece originally appeared as an 'Earbuzz' music column in the North Wales edition of the Daily Post.]

SUE WILSON
THE SCOTSMAN
August 24, 2007

KENNY YOUNG AND THE EGGPLANTS
ACOUSTIC MUSIC CENTRE @ ST BRIDES

****
CARVING their singular niche somewhere between whimsy, psychedelia and classic lo-fi pop, this endearingly oddball Brooklyn trio first played the Fringe in the early 1990s, back at the old Acoustic Music Centre on Chambers Street. The Eggplants' withdrawal from the August festival fray some years back mean these return shows by singer/guitarist Young, bassist Gil Shuster and percussionist Eddie Logue thus have something of a homecoming flavour.

There was a nearly full house in attendance on opening night, and several fans had submitted requests long in advance.

For those new to the experience, though, the very first number provided a pretty good introduction. Entitled Eggplantis, it describes the band's spiritual home as a lost undersea city inhabited by animated vegetables, a story narrated via as many terrible puns as possible. The second proceeds from the viewpoint of "five innocent T-shirts", trapped in a broken washing machine, while the next begins with the line "Curtis Mayfield's on the moon".

A subsequent enquiry as to whether we're "ready for some arena rock" leads into a song about a six-foot squirrel (named Earl, because it nearly rhymes, in a Brooklyn accent), complete with random musical allusions to the Rolling Stones. Also on an animal theme, the brilliant Lushy the Grouse, featuring a children's cartoon character with a drinking problem, surely has its origins in a certain famous whisky advert.

If such glimpses into the Eggplants' world are leaving you cold, they're probably not a taste you're likely to acquire.

Those tickled by the humour, however, may be further tempted by the threesome's impressively taut though understated musicianship, deftly weaving in strands of blues, soul, funk and folk, and setting Young's gently catchy melodies against sharp, punchy rhythm work.

They are immature perhaps but Kenny and the Eggplants are having far too much fun to stop

The official version is that they met when they were all hired by Nasa.

zany TRIO: Kenny Young and the Eggplants featuring Eddie Logue and bassist Gil Shuster.
zany TRIO: Kenny Young and the Eggplants featuring Eddie Logue and bassist Gil Shuster.

But why, you might ask, would Nasa want to hire musicians who turned out to be useless astronauts, especially musicians whose songs include such classics as Attack of the Manic Librarian, Rage Against the Washing Machine and a eulogy to Earl the Squirrel?

A slew of other songs that concern life on the planet Eggplantis might suggest that Kenny Young and the Eggplants are indeed space cadets or even immature. The truth, however, is that these Fringe regulars and Herald Angel winners from Brooklyn wouldn't take offence at accusations of immaturity, and that they're having far too much fun to stop. They may even have found the secret of eternal youth; Young by name and young by nature, as Mr Young has it.

"We never set out to be teen idols," says Young down the line from New York. "And some might say that's just as well. But our first thought was that if we could entertain ourselves we might entertain other people and we just kind of stumbled into this thing that we do that we all enjoy."

Heaven help the compilers of pop features along the lines of those that divulged the Beatles' favourite food and sundry minutiae had Young and his Eggplants ever come close to superstardom. He's not a man who feels comfortable giving straight responses to straight questions but he will concede that at a certain point in his youth he was invited to sing with a band at a party and enjoyed the experience so much that he decided that he needed to be involved in music.

"I also decided that I needed to learn to play the guitar because I pretty quickly realised that I was never going to be able to hear myself if I was playing with a bunch of teenage guitarists whose idea of volume control was to turn it up," he says. "So I got a guitar and as soon as I started playing I thought, this is what I want to do. I wouldn't have known who was playing guitar on any given record because they didn't announce such things on the radio.

"But later I discovered that the guy playing the really cool stuff on Elvis's records was Scotty Moore and that Stax records had Steve Cropper and I gravitated to people who could find exactly the right guitar part for a song without drawing attention to themselves. People like Curtis Mayfield, George Harrison, Dave Davies - they were all great at that."

