Drummer Jesse Kongos says that the band almost moved on to pushing new material before "Come With Me Now" caught fire.
Kongos, an Arizona-based quartet comprised of the four sons of South African singer-songwriter John Kongos, are racing up the charts with "Come With Me Now" — three years after its initial release. The accordion-tinged rock song reached a new peak on Billboard's Alternative chart at No. 7 for the week ending March 9, in its seventh week on the tally. It's the fastest-rising debut top 10 on the chart since Lorde's "Royals" last July, and the fastest by a group since Flobots' "Handlebars" in 2008.
Drummer Jesse Kongos says "Come With Me Now" was an early fan favorite two years ago, when the band was opening for Linkin Park in South Africa, where debut album "Lunatic" was released in 2011. The United States, however, took more time to crack. "There was about a year-and-a-half in America trying to get it going, and nothing was happening," he says. "Then, all of a sudden, a few stations started to spin us, and that's when it started to change."
In Denver, KTCL-FM picked up "Come With Me Now" on Jan. 13, playing the single 396 times through March 10, according to Nielsen BDS. Three days earlier, WKQX-FM in Chicago spun another Kongos song, "I'm Only Joking," playing it 215 times since. The buzz perked up the ears of Epic Records, which inked the group in late January and immediately re-released Lunatic, which the band self-released in the States last October.
"The signing was competitive," says Scott Seviour, Epic executive VP of marketing. "[Epic chief] L.A. Reid was in the thick of it."
Just a month later, "Come With Me Now" had landed synchs on the CW's "The Originals" and an NBC Sports advertisement (placements on Netflix's "Hemlock Grove" and CNN are forthcoming). Still, "Come With Me Now" has only sold 70,000 downloads to date, according to Nielsen SoundScan. "It's gone so quickly that the sales haven't caught up with it," Seviour says.
Epic will cross the song to pop radio in April; before that, "I'm Only Joking" will be the iTunes Single of the Week for the week of March 29. Kongos recently wrapped road stints with Imagine Dragons and the Airborne Toxic Event, and a summer tour announcement is coming soon — yet another leg of Kongos' long journey to success.
"When it didn't seem like things were getting going, we really lost heart — we were ready to move on to new material," says Jesse Kongos. "We're just happy we're finally getting recognition."