San Diego is one of the more unique cities to play music in due to its smaller size, laid back vibe and a less cut-throat, non-"industry” approach to putting out outstanding music. The scene is most definitely thriving if you open your eyes, and to some peoples surprise there is a lot more to hear beyond the surf rock, pop rock and indie rock music that is commonly bred here.
Enter: Vokab Kompany. The group’s eclectic genre can’t be tied down to one specific tree branch, but it is safe to say their life vein and roots are deep in hip hop.
Vokab Kompany was started by MC and vocalist, Robbie Gallo in 2004. After a mix of different members, Matthew Burke joined Gallo to create the MC duo of present day. Together they wreck sound waves in the best way possible. These two actually have known each other since they were kids, when Gallo was nicknamed “rappin’ Robbie” and they were listening to artists such as Beastie Boys, RUN DMC, Michael Jackson and a plethora of ‘90s hip hop artists.
The band has been steadily pumping out the jams, most recently being the 2016 album, The Good Kompany Album. Back in 2012, their album VKCE received a steady supply of accolades and awards, and was even featured in two Kia car commercials. Recognition continued to unfold landing Vokab Kompany awesome gigs, including a spot at Coachella in 2014, and a recurring staple at Lightning in a Bottle on the Central Coast of California.
The duo offer a seemingly boundless amount of fresh energy, combined with a willingness to do and try most anything, so long as it’s funky, smart and well made. The band has formed a true connection with fans locally that has lead the guys to never stray off to La La Land, where some artists choose to go to “do more.”
PACIFIC recently sat down with the two MCs at Thorn Street Brewery in North Park to chat about their sound and rise to success in San Diego and beyond.
PACIFIC: How has the San Diego music community been for Vokab Kompany?
Burke: We are so proud to be part of the San Diego music scene. There have, of course, been those somewhat alluring like, “you should move to L.A.” things. Personally, I just never wanted to go there, didn’t want the traffic and this and that. We love it down here and are so connected to this place. I work as a substitute teacher here as well, and I just am so into this place that I have never given into that allure. I’m pretty sure I never will.
What are you guys working on now?
Gallo: We did an EP recently with two songs, and we did things a little differently recently. It is a little bit more dark. When I say dark, I mean we are tackling topics like addiction. My little brother was struggling with it. We realized that almost everyone is involved in that - either knows someone; is struggling themselves. It has a huge impact and the song is dedicated to my brother who is over a year sober now. The second song is about depression that is dedicated to our good friend Lindsay Holly who recently killed herself. We wanted to have a bit more substance this time. We try to make things fun and enjoyable, while also being intelligent, but we wanted to dive a little deeper.
Vokab Kompany incorporates a lot of collaborations. Is that something that is important to you?
Gallo: We really like to work with people, even if they aren’t known. We like working with people who we grew up listening to in college that had some kind of musical affect on us, too. That’s kind of the basic idea behind it... We keep it some kind of genre of some hip-hop base, but we like to keep things on the edge, if we can.
Burke: I think Robbie and I are the kind of people who are very interested in what’s next. We always, always want to do something different with our music. We’re like, “let’s add a trumpet,” or “let’s add your daughter” Robbie would say, or “Let’s call that MC,” you know? Like, I’ll follow a wormhole of a hashtag and find this dope MC from south San Diego and then we want to add him to a track. Music knows no bounds.
Your “sound” is often commented on and seems difficult to define. What exactly are you guys trying to put out there?
Gallo: I forget who it was, but we once had someone say we sound like Outkast meets Radiohead. It’s a good one, because we have that hip hop sound with some of those electronic elements, but we keep the flow - like I had mentioned before - filled with more substance. Overall, it’s upbeat, electronic.
Burke: If it were imagined again, Anderson Paak meets Rage Against the Machine, too. Most of this band had been in the Obama area when life felt good, we had some beachy tunes. Now, with this current climate I feel a bit more Rage Against the Machine coming through in my voice. There’s a lot to talk about right now and it’s great, as an artist, be able to use your voice.
What live shows do you guys have coming up this year?
Burke: This festival season is going to be dope. We have about 15 festival shows coming up. We’re really excited to be going back to Shambhala Music Festival in Canada and we’re going back to Electric Forest in Michigan. You know, though, Lightening in a Bottle has given us so much love... They have given us so many opportunities and have allowed us to continue to be a voice at their predominately electronic festival.
Gallo: In San Diego, we have had a lot of support from 91X, too. Speaking of, we are playing the (San Diego) Taco Festival, (which) is sponsored by 91X, at Waterfront Park in May.
Burke: We’re also doing Oysterfest for the third time, and we’re so grateful for them letting us do that. We are so thankful of San Diego in general for letting us grow here, I mean that’s how we got into (Lightening in a Bottle) and that’s how we have been able to slowly and surely gain an awesome audience.
May 20: San Diego Taco Festival at Waterfront Park
June 10: Oysterfest with Matisyahu and Music Box
Robbie Gallo - MC/Vocalist
Matt Burke - MC/Vocalist
Geoff Nigl - Keys, Spaceship, Guitar
Tyler Olson - Drums
Vikingo Burkhiser -Bass
Richard Galiguis - Guitar
About the brew
This interview was enjoyed with a few craft beers at Thorn Street Brewery, a popular brewery in the North Park area. The brewery offers 15 different beers on tap and rotating food trucks daily. Thorn Street Brewery was also one of the first breweries to open its doors in the beer-beloved neighborhood of North Park.
3176 Thorn St., North Park. thornstreetbrew.com