In The Middle with Sundara Karma
Sundara Karma are a four piece Indie-Pop band from Reading. At between 19 and 20 years old they have already started to gather quite a following. I caught up with Oscar and Haydn from the band ahead of their show at Live at Leeds festival to discuss their music, summer plans and even gentrification.
Sundara Karma is an interesting name and, when asked about it, Oscar explained that Sundara is a Sanskrit word which translates as beautiful so their name. In basic terms, it means beautiful karma which Oscar stated signified their ethos of “just to be nice people”. If actions speak louder than words they immediately showed me that they live by this philosophy, welcoming me with a hug and then going out of their way to clear a seat for me in their tour bus and offer me a beer from their rider. Their kind attitude was evident again when I asked who they enjoyed touring with the most. Haydn responded saying “Wolf Alice was dope but you can’t really say” which Oscar supported with “The Wombats were wicked and Circa Waves was equally as fun. They’ve all been amazing, we’ve learnt something of each band that we’ve toured with – it would be rude for us to say one was better than the other.”
Talking a bit about their music, Oscar described that they “play pop music but I’d like to think there’s a depth to it, rather than the melodic nature of us which is pretty accessible, there’s deeper undercurrents that people might not get or think is a bit pretentious or hard to understand but I think it’s important to have that, especially lyrically.” This can be seen in their track ‘Young Understanding’, which is all about growing up and starting to see the world as it really is, with the lyrics “seeing life through closed eyes” reinforcing this idea of the stages of growing up – a turning point which is very relevant coming from a band on the brink of leaving their teens.
The word “escapism” is constantly one that pops up with relation to Sundara Karma and this is perhaps due to their upbringing in Reading, which they describe has quite a “vacuous” music culture, with the “strongest hub being chains like Lola Lo’s”. However, instead of becoming disillusioned with the scene, they see it as an opportunity to create something new and exciting and have started a club night called Thirsty. Oscar explained how in the past year and a half Reading has started becoming particularly influential as the “mundane” nature has created a reactionary force against boredom which he states has “probably been the biggest inspiration for us”. Through this they have met many other bands but also state that the fact that they have known and played together for a really long time is vital to the cohesiveness of the band.
They are playing numerous festivals this summer, including Glastonbury, Secret Garden Party and, most excitingly for them, the main stage at Reading and Leeds festival. Haydn declared they feel particularly lucky to have a hometown festival as big as Reading and Oscar joked that “The last time a Reading band played the main stage was in 1979 or something like that so we’re kind of making history already.” This was said without any trace of arrogance but accompanied by an ear-to-ear grin that made it evident that they are elated to play and, despite previous complaints about Reading, they are proud to call it their home town.
They recorded the bulk of their album in Berlin and raved about the “massive creative hub” that exists there as more and more young artists are “finding salvation in Berlin” to avoid paying the ridiculous living costs that accompany the gentrification of London. They state that the album is now finished and will (probably) be released in September although nothing is set in stone yet. They have a happy-go-lucky attitude and seem to be enjoying every moment. Oscar describes that the year so far has been good and that they “hope 2017 is equally as kind, perhaps even kinder” as their album will be out then and “there’s definitely a difference in between a band pre-album and post-album.”
Sundara Karma seem very relaxed with a kind of take it as it comes attitude but with an album release on the horizon and a hectic touring schedule, it is safe to say that the next few years will bring them a whirlwind of excitement.
photo: Roberto Aguilar