Kaleb: Karaoke Underground debuted at our house in February 2004 with about a dozen friends and a keg of beer. Our first more public show was that same month, at a long-running neighborhood dive called The Carousel. We only had about 70 songs on the list at that point and we were so excited! We tried to promote it by handing out flyers to everybody leaving a Spoon show and then a Guided By Voices show the week before ours, but the only people who came out were a couple dozen friends. It was still a good time and obviously didn’t turn us off.
And how about your first ever time doing karaoke, do you remember what song you sang?
Kaleb: My very first time doing karaoke was in college in Sioux Falls at Champp’s, a sports bar. I sang “Bust A Move” by Young MC, which was the first tape I ever bought. My college band did a sloppy cover of it too.
You have over 1,000 punk and indie classics for singers to choose from and a lot of them are songs that you won’t find anywhere else. Do you have a favorite?
Kaleb: It’s impossible to pick one! My favorite band is Poster Children, and “If You See Kay” is the most fun one of theirs on the list. I really like to do songs where the lyrics come fast, like “Hide Me From Next February” by Les Savy Fav or “Me And Mia” by Ted Leo. I’m a big fan of Jason Molina too, and “I’ve Been Riding With The Ghost” by Songs: Ohia is another favorite.
Karaoke Undergound came to T.T. the Bears about 6 years ago. What do you recall from your last time in Boston?
Kaleb: I did two Boston shows in the six months or so after we were at Matador Records’ 21st anniversary party in Las Vegas, so the first half of 2011. The first one was packed because we had a beer sponsor and Ghostbox Orchestra opened up with a fantastic set. The second was still pretty full, and there were some great singers. There was a girl who nailed Okkervil River and I met my friend Huan-Hua who now lives in Madison, WI, where I grew up. I have a highlight video from the show in May!
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Have you had any standout artist reactions when it comes to Karaoke Underground? I imagine some of these bands you have listed like American Football, Against Me!, Bright Eyes, Ted Leo, Converge, Rilo Kiley… They never envisioned being on a karaoke songlist. And that’s what makes Karaoke Undergound so special – the song choices.
Kaleb: The all-time best KU moment was when somebody from the label closed out the first show we did for the Matador party in Las Vegas with Pavement’s “Summer Babe” and the crowd grew from a few buddies at the beginning of the song to about 50 people on stage with Ted Leo crowdsurfing by the end! Hard to top that, but we’ve had some other people on our list join us over the years: Britt Daniel sang a Spoon song with us, we’ve had several musicians in the Omaha scene sing their friends’ songs at shows there, and at that Matador party Gerard Cosloy sang Action Swingers, somebody sang a Superchunk song while Mac McCaughan watched him, and Georgia and Ira from Yo La Tengo sang “Chinese Rocks.”
I recently added a lot of current Austin bands to the list, and it’s been really cool to see those musicians and their friends singing songs from Pataphysics, XETAS, Big Bill, A Giant Dog and more. KU did a benefit for Lilith Fund a couple years ago that was also a Mountain Goats afterparty, and John Darnielle jumped on stage to sing “This Year” with a very happy fan.
Karaoke Underground has made quite a splash in the underground music scene over the years. Did you ever imagine Karaoke Underground would get this big as it has?