Interview: The Cuban Brothers

Published in Drum Media (WA) | 20.12.12 | Issue # 319


With his two young daughters grappling for attention, comedian/actor/musician Mike Keat bounces back and forth between his role as Miguel Mantovani of The Cuban Brothers and a suburban father. Daniel Cribb joins the fight for his attention.

“You want Yo Gabba Gabba!? I’ll come put it on for you in two minutes,” Mike Keat, one third and leader of The Cuban Brothers, responds to a faint voice in the background. After returning home to Scotland from tour with “eyes bleeding seven different flavours of vodka”, he’s been left to look after his daughters whilst doing interviews for The Cuban Brothers’ upcoming Australian tour and album release.

With musical guests a common item on Yo Gabba Gabba!, maybe it’s time The Cuban Brothers made an appearance on the show. It seems like the perfect way to bridge the gap between his busy touring schedule and family life. “If we were on Yo Gabba Gabba! it would make my youngest daughter so happy that she’d literally be doing backflips off the couch,” he laughs.

Considering their diverse range of talents, it’s no surprise The Cuban Brothers have dabbled in children’s entertainment in the past, hosting their own annual family friendly festival, Camp Bestival – quite different from playing private functions for the likes of Elton John and Robbie Williams. “The kids just love it, it’s off the scale. I never considered myself wanting to work in that environment at all…Obviously I change the language a little bit.”

Apart from changing the language for a younger audience, The Cuban Brothers put on the same energetic show no matter who’s in front of them. “The same show we’d do for 12 [people] in Fremantle is what we do for Elton John or Robbie, it doesn’t matter who it is we’re playing for, we’re gonna go in and do our thing and try be as entertaining as possible and do a shit hot show.”

Their latest musical endeavor comes in the form of a 16-track album titled Yo Bonita, a record Keat has been working on for the past four years and has wanted to do for a lot longer.

“I wrote all the songs myself really, the other Brothers, Archerio Mantovani and Kengo San, are not really songwriters per se. I bought in Mica Paris, KT Tunstall, Kurtis Blow, Omar, so I’ve got a lot of fantastic guests [singing] on there. It’s been fun making it, but quite arduous, you know. I’ve been recording it sporadically in a couple of different studios. I’m happy with the record, which is the most important thing. I could have put it out a year ago, but there’s a couple of things I wasn’t happy about so I went and re-recorded them.”

When The Cuban Brothers toured Australia with James Brown in 2007 they forged The CBs, a backing band containing some of the best jazz and funk musicians in the world. The CBs resurfaced for Yo Bonita, but unfortunately won’t be touring Australia this time around. “To bring 12 guys to Oz is extraordinarily expensive. I might manage it next year. I think to tour the album properly I’ll need to bring the band, or at least the rhythm section and horns.”

Singles The Finding and Mike 4 President are proof The CBs take The Cuban Brothers to the next level. Released to raving reviews, it looks like the rest of the album will be welcomed in a similar fashion. “[Those songs] are a good representation of the album, but at the same time I’m not spittin’ on every track, I’m singing mostly. There are only a couple of songs that I’m MCing on. It’s a bit of everything that I dig,” he explains. “There’s a wee bit of salsa, Latin, reggae, a bit of disco – I wanted to create something that was different but had that instant vintage [feel].

“[Yo Bonita] is organic; it’s 10 musicians. Mike 4 President is the only track that’s got a sampler in it, and the rest of it, everything’s being played. I wanted to make an organic record, you know.”