It's the Fourth of July. Somewhere in Atlanta the phone is making its way through a backyard BBQ toward King Khan. Eventually he's discovered. "Hello?" Nothing. Again, louder. "Hello?! What's going on?"
"I'm sitting in a kiddie pool eating a kosher pickle," Khan exuberantly responds over the voices of the background roar. "We're having a celebration!"
For Khan though, traveling with his 10-piece searing German soul band the Shrines, every day is a celebration, for this is their first American tour. But indeed the holiday adds some extra spice.
"My percussion player, Rahn Streeter, he hasn't been in America for the Fourth of July in like 25 years," Khan says, as a fit of coughing cuts him short. He begins again, laughing, "I'm choking on a pickle! So we're trying to give Rahn the best Fourth of July he's ever had. He's 60."
Over his long career, Streeter has performed with the likes of Curtis Mayfield, Stevie Wonder, and many others. His pedigree is indicative of the traditional, true-school talent within the Shrines, whose sharp horns, back beats, and white-hot soul crack tight as a whip.
With Khan's perverted garage bravado up front, the Shrines have been at it for some eight years, but tours were always confined to Europe. They've been waiting to cross the pond, Khan says, until the time was right. A recent deal inked with Vice Records did it, and so they set off—in style.
"We've got a traveling circus of 17 people," Khan explains. "We're basically traveling in a short bus, two cars, 17 people—complete madness, rock 'n' roll chaos powered by pure love." Khan says the group is "bringing soul back to America, where it's supposed to be."
"I think America's been waiting for this to happen for a lot of years. Doing what we do nowadays, we try to bring the whole soul show back—you know, crazy psychedelic freakouts," he continues. "We try and achieve what all the Southern gospel churches did back in the day, but put it to a rock 'n' roll, sexy '60s Bollywood style. It's like a religious experience."
And if all this sounds a little over the top, well, that's the point.