Young could go on at considerable length about his guitar heroes - Carlos Santana, Jeff Beck , Brian May, Chuck Berry, Charlie Christian and Johnny Ramone provide a random sample - but guitar heroism, like pop stardom, was never in his plans. Meeting percussionist Eddie Logue and bassist Gil Shuster was the beginning of a long friendship that has seen the trio play at an impressive array of prestigious venues including the Royal Festival Hall and Ronnie Scott's in London and BB King's in New York as well as returning to the Fringe with, this year, promises of playing a set of theme tunes from their TV work in a parallel universe. Young began writing character songs, although not exclusively, as soon as he put his first set of lyrics to a melody and chord sequence and as soon as Logue and Shuster heard his offbeat creations, they got the zany humour and agreed that was the way to go.

"There have been times, Young says, where he's "crossed the line". A song about rats in the New York subway system got the thumbs down from the Eggplants and Young says that, looking back, they've always been right to censor him because he's recycled the basic ideas into something more suitable.

"We have been told that if we could be normal we'd be more successful," he says. "But we've always disregarded that advice. It's not that we don't appreciate being able to play big theatres and I've had moments when I've thought, this is really cool, I should remember what this feels like. But we rather like that our audiences can be children or pensioners - or both - or somewhere in between, and we know that love songs to aliens are not going to be to everyone's taste. It's our job, though, to win people over or perplex them, hopefully the former."

And what was it about eggplants that made them become such an obsession?

"Well, firstly it's a fun word," says Young. "But we also like the idea that in the vegetable kingdom the eggplant would be the rebel."


****

Parents of Harry Potter fans wondering how to fill the void after the publication of the boy wizard’s final adventure may wish to consider trading quidditch for Auberginemania.

A “suitable for ages nine to 90” mental health warning would be no exaggeration – in fact, one of these endearingly nutty New Yorkers’ Fringe gigs boasted just such a demographic in attendance – for the appeal of a band whose most popular songs include the tale of T-shirts raging against a despotic washing machine and My Dinner With Elvis, in which our hero not only spots the King’s face in a pizza but gets savvy advice into the bargain. Not only that, they also teach kids to say “please” before granting their requests.

Songs from their brand-new album that look certain to join the Eggplant Hot List include the title track, The House at Creepy Lake, which carries a “scary song alert” but only gets scary because resident poltergeists get freaked when a navel-gazing singer-songwriter arrives next door, and the delightfully silly Attack of the Maniac Librarian.

An hour of gentle insanity with irresistible tunes.

Kenny Young and the Eggplants
Acoustic Music Centre @ St Bride’s
by ROB ADAMS, The Herald
August 23 2007
Star rating: ****

A Fringe star receives a lovely e-mail from a female admirer, requesting that when he gets to Edinburgh, he sings her favourite song especially for her. The star feels flattered, senses promise and then discovers that the fan is six years old and she's here with her parents.

Cue much hilarity, or as it's known on the planet Eggplant, business as usual. Kenny Young is a singer-guitarist-songwriter who can't help having innocent fun with words and creating kooky situations, and he delights in sharing them with a self-deprecating, natural storyteller's flair.

So we have T-shirts trying to keep their necks above water in Rage Against the Washing Machine, an alcoholic grouse whose best pal is a worm that lives in a tequila bottle, and a gregarious squirrel called Earl who sings - all together now - "Squirrels just want to have fun".

With the Eggplants variously playing bass guitar and multifarious electronic and acoustic percussion and having Star Wars sword fights with the audience, it's like a kids' party that's continued for the grown-ups and possibly the most charmingly diverting hour on the Fringe.

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.'

Edinburgh 2007 – Acoustic Music Centre @ St Brides – 20-26 August

Kenny Young and the Eggplants are a Brooklyn-based trio. Kenny Young, diminutive, and running his fingers through his hair, introduces the Eggplants: Gil Shuster on bass, Eddie Logue on assorted percussion, Kenny Young on acoustic guitar and vocals.

