Sundara Karma Reveal How To Be A Guitar Band In 2019
Oscar Pollock of Sundara Karma is waiting, as many frontmen have before him, to soundcheck. Tonight he is to take to the stage of the legendary Barrowlands in Glasgow as part of the band’s current UK tour.
They’re doing alright, Sundara Karma – their tour is selling well, their first two albums have been warmly received by the critics. But it can’t be easy, can it – being a guitar band in these times? Gone are the heady days of entourages, platinum sales, Top of the Pops, difficult second, third, and fourth albums, indulgent record companies, hedonism, and ludicrous, borderline criminal behaviour… or has it? Just how does a band like this navigate the musical minefield that is the final year of this tumultuous decade?
If only there was a frontman to gather quotes from which I could then fashion into a tenuous listicle…
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No more mysterious frontman
If you’re a musician these days, you have to be on social media, and when you put yourself out there, you can’t really take that back. When people see you in that context, they feel like they know you, and there’s no betting way from that or backtracking. It humanises people a bit more, you kind of realise that everybody’s flawed, and that there is no such thing as the perfect person, but back in the day, [frontmen] were like gods.
I’m on both sides of the fence - It’s all about what’s authentic, because if you’re an outgoing person, then don’t try and be mysterious, because it comes across as try-hard. At the same time, there’s no point in trying to be a big-old internet personality if you’re reserved. It’s what’s authentic and what’s honest.
Bad behaviour is out, work ethic is in
It’s almost embarrassing now to hear that bands are doing that [falling out with each other, taking drugs, trashing hotel rooms and all the other clichés I put to him]. When something becomes cliched, you should stop doing it. People now seem to be more concerned with the actual art than with the bullshit that surrounds it, which is great. The environment is changing, all those views of excess – it used to be very expected for a band to drink and take drugs and get fucked up, and then people wonder why there’s so much of a problem with mental illness in music.
I found very out early on that there was a huge link between my own mental state and debauchery and excess, and that’s a good thing to notice early on. Because of that I’ve been sober for two years, and I’ve decided to be as happy and clear-headed as I possibly can be.
You’re on your own
We’ve never been part of a scene. We originated in Reading, and came up in Reading. When we were starting up there were other bands, and you want to feel like you’re part of the scene, but everyone was playing different music even then. We very much feel like we’re out here on our own, not with any other bands, although people try to make the comparison.
I don’t have the sense of any contemporaries - we’ve just always kept ourselves to ourselves and done what we feel is right at the time. It’s all so fractured these days.
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Hit the ground running
(Sigh) everything moves so quickly now that you’re maybe not given the time or the amount of space that you need, and that’s why I think its important to really know what you want, otherwise other people decide for you, and that’s shit.
I don’t know if I actually care what’s happening with guitar bands in general, not in a dismissive way, but I get a lot of people asking me to justify why guitar bands are still important, and I can’t answer that question.
Tour, tour, tour?
I can only speak from my experience but it doesn’t feel like our life is on the road to be honest with you. But maybe I don’t know if the schedule is more intense now compared to the times that the likes of Oasis were around.
See, we were never the hype band, there’s a lot of pressure with being the hype band. You’re getting people telling you that you’re going to be fucking massive and the next big thing. Suddenly all of that dissipates, and all you’re left with is two years of basically partying. It can chew groups up and spit them out – it’s like a reverse assembly line - brutal.
You can’t be the aloof, God-like band, so don’t try.
I love a story and love a myth, and there are parts of me that likes to have things for myself. The whole social climate has changed from what it was even ten years ago. The fans see us living life so much more intimately than people did with bands in the seventies, eighties, nineties… The way we consume music is changing in such a drastic way, that everything around it needs to change too. It would maybe be wrong to push that it should be like the good old days.
I’m all for change, and if that means no bands, I don’t mind. Whatever music is required for that generation will present itself at some point.
The main thing should be, ‘I don’t care’… is that okay?
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Words: Matt Charlton // @Matt_Charlton
Sundara Karma are currently on a UK tour and play O2 Academy Brixton on April 13th. Their new album, ‘Ulfilas Alphabet’, is out now.
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