Vokab Kompany goes on the record with Tahoe Onstage

Tahoe Onstage
Vokab Kompany’s Burkey Baby, left and Rob Hurt in Tahoe onstage at the 2015. They will be back Saturday, March 31, at MontBleu.
Tim Parsons / Tahoe Onstage

Vokab Kompany, the San Diego band with close ties to South Lake Tahoe, will perform songs of Outcast at 10 p.m. Saturday, March 31 in MontBleu’s BLU Nightclub. Lantz Lazwell will open. The cover is $10.

Vokab Kompany is Robbie Gallo aka Rob Hurt (MC/vocalists), Matt Burke aka Burkey Baby (MC/vocalists), Geoff Nigl (keys), Richard Galiguis (bass guitar), Tyler Olson (drums) and John Avery (saxophone).

Tahoe Onstage’s Pheonix Gruneich spoke with the founding members before the show:

Tahoe Onstage: So how did you guys meet and get things started, how long have you been a band now?

Burke: Bob and I met through his sister when I worked at Timber Cove Lodge during my college summer break, must have been 1996. He was like in eighth grade, rapping and I was a hammer dancing machine tearing up Club Nero’s.

Gallo: Ten years now. Santa Cruz and Tahoe have this brother/sister connection, people from Santa Cruz come to Tahoe and Tahoe people come down there. The snow/surf culture connect like that it seems. Burkey would come to Tahoe to snowboard and met my sister who’s a few years older and then became friends with him. We really started becoming friends when I moved from Tahoe to Santa Barbara. We would get into these fun freestyle sessions and I was doing some music at the time with a neighbor, while figuring out Pro Tools and how to produce. That was a cool and fun new learning experience. He (Burke) was getting into playing with bands and having live instruments. We were just bros and vibed off each other well. … I added the Kompany to the Vokab name because I wanted to make it like a band big, kind of like a movement with a message. On my first Vokab Kompany record, which is called “Liquid Language,” that was just me and another producer. Burkey was featured on two songs and then naturally just worked. We made a band together, we actually considered changing the name but we both liked Vokab Kompany so that name stuck and became what it is today, six albums later.

What inspired you to make music together?

Burke: It kinda just happened, like how basketball players gravitate toward the hardwood. We both knew Buck (engineer producer) and at the time he was one of San Diego’s main cats whipping up records.

What made you guys want to do this Outkast performance?

Burke: Outkast was inspired on our Run DMC tribute with Karl Denson. … We were like “you know what else would be dope?” I can’t remember if it was us or Karl who brought it up, but I made sure I got permission to do it from Karl Denson.

Gallo: We had done this thing with Run DMC, with Karl Denson, where we toured with Karl and we learned all the hits from Run DMC and it was just fun! A cool experience, almost learning like a screenplay or movie where you have to study all the lines and regurgitate them and make sure you do it justice. Do honor to these legends that you grew up on. After the Run DMC, we thought ohhh it would be cool to do Outkast.

Vokab Kompany

What can concertgoers expect?

Burke: Their favorite songs, done Vokab Kompany style: key changes, mashups and verbal gymnastics!

Gallo: Well, we definitely Vokabed it up, made it our style but it’s Outkast. True to its arrangements, their awesome choruses, hooks and the vibe. We through some halftime in there and then dubbed it out in some parts, just made it a bit funky in some parts. It’s basically most of their hits, a lot of the songs we liked growing up. I mean everybody loves Outkast, it seems like. Everyone has their own connection to it or memories in the same way. I remember when I was in college in Santa Barbara and fell in love with it and that was Burkey’s time, too. He was all about it. He loved Outkast, as well, and the fact they could cross genres in some ways. They were just different and that’s probably why they were able to appeal to so many different people and cultures.

Tell people why they should come check out the show? Or both shows?

Burke: Because it’s not gonna last forever. See these types of shows run their course, it might be the only chance you get.

What are your rehearsals generally like?

Burke: Long and arduous

Gallo: Yep.

Do you have a set time each week in which you practice or are rehearsals more spontaneous? (for this show)

Burke: Usually at Burkey Dojo on Wednesday nights

Gallo: We just started plucking away at it, maybe four months ago, learning the catalog we wanted and we have an hour basically that we do. We got a little bit of everything.

How can fans-to-be gain access to your music?

Gallo: Well it’s available everywhere. You can go onto your phone and check Apple music, or Spotify if you use that, SoundCloud or YouTube. We do ship out albums, as well, so we have a store feature on our website. (www.vokabkompany.com) We actually pressed a 45 rpm record recently with two songs that we did with an artist by the name of 9 theory, who’s incredible, one of the songs is dedicated to my little brother, who had struggled with some addiction stuff and he’s now two years sober and just crushing life, nice and happy and positive. If people are interested in streaming it on Pandora, we do make money off the streaming music, which is cool.

What do you like to do outside of music?

Burke: We both like working out and watching movies. I read a lot of science fiction and stuff. Bobs will have to answer more of his hobbies. He’s much hipper than me.

How would you deal with song requests?

Burke: Laugh.

What are you working on right now?

Burke: We have a new EP about to drop called “Small Viktories” with production and features from Mitchy Slick, Jpod, Cloudchord, Megan Hamilton and more.

Gallo: I’m sitting on my deck in San Diego and the title of the new EP is called “Small Viktories,” and that’s what it is, it’s about enjoying the little wins that really count. It’s great to have goals, it’s great to set some big things and dreams, but it’s also good to enjoy those small victories and small wins. … We put a lot of work into it, it’s going to have some really cool songs on it. We have a music video that gets very political, (and now) is kind of the perfect times for that anyways. When things get a little dark, the art seems to come a little bit more — so you can use your voice. it’s cool we think we did a good job with it. “Small Viktories” should be released by summer.

What’s your favorite flavor of Skittles?

Burke: Rainbow

Gallo: Orange. But I’m more of a Reese’s kind of guy

How long have you managed to endure all these years?

Burke: Rob’s patience. My excitement

Gallo: It’s no easy feat. When you first start and get that momentum, and begin to build friends, fans and people who are really just supportive of it, you feel like you are on top of the world. You’re doing something that you love doing and it’s able to have some kind of impact on other people. What happens is your friends and your fans grow up and they have lives and children. They can’t follow you everywhere. So it’s hard to stay relevant. There are all these musicians out there that are constantly coming out and emerging, they are talented. But we do have something good and we’ve created a name for ourselves and people are still responsive to it. As long as you are still putting out material from the heart, people will connect. Not trying to chase down what’s popular, we have been fortunate to tour and go across the country, go into Canada, down to Mexico, and do our music. We have a good band and know how to play live. We have been lucky with our music getting into commercials, TV, and movies. We have been able to reap the fruits of our labor that way and get a paycheck because of it and it’s awesome to feel that. It is not just always about money, and I know people say that all the time. But if you just do it, believe in it and you love it, people recognize that. The money will come or stop doing it, or just keep doing it for you.


ABOUT Pheonix Gruneich

Pheonix Gruneich
Photojournalist Pheonix Gruneich is a native of Southern California where her love of music began. She moved to Tahoe when she was 16. She now resides in the Carson Valley. She is a lover of arts and, most of all, live music!


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