Instrumental fusion quartet Electric Kif is like Miami's musical version of the United Nations. The band, which will play the Coconut Grove Arts Festival February 20, combines four cultures in one sonic experience. "I'm from Mexico City," bassist Rodrigo Zambrano tells New Times. "Our guitarist is from France, with all its gypsy culture; Jason [Matthews, the keyboardist] is from Philadelphia, which has its own thing with soul and R&B; and Armando [Lopez, the drummer] is from here, the Magic City."
Zambrano came to Miami as a 14-year-old when his father, a journalist, was transferred here. After returning to Mexico City to finish high school, he attended Miami Dade College's Kendall campus, where he studied music and played in the school's jazz band. The seeds of Electric Kif were sown one South Beach night at Jazid in 2008. "Eric Escanes was playing guitar. I asked if he would let me jam." They quickly bonded over jazz, Herbie Hancock, Jeff Beck, and Radiohead. With the addition of a drummer, Ale Fernandez, they played around town. But then he left, and they called it quits.
A few years ago, though, they decided to give it another go. The four-piece began playing a genre of music the band likes to call postnuclear. Why? It's influenced by what came after the 1940s, when technology began booming, Zambrano explains. "We want to make electronic music with analog instruments. It's progressive rock with funk and jazz. It's modern, weird, and not commercial."
Electric Kif is about to release hard copies of Heist, the band's first full-length album. (It's already streaming and on sale in Japan.) "It took a while to record the EP, Take Your Time. Right after we wrote a song, "Little Louie," in one day, with that energy we said we had to make a full album. In the next five months, we wrote, recorded, mixed, and picked the art."
The album is purely instrumental. "On the next album, we want to bring in guest vocalists." The band used to have a weekly show at Lagniappe called Soul Sessions, where they would bring aboard a different guest singer each week. Zambrano says none of the members wants to be the official voice of the band. "I am really pretty bad. Our drummer is a good singer, but he can't sing and play drums at the same time. There are so many great singers in Miami that it doesn't matter."
The band has been playing at several festivals this month and will cap it off Presidents' Day, February 20, at 4 p.m. at the Coconut Grove Arts Festival in a performance sponsored by New Times. "I can't wait," Zambrano says. "We went last year as fans to see all these great bands. It was well organized, and Coconut Grove is so great." He says the performance will be a great opportunity for people to check out the electric live show. "We are all good friends, so we connect with a good live energy. It's fun to play with these guys. I think that makes us a good, tight band."
New Times' Music Showcase lineup at the Coconut Grove Arts Festival:
Saturday, February 18
Noon, Oigo - Miami-based multi-instrumentalist Adrian Plays
1 p.m., PALO! - Latin Grammy nominated Afro-Cuban funk
2:15, Suenalo - nine-piece Latin funk band
3:30, Arthur Hanlon - instrumentalist in the Latin music realm
4:45, Locos por Juana - Miami's Grammy nominated bilingual Latin band
Sunday, February 19
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Noon, Jorge Luis Chacin - Miami-based Venezuelan singer-songwriter
1 p.m., Bobby Lee Rodgers - South Florida blues guitarist
2:15 p.m., Patrick & the Swayzees - Key West band mixing high-energy rockabilly and surf
3:15 p.m., Roosevelt Collier's All Star Jam - local master of the pedal steel guitar
5 p.m. Greyhounds - Austin-based blues-rock duo
Monday, February 20
12:30 p.m., the Eric Vick Band - mix of funk, rock, and R&B
1:45 p.m., the GoodNites - Miami rock quartet
2:45 p.m., Sunghosts - Miami's version of the Strokes
4 p.m., Electric Kif - instrumentalist fusion
Coconut Grove Arts Festival 2017
Saturday through Monday, February 18 through 20, in Peacock Park, 2820 McFarlane Rd., Coconut Grove; cgaf.com. Tickets cost $15 for adults via completeticketsoultions.com.