Q&A: Sundara Karma Talk Philosophy, Fashion, & ‘Youth Is Only Ever Fun In Retrospect’ Debut Album

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Sporting anti-conformist wardrobes, philosophical dispositions, and a captivating indie-rock sound, British four-piece Sundara Karma is set to infiltrate American playlists, venues, and hearts in 2017. 

Their debut album, Youth Is Only Ever Fun In Retrospect, was released on Jan. 6 via Bee & El/Sony RAL in the US and RCA in the UK. Expanding on the profound title, the band packages themes of loneliness, love and artistic expression into twelve alternative songs that can be applied to both dancing and reflection purposes. 

With a booming LP under their belts and a UK tour currently underway, frontman Oscar Pollock stopped by to catch us up on the band’s influences, recent BBC US tour, artists to watch, & more. Read more below.


OTW: Let’s start with the basics—how’d the band and the sound come to life?

Oscar: It’s kind of one of those cliché, not overly exciting stories. I’ve known Haydn since I was eight, and we were in a band way back then called Ricochet, just playing covers. We were also playing our own music back then, and it was really bad. We had a song called “That’s Life,” and it was just three chords of bullshit. Anyways we’ve gotten better since then. I met Ally and Dom when we were 13, and then the band formed when we were like 14, and it’s been Sundara Karma since. 

OTW: How did it evolve from “complete shit” to amazingness?

Oscar: I think it’s still evolving. I think that’s what we can hope for—that each day, you get a little bit less shit. I guess it’s just that over the years there’s been more maturity, we’ve pushed our depth of influence and creative corners more each time. The debut album is finished now, but I still think it falls short of what exactly we want to say, or want to do. But I’m happy that it does because otherwise we’d be so comfortable and complacent. 

OTW: What is your current “depth of influence?”

Oscar: This is bad, but I’m just discovering Pet Sounds for the first time, and that’s genuinely one of the best records of all time.

For me, literature is also really inspiring. I like to be inspired by experiences—like even just walking through woodlands is crazy inspiring. It’s like there’s a creative block of some sort, and I find going for a walk really helps.

 OTW: Have you ever had a lightbulb moment when everything felt like it came together?

Oscar: Kind of…I think the best kind of lightbulb moment would be when I’m not too involved with what’s going on. If I’m thinking about writing a song too much, then I’m going to be too involved. Maybe the song’s already written somewhere, but you’re just channeling it through at the right moment. That’s a very spiritual, hippie dippie way of explaining what I believe.

OTW: The question everyone’s dying to know: who picks your wardrobes?

Oscar: My mom…I take a lot of clothes from my mom. She teaches fashion; she used to be a fashion designer as well. So from her, I think I’ve learned how to vaguely put an outfit together, or just the whole idea of image. I’ve realized how important it is today, because as someone said, “People listen with their eyes.” I think that’s really true because as soon as you see a band, you’re going to judge them—even before you’ve heard any music. I like it when people just wear what they feel comfortable in and aren’t afraid to look like an idiot.

OTW: You guys rock the retro look! Are you into ‘70s culture?

Oscar: Not really…it’s just that they’re the cheapest items you can find in the charity shops. Yeah…that’s where we shop.

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OTW: You recently wrapped up the first-ever BBC Music Presents US Tour! What were the highlights? 

Oscar: Spring King are fucking legends, and they are the nicest people we ever met. The funny thing is, before the tour started we’d always bump into Spring King at festivals, it’d always be at peak of our outrageous drunkenness. Basically we thought they must think we’re such wastemen. Luckily, the best thing the tour did was clear the air a bit—hopefully they don’t think we’re as much wastemen as previously…

OTW: Are you guys highly involved with BBC?

Oscar: Yes, BBC Radio 1 has helped us a lot, especially BBC Introducing. That gave us our first festival slot ever.

OTW: How’s the transition been from the UK to the US spotlight?

Oscar: It’s fucking amazing. We love it out here. We kind of want to be out here for as long as possible. It feels like America might possibly be kinder to us than England is.

OTW: Congrats on your debut album, Youth Is Only Ever Fun In Retrospect. The title is great—where did it come from?

Oscar: It’s a lyric from one of the songs on the album, and I think it does a good job of summing up the whole album. I think an album title should always sum up the content of the songs that are on it. Plus, it’s a really honest sentiment about growing up—looking back it was fucking amazing, but at the time I didn’t appreciate it.

OTW: Would you say there’s a theme that ties the album together?

Oscar: I’d say loneliness is the theme of the album for sure.

OTW: Are there any songs that are extra meaningful to you personally?

Oscar: Maybe “Be Nobody” or “Happy Family.” There’s meaning in all of them in different places, and there’s also no meaning in some places too. [chuckles]

OTW: We heard that you’re inspired more about films and philosophers than other musicians—what are some of your favorite quotes? 

Oscar: I love Jim Morrison’s classic: “Whoever controls the media controls the mind.” I think that’s so true and relevant. There’s a track on the record called “Olympia” which is inspired by a Manet painting . And Oscar Wilde is always inspiring…I mean, I’m named after him, so from the get-go I couldn’t really avoid his work.

OTW: If you had to describe each band’s role in one word, what’d it be?

Oscar: Haydn has such an understanding of the technicalities of things in music. Ally has an ear for sound landscapes—he has a really sweet touch for reverbs especially. And Dom—I don’t think I’ve ever seen a bassist with as beautiful of an ass as Dom. [chuckles]

OTW: Who are a few artists on your Ones To Watch List and why?

Oscar: Matthew Maltese is a fucking talented dude.

 Palm Honey as well—really sick band from Reading.

Blaenavon—they’re from England. Wicked.

Goldn’s really cool. He’s from Reading. He hasn’t done too much yet, but I’m excited to see what happens.

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