Kansas City 'Supergroup' The Buhs Release First Single 'Can't Let Go'

Feb 2, 2016

Story of a Song is a monthly segment on KCUR's Central Standard, in which local musicians tell the story behind a recent song, and explain how it was constructed musically.

Artists: Hermon Mehari, Julia Haile, Brad Williams, Anthony Saunders of The Buhs

The Song: "Can't Let Go"

The Band: In 2013, Hermon Mehari and his band Diverse set out to gather talent for a Michael Jackson tribute show.  

"It's like if I could pick the people I most want to hear sing and rap and play their respective instruments in Kansas City, it would be these same exact people that are in this group," Mehari says. 

Mehari says the show was such a hit, the group decided to continue performing together. Thus, The Buhs was born. It's an 11-piece pop, hip-hop and soul "supergroup." They're getting ready to release their first album, beginning with the song "Can't Let Go."

The Story: "For me the song started with an idea that I had," Mehari says. "It was an idea I was writing on the piano."

He took his idea to Buhs producer Anthony Saunders, and the two pieced together a basic melody and verse, featuring that chord Mehari came up with.

"There's a note that stays common throughout," Mehari explains. "It's the top note, which is an A. The chords all change, but that note stays the same. I really liked the sound of that."

Brad Williams, Hermon Mehari, Ryan Lee and Julia Haile are just a few of the many musicians that make up The Buhs. An 11-piece group, they split off for singles, but almost always have the whole band for live performances.
Credit Andrea Tudhope / KCUR 89.3

Though he was envisioning a jazz single, the song quickly developed more of a pop sensibility. Percussionist Brad Williams wrote some drum and guitar parts, and singer Julia Haile wrote the lyrics. Even before the song was complete, Haile and Williams were struck by a certain melancholy in the music. While writing, Haile drew from her own past experiences, but found a sentiment and experience they agreed was very relatable.

"Even not talking about romantic relationships, there can always be a separation that makes you reflect on the time you had with that person," Haile says. "I kind of just started with that--thinking about someone at a distance."

From start to finish, the song was molded in a way that would allow for Haile's voice to shine.

"When she recorded it, it was really incredible for me to hear it, because that was really the whole intent--to hear Julia singing. That's when it really sounded complete," Mehari says.

The Video: The song became aesthetically complete when the group took to Paris to film their music video. They just so happened to be in Paris during last November's terrorist attacks. Mehari remembers walking into a bar that night, and seeing all eyes glued to the televisions.

"The Bataclan and the cafe that got hit up were places that my friends go to, and they were like easily a 15-minute walk from where we were," Mehari says.

They started filming a few days later. As life in Paris went on, the feeling in the air fit their aesthetic in the song. It's a feeling they were aiming for from the very beginning.

"It's like if you're walking down the street, just after the rain, and it's nighttime," Williams describes. "For some reason there's no traffic, and there's nobody around, so it feels kind of lonely. There's a tinge of peace, but there's more longing, and that kind of openness that can leave you vulnerable sometimes."

The song ends lyrically, almost where it began. There's a lack of resolve, but rhythmically, a sense of carrying on.

The Song: "Can't Let Go" is available for download on iTunes or Bandcamp.

Andrea Tudhope is a freelance contributor for KCUR 89.3. You can reach her on Twitter, @adtudhope.