“Khaki Fever” (pronounce “Kar-Kee-Fee-Ver”) is a London-based, upbeat, and whimsical two-piece band-pop duo. Even though Khaki Fever’s music is synth-heavy, it still has a live feel to it and incorporates elements of indie rock, funk, pop, and rock. Khaki Fever’s sound is so varied and wide-ranging that it has something to appeal to everyone. Sam and Gio believed it was past time for the groove to heal the world as they emerged from the 2020 pandemic. Since then, Khaki Fever have put in countless hours at their studio, The Fever Factory, creating some of their best work. Their demos have received praise for being “utterly huge,” “beautiful, ethereal, and truly astounding,” and “epic sounding with a hint of sentiment.” Sam’s intense love for catchy melodies and gritty vocals gives Khaki Fever a distinctive and rich texture. Gio’s incredible sense of orchestration, groove, and danceability have combined to make Khaki Fever an unstoppable force that will stop at nothing to produce the greatest music ever! Check out the exclusive Interview below:
1. Can you tell us a bit about where you come from and how you got started?
We met in a recording studio Sam was working in before lockdown. We then didn’t see each other for six months until Gio called looking for someone to go on a night out with – an offer Sam simply can’t refuse.
We didn’t see each other for another six months until Gio called again during the first lockdown asking if we could jam. We were both going insane not being able to perform and play music.
The jam went better than we could have hoped for, we instantly clicked musically and socially so Gio moved into Sam’s flat two weeks later.
Because of lockdown, there were no gigs then, so our main focus was on making records when we started. We spent every day working on our sound all the way through the Covid period.
2. Did you have any formal training or are you self-taught?
Gio has been playing since he was five. He played all the way through college and then studied Popular Music and Recording at Salford University.
Sam is self-taught and started his musical journey when he was 18. Although he didn’t study music at university, he spent most of his time in recording studios, rehearsal rooms and on stage.
Both of us had played across lots of genres in the past but never really found our home in the music world before we started Khaki Fever.
3. Who were your first and strongest musical influences and why the name ‘KHAKI FEVER’?
Khaki Fever’s first and probably strongest musical influence was the band Jungle. After both of us expressed our love for their tight grooves and quality production, we started drawing influence from a rang or artists and genres.
From a songwriting and structural perspective, we draw a lot from Stevie Wonder, Led Zeppelin and Elton John. In terms of tonal and groove-based inspiration, Parcels, Foals, KC and the Sunshine Band and Daft Punk are a few artists we draw from for our current sound.
We’re always listening to music and find inspiration in both new and old artists. The most recent band we’ve started listening to are Busty and the Bass – an awesome band with a great vibe. We can see a similar trajectory in the future of our music too.
The name Khaki Fever came from the two of us brainstorming names in the studio. We liked the idea of “Fever” – it has that lighthearted, smooth and cheeky connotation to it that we’re all about. We were thinking of colours to go with and came up with “Khaki Fever”.
After a quick google to see if the name had been taken already, we found that it was the term used to describe women who had an eye for men in uniform coming home from the war. Our instant reaction was – “yep, that’s it – get that Khaki Fever boy!”
5. For most artists, originality is first preceded by a phase of learning and, often, emulating others. What was this like for you? How would you describe your own development as an artist and music maker, and the transition towards your own style, which is known as retro pop/funk?
We spent about a year, maybe 18 months in this discovery phase. We pride ourselves on fusing genres together well, being able to do so tastefully has been a journey and we’re really happy with where we’re at now.
This first year involved making our own sample libraries, discovering synths and guitar tones that really complimented our vibe and a hell of a lot of trial and error. The first three singles we have out now really encapsulate this journey.
Now we’re harnessing those sounds and tools outside of our usual studio to somewhere new so we can apply them to new songs with new inspirations. We have a new producer in the south of France – Joe Woolf – who we’ve brought on board for our upcoming EP as another set of ears and talent to help steer the ship and create musical contingency across the whole EP.
Before this point, I think another creative mind behind the wheel would have been too many chefs in the room, but now we have a clear sense of where Khaki Fever is going, it’s the perfect time to bring on the brilliant Joe in making our best records to date.
The next EP, out in 2023, will mark the transition from us finding our feet to us finding our home in the music world.
6. What’s your view on the role and function of music as political, cultural, spiritual, and/or social vehicles – and do you try and affront any of these themes in your work, or are you purely interested in music as an expression of technical artistry, personal narrative and entertainment?
