Every Monday through Friday, we deliver a different song as part of our Song of the Day podcast subscription. This podcast features exclusive KEXP in-studio performances, unreleased songs, and recordings from independent artists that our DJs think you should hear. Today’s selection, featured on the Afternoon Show with Kevin Cole, is “Family” by Hanni El Khatib from the 2013 album Head in the Dirt on Innovative Leisure.
The first-generation American son of Palestinian and Filipino immigrants, Hanni El Khatib mixes punk, garage, and dirty blues rock sounds like the soundtrack of a bar that’s perpetually housing a knock-down-drag-out fight. Born in San Francisco and raised in Los Angeles to the sounds of Californian skate punk (Social Distortion, Agent Orange), El Khatib is known for rowdy live performances and a 1977-punk attitude earned him a local following and a few famous admirers, including Florence Welch (who took him out on tour opening for her) and Dan Auerbach (who produced his forthcoming second album, Head In The Dirt).
The lead single from his sophomore album, “Family,” is a more expansive take on El Khatib’s “trainwrecks and knife fights” sound, but no less potent. Augmented with jittery piano, frantic drums, and thick bass, El Khatib spits off his lyrics with a Stooges-style disaffected delivery while releasing a chugging riff. After tearing through two verses and a chorus in less than ninety seconds, El Khatib launches into a searing solo that recalls the tasteful style of his producer. If The Black Keys were still playing hole-in-the-wall clubs rather than arenas, and he and Auerbach weren’t friends, Hanni El Khatib probably would have challenged the Akron duo (figuratively, and probably literally) for the title of dirtiest blues band in America. Fortunately for both parties, El Khatib’s louche brand of punk blues doesn’t need anything more than a slew of songs as good as “Family” and a solid live performance to back up his reputation. It feels like it’s only a matter of time until he’s making Johnny Cash songs his own.
Hanni El Khatib will be in Seattle supporting The Black Angels when they play the Neptune Theatre on May 15th. Get more info and tickets for that show here, and follow Hanni throughout the rest of the year on his website and Facebook. Watch the Nick Walker-directed, slightly-NSFW video for “Family”, featuring an, uh, “offbeat” biker gang below.