Vokab Kompany

Article By: Tiffany Janay
Photo By: Blair Robb

Immediately after the Padres scored a win against the Red Sox, a local band by the name of Vokab Kompany took to the park stage and began rocking the crowd. In case this is your first time hearing about them, allow me to introduce you to a band you will surely be seeing and hearing more of.  They are fresh off a win at the San Diego Music Awards for Best Hip-Hop Album of the Year.  This summer their song “So Bright” was featured on a national commercial for Kia, they recently opened for De La Soul at the House of Blues, and now they have rocked the stage at Petco Park.

They have managed to obtain these milestones while still being an independent band.  They seem to be doing everything right and are creating quite a following of loyal supporters along the way.  The audience connects with them and their authenticity, and people go out of their way to find out who this group is and how they can hear more.

Independent music – if done right – can lead to a very lucrative and successful path.  It seems that Vokab Kompany is doing as much right as possible.  Their latest CD, The New Kong, was released completely independent.   They have also been rocking venues all over with a majority of their business being handled by lead vocalists Burkey and Rob.  Another important addition to the Kompany is Burkey’s wife, who is at every show sitting at the band’s point of contact table selling CD’s, stickers, and answering fan questions.

Burkey and Rob have been together for 2 years, but have been in the Hip-Hop scene for over 15 years.  When they came together, they took their sounds to a whole new level with Rob specializing in rhythms and Burkey in melodies.  In addition to them, they have a violinist (Spencer Sharpe), a bass player (Aaron Cheatham), a guitarist (Jeremy Holmes), keys/production (Geoff Nigil), and a drummer (Alvara Nunez).

Burkey had his own band for years, and Rob was with his producer and a DJ when they’d meet up while touring for shows in Reno/Tahoe – they’d rock together and vibe.  They started out featuring each other on their projects, and then Burkey had hit the end of the road with his band and wanted to do something different.  He moved out to San Diego to pursue a new direction and met up with Rob.  After creating for a minute, they decided they needed a band.  Their band that rocks with them now had already been playing together for about 10 years.  The minute the band came and showed Burkey and Rob what they were doing with their songs, they knew that’s exactly what they needed.  Geoff on the keys was able to lend a nice electronic sound that they loved, which was taking their music in a futuristic direction.  The violin player, Spencer Sharpe, was a perfect fit because violins are something that Rob had envisioned as part of his sound from the start.

I first saw them at the De La Soul concert and was immediately captivated.  I wanted to know more about them.  Their show was extremely professional and intriguing.  Every member had their own groove and played their part as if there was nothing else in the world they’d rather be doing.  Their showmanship came across as well-rehearsed, and every detail was distinct and perfectly crafted.

Although they are categorized as Hip-Hop, their sound is much more than that.  To me, it seems like a mix between Hip-Hop, electronic, dubstep, and blue grass – if you can imagine that.  Burkey and Rob are the lyricists with thought-provoking and easy to understand lyrics.  And just when you think you have their sound pinned down; Spencer Sharpe chimes in with his violin.  Jeremy on the guitar is extremely animated and entertaining to watch.  The drummer, Alvara, is in excellent shape, if I might add ladies.  And Aaron does his thing on the bass, making sure the sound stays hard hitting.

I wanted to find out more about their journey and the moves they are making from a business standpoint that separate them from others. They say they never had to be a coffee house band and play shows for free; they have always been a company and rocking professionally.  They note that the coolest thing was when they recently did a show at Analog and only recognized about 20% of the people.  They remember when they first started out and had to call and text everyone they knew to make sure they were going to be at their shows.

Where does the name Vokab Kompany come from?
Rob: Vokab was just an idea from vocabulary, and we were trying to do something more lyrical than what was out – a lot of that bling-bling at the time.  And not discrediting that, but I just thought there was more to music.

Burkey: He’s a backpacker – a backpack Hip-Hop kat, who’s into underground Hip-Hop.

Rob: I just like the more lyrical content; and Kompany because we’ve always had a big group of friends that support us.

How did you make the transition from doing free shows to getting paid?
Burkey: I don’t think we ever did shows for free.  I started off getting paid.  We’re a band; we need to get paid.

Rob: We always had a big group of friends like a company, and people would come.  Bars started recognizing that and we were playing at little spots in SD.  Since we were bringing people, they’d want to book another show because we were keeping that bar tab up.  People started recognizing, which is why we get the gigs we get.

Burkey: This is why they promote for us and why we get more fans.  Robby is a real good businessman and I handle the networking, so the business relationship falls right into place.  We have our own label we’re going to start.  This last album, The New Kong, we didn’t put out under anything.  We just put it out there, guerilla marketed it, and our friends helped.  People pitched in to help fund and engineer it for next to nothing.  This is the album that just won for Best Hip-Hop Album.

How did you get nominated for the San Diego Music Awards?
Burkey: I think it’s some of the clubs we play at and their business owners.  We have kept good business relationships with most of the venues we’ve played at in town.

Have things opened up since winning?
Burkey: Immediately! The next day we got a call to play at The Roxy in LA.  I think the music award along with getting our song played for that commercial this summer has given us steam as far as being able to market ourselves better.  We’re reaching a wider variety of people and being able to ask for more.

Rob: You really don’t know how powerful the media machine is until it focuses on you for a moment or you get a glimpse of how big things can get.  People listening to a commercial that might say, “what’s that song,” makes you wonder how many more thousands or ten thousands or even millions of people do the same if they really liked it – that’s how stuff can get out.  Winning an award in San Diego, which is our hometown, was huge for us.  We weren’t even expecting it because last year we were nominated and didn’t win.

Burkey: My defenses were up and I was telling myself, “Oh it’s not a big deal.”  Then we won and I said, “I’m going to be able to tell my kids that I won Best Hip-Hop Album of 2010 in the 2nd biggest city in California.”  I only say “I” because it’s a personal accolade, but of course it’s a “we” – we truly worked hard on it.  We had our fingers on everything.  It was a huge effort that took 2 years.

Since we are doing an interview for Nug, do you guys incorporate herb in your creative process?
Burkey: I’m a 5th-8th grade teacher and do not support those kinds of things. I have a lot of experiences that go into my creative process.

Rob: He’s an adult though, and everyone has experienced.  There’s a lot of cool stuff going on with that movement right now.  Obviously, the government sees how many jobs it’s going to create if they go in that direction.  It’s a good thing.

Burkey: I don’t hear about many DUI deaths from that, so hopefully it will wean people off the alcoholism in our country.

Rob: Nobody goes out, smokes and says, “Now I’m going to party and do a whole bunch of other drugs.”  It’s usually alcohol that leads to that.  Honestly, that’s one of the things that we probably shouldn’t be worrying about.  There are a lot of bigger problems in the world.  So big ups NUG!!!

You can check out Vokab Kompany and be a part of the movement by adding them on
www.facebook.com/VokabKompany, www.Twitter.com/VokabKompany, and www.youtube.com/thevokabkompany

And pick up their CD at a good local store called Access, and they are also on iTunes.

bringing you that fire! stay tune for more posts.

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