At the moment, Khaki Fever is more about personal narrative and entertainment and we think the first three releases are certainly reflective of that. It’s likely so too will our next EP. Creating a vibe and a feeling is really important to us and is at the heart of Khaki Fever’s musical delivery.
Personal narrative is something we always base our work on and we share those experiences with each other when we’re writing. At the same time, we try to make sure our music is relatable to our listeners, so we avoid being too on the nose with specific experiences in our lyrics as we want our listeners to be able to interpret the music in a way that suits them.
While this will remain the theme for the foreseeable future of releases, we have some songs in production that certainly touch on more personal subjects and social issues. But we will always strive to express these in a way that can be interpreted by all listeners.
In terms of music in general, there’s certainly been a trend of mainstream music becoming less political, cultural or spiritual. There’s a few reasons for this, but I think a significant part of it is because the way we consume music now is very different to thirty years ago. Streaming platforms have allowed listeners to expose themselves to such a variety of genres which makes it hard for any one genre to be backed by a specific community.
More often than not, the question “what kind of stuff do you listen to” is answered with “I listen to a bit of everything really” and while some might think it’s not the most interesting of answers – it is probably the truest.
There’s an argument to say that this has taken away some of the heart and meaning behind popular music which I can certainly understand. On the other hand, it means as people listen to a wider variety of music, they’re being subject to a wider cultural spectrum which I think can only give the listener a more balanced view of the world. It does wonders for the fusion of genres and therefore the fusion of culture and I think that’s quite a beautiful thing in this day and age.
7. Do you feel that your music is giving you back just as much fulfilment as the amount of work you are putting into it, or are you expecting something more, or different in the future?
As well as an artist, Sam’s also a music producer. He tells his clients “love the process, and if you’re not doing that then you’ve already failed as an artist”.
We’re absolutely looking for more in the future, bigger gigs, a bigger fan base, interest from labels etc. But what we love is that feeling of being on stage, the feeling of nailing that guitar part in the studio and honestly just having a laugh as we work together.
That’s what Khaki Fever’s all about and if we’re not getting fulfillment out of the process then I think it would be quite difficult to convey uplifting messages of happy days and great times.
8. Could you describe your creative processes? How do usually start, and go about shaping ideas into a completed song? Do you usually start with a tune, a beat, or a narrative in your head? And do you collaborate with others in this process?
The very beginning of the process differs depending on who starts the song.
Gio starts with a melody/beat and is inspired by things in the world or other songs that have made him feel a certain way in the moment. He’ll then aim to revisit that feeling in his own writing.
Sam generally starts his songs more introspectively. He’ll start writing about something that’s on his mind either at present or at some point in his life. The initial vibe or emotional delivery will often come from a memory.
At about 20% of the way through writing the track we’ll come together and riff off each other’s ideas until we’re at a place where we know the message of the song is properly delivered. Then we’ll dive into the nitty gritty of music production and make it sound more polished with focus on tone and groove.
When it comes to collaboration – we love bringing people onto our tracks. Bringing other people into our music is always great – they’ll bring something to the table that we may have overlooked. The core structure and message of our songs, however, will always be from the two of us. On of the things we’re looking to develop moving forward is to integrate our nine-piece live band into the recording side of Khaki Fever.
Bringing on our new producer Joe for our next EP has been a great way to get some objective ears on our music and it’s really exciting to be working with someone who can see the same vision as us.
9. What has been the most difficult thing you’ve had to endure in your life or music career so far?
We want to preface this answer by saying our goal is to live off Khaki Fever. We both work other jobs (fortunately also in music) to pay the bills, but our real aim is to sustain ourselves on Khaki Fever.
Gio: “Not being able to work on Khaki Fever nonstop is always difficult. Lockdown had its benefits as we could spend all day every day on it, but now we have other commitments and can’t sustain ourselves on Khaki Fever alone. Balancing life with Khaki Fever is always a challenge.”
Sam: “My mental health suffered a lot during lockdown. If it weren’t for Gio’s call to start writing music, I don’t know where my headspace would be right now. Given that our goal is to sustain ourselves off Khaki Fever, I put a lot of pressure on myself to work on our music. There’s no quota for how much work to do so I end up overworking and it’s not healthy. It’s something I’m working on, and I am improving for sure, but the last couple of years haven’t been easy.”
It often feels like we’re trapped in the passion for nothing but music – it’s not a job, it’s a lifestyle that we can’t ever leave because it’s why we get up in the morning. It’s inescapable which is both beautiful and crippling at the same time. But to be honest, we wouldn’t want it any other way and it’s that relationship with the life of music that makes the whole journey that much more rewarding. How poetic – maybe we should write a song about it…