Roamin’ with the Kiwis

RIT Band Brings Some Much-Needed Sunshine to Post-Pandemic[1] Rochester

Words and photos by Andrea Westerlund

While on my way to the RIT campus to meet The Kiwis, I listened to a few of their songs. “Sunshine-y” was the word that my passenger and I came up with. Regardless of the legitimacy of our descriptor, The Kiwis definitely give off some serious happy vibes.

Founded by brothers John and Anthony Roberts, the band is a product of RIT’s record label[2], Tiger Records, as well as an eclectic mix of influences from Dayglow and Rex Orange County to Sufjan Stevens and Hippocampus.

“We get compared to Rex Orange County a lot, which is awesome,” says older brother and lead singer, John. “Being a good copycat is arguably better than being a bad original.”

That may be true but, although The Kiwis may sound familiar, their music isn’t derivative. To be honest, the opening bars of the band’s 2020 EP “Roamin” had me singing the beginning of a popular Lizzo song but the comparison ends there. The song is destined to become a summertime bar hit.

Lo— lose myself here, anywhere

I just need the open air

On my way, here I go

Can’t remember where I left my coat

Wandering, wandering, downtown a little

Fork in the road, man, I’ll take the middle

On the loose, no self-control

Cell-phones dead, that’s how I roll

            — Roamin (2020)

“Fun music was essential during COVID,” explains John. “We don’t want to make sad music. We all need some extra vitamin D in Rochester.”

One that the band has to offer that is truly original is their sense of humor. Their Instagram photos and music videos have a quirky and slightly sarcastic vibe to them, which lets you know that the band doesn’t take itself too seriously.

And although they’ve been playing live shows at local haunts like Water Street Music Hall and The Bug Jar, the band isn’t in any hurry to make it big.

“It’s just fun to make music the way we do and that’s why we do it,” explains John. “We’ve mainly just been focusing on experimenting and creating. The live shows have just started since I moved here. It’s really fun.”

The brothers pull in the friends – guitarist Mike DiGulio and bassist Simon Morrier – to play shows and round out their sound, which has technically been in the making since Anthony’s mom signed him up for drum lessons in 4th grade without asking his permission. “I guess she was right on this one,” Anthony quips.

After two years of experimentation, the duo found their rhythm so to speak. A natural songwriter, John puts together lyrics and comes to Anthony with ideas for production.

“I’m a luddite,” John laughs. “I wasn’t interested in the computer interface part of it. Anthony had been practicing that stuff, so I’d come to him and say ‘make it sound like this’ and we would. We have a good balance.”

That balance translates into decidedly sunshine-y songs that force you to tap a toe or nod your head. Maybe with a Genny in hand, you’ll be fully rocking out to The Kiwis in no time. Catch the band on the Instagram (@bandofkiwis) and be sure to snag their 2022 album Strange Danger wherever you stream music.

[1] The pandemic isn’t over. Wear your mask and get your vax!

[2] Yeah, I’m regretting my choice of colleges now too.



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