'We're going to sing a song about a badger', says Kenny Young. With a voice like dipped chocolate mixed with crushed velvet, he opens the set – the story of a badger in the badlands who eventually becomes a big film star. All the songs are written by Kenny Young. His lyrics are funny and very cleverly crafted - a weaver of images. Songs are expertly played, and his vocals are clear and easy on the ear. There are songs about demented washing machines with revenge-seeking tee-shirts - based on a true story, he says. There's a pirate radio station run by real pirates – 'time to batten down the hatches, put on peg-legs and eye-patches' is one memorable line. There are a couple of unreleased new songs. Celebrate is a celebration of anything, such as not hitting the boss with a 2 x 4. Subterranea is about living in underground cities. There's mention of a spork – a plastic piece of cutlery that's a cross between a spoon and a fork – and Earl the six-foot squirrel.

There's an excellent acoustic delivery of Led Zeppelin's Whole Lotta Love, with Gil Shuster sounding like a demented cat as he rushes round the audience. Kenny Young does his own version of Lou Reed's 'Walk on the Wild Side', changing some of the lines to fit in with a family audience. So 'even when she was giving head' becomes 'even when she was baking bread'. And to reflect the Scottish element - 'Sugar Plum Fairy came and hit the streets, looking for haggis, tatties and neeps'. The hour goes too quickly for this delicious mix of well-written witty songs, fantastically sung.

Songs (running order): Badger in the Badlands. Rage Against the WM. Curtis Mayfield's on the Moon. Pirate Radio (Radio Eggplantis). Lushy the Grouse. Piano. Celebrate. Earl the Squirrel. Double Bubble Day. My Dinner with Elvis. 186,000 Miles a Second. Whole Lotta Love. Subterranea. Movies by the Sea. Walk on the Wild Side. Come Back Patti. Savage Eggplant.

How many instruments can you name that resemble an aubergine? Kenny Young and his affable band have a whole bag of them, which they bring out for their hilarious finale, ‘The Savage Eggplant’. In between songs, this Brooklyn trio seem a bit bemused, and humble to the point of bashfulness, but when they start singing their laid-back acoustic pop and bizarre but witty lyrics, they take the audience into a world of talking alligators, aliens and pirates. It’s liberating, silly stuff, toe-tappingly cheerful, and I found myself joining in the several spontaneous sing-alongs that occurred. They evidently enjoy themselves on stage and have a great rapport with their audience, and Kenny’s soft but edgy voice is great for their kooky tunes.

Acoustic Music Centre @ St Brides, 18 – 24 Aug
 - Louise Ridley

NYC's globetrotting indie-pop band Kenny Young and the Eggplants are coming to Studio Q!
 
 We first heard about Kenny Young and the Eggplants years ago, when Station Manager (and host of Cocktails with Chris) Chris Potter caught a gig by them at The Edinburgh Fringe Festival. Playing to a delighted and tightly-packed crowd in what looked like an Edinburgh University cafeteria, The Eggplants merrily destroyed a plastic wall clock while pounding out wonderful tunes about giant, mutant squirrels, the cosmic implications of a simple haircut, and the fear of becoming a lawyer. Permanently marred by the experience--but in a good way--she brought a couple of Eggplant CD's home with her.

We were delighted to reconnect with Kenny Young and the Eggplants late last winter, and even happier when they agreed to come up and play live in our GAGA studio. Their sound? A little Velvet Underground, REM without the mumbles (but with the smarts), indie-freak-folk-ish. Robyn Hitchcock, but sunny. Brian Wilson without the breakdown. They make you smile until your face hurts. And they put on a great show.

You'll want to listen live at 4 PM on Saturday, June 30th, when Chris interviews Kenny Young and The Eggplants and they play us some of their incomparable music!

CMJ Festival 2007
Honorable Mentions

The following folks each turned in roundly exceptional performances.

KENNY YOUNG AND THE EGGPLANTS - Day 4 @ Googie’s Lounge
When I was first perusing the CMJ Festival schedule, I made a mental note to see at least one band just because of their kick-ass/ridiculously absurd name ... Kenny Young and the Eggplants presented insightful, funny lyrics in an unassuming and utterly unpretentious way. If the Mountain Goats and They Might Be Giants could somehow musically reproduce under another awesome moniker, this is what it would sound like.

 -  Stephanie Butler

"Here's a worthy indie band from Brooklyn. They've been called a deeply eccentric pop band (The Guardian), and a wonderful weird band (The Scotsman). It's fun, quirky altpoprock and definitely worth a listen. In the spirit of They Might Be Giants. They even have a song called, 'Earl the Squirrel'. Check 'em out!"

 - Dean Friedman

These days, it seems every musician out there is making an album for kids ... With that in mind, we spent the last couple of weeks spinning discs at our desks.  Here are some of our faves.

Brooklyn's own Kenny Young and the Eggplants create a whimsical, Atlantis-like world with "The Search for Eggplantis, or Glam on the Half Shell," leading off with "Chapel Under the Sea," a wedding tale in which "we'll ask a fish to officiate."

There are plenty more tall tales where that came from -- like the badger who's bad at badminton ("Badger in the Badlands"), goes to the movies, ends up in film school and becomes a player in Hollywood; "Space Frog," about a government experiment gone wrong; and "Satellite of Love" by Lou Reed, of all people.

This disc is acoustic, garage-y and most of all clever, and after you hear it, you'll never look at eggplants -- the vegetables -- the same way.

The Folk and Acoustic Music Show

(on Acoustic Spectrum and Diversity FM)

Kenny Young and the Eggplants gig review

by Colin Bertram
 
Acoustic Music Centre @ St Brides, Edinburgh
 25 August 2013

It is almost 15 years to the day since I last saw Kenny Young and the Eggplants play at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. On that occasion they were appearing at The Famous Spiegeltent which was situated on top of the Waverley shopping centre at the east end of Princes Street. I had seen them once before at a venue near the university which I seem to remember was a late night affair with a fairly small number of people in the audience. The Spiegeltent gig, however, was earlier in the day and they attracted a good crowd. At the end of that show Kenny stood by the exit to thank us all individually for coming and we were each offered a free Eggplants badge. But that’s the kind of band they are – they care about their fans.

Fast forward to August 2013 and the guys are booked to play four nights at the Acoustic Music Centre at St Brides....
As I only have a copy of their Toxic Swamp & Other Love Songs album, most of the set is new to me though I do vaguely recognise their song about a mutant cheese monster living in some guy’s flat which meets a sticky end courtesy of a giant mouse. Gil provides suitably alarming vocal effects as the creature meets its demise at the end of the song. So the highlights for me are the songs I already know including their stadium rock number ‘Earl the Squirrel’ and their paean to fast food, ‘The Kebab Shop’. “We’ll rest in the shade of the kebab tree.” That lyric says a lot about the band. It may be plain weird but, hec, it appeals to this reviewer’s sense of humour.

Other lyrics that stick in my head include suitably zany Eggplants fare such as a scientist working on a gnome genome project, an alcoholic grouse (Kenny mentions the grouse on a large poster at Edinburgh airport which they saw on arrival) and ghosts and werewolves being scared away by a morose singer songwriter who moves in next door.

Throughout the hour-long set Kenny is a calm friendly presence front of stage (reminding me of Emo Phillips when he pushes his hand through his hair between songs), Eddie moves between his electronic drum kit and a seat at the front to play various percussion instruments and Gil lurks around the stage playing some neat bass lines and singing, shouting and interjecting the occasional primal scream which is what we have come to expect from this slightly deranged looking individual. But I mean that in a nice way. He is the band’s loose cannon but an essential part of their stage show. Members of the audience are in howls of laughter at some of his shenanigans and as I leave at the end of the night I wonder if he was related to Spike Milligan....

As the gig reaches the 60 minute mark, we are asked if there is anything we want to hear and someone on the front row shouts out ‘Uncontrollable Urge’, a Devo cover which they recorded on their Even One Is Quite a Few album. I suspect this was one which they were half expecting so we get a spirited version with Gil and Eddie shouting, “He’s got an uncontrollable urge” with Gil pointing his thumb over his shoulder at Kenny, the sweat dripping off his face onto the floor. This brings proceedings to a close with Kenny encouraging people to sign up to their mailing list, buy the inevitable cds and t-shirts and come up and say hello as, he said, they get lonely up on stage.

So thank you Kenny, Eddie and Gil for transporting us to your world for an all-too-short but wonderfully entertaining hour. Hopefully I won’t have to wait another 15 years before I see you guys again.

Safe homeward trip to New York City.