Posted on January 21, 2019

Interview

Karkosa had a pivotal 2018 that saw them release several singles, garner support from BBC introducing and get nominated for “Best Indie Band” and "One to Watch 2018" at the Birmingham Music Awards. It was further afield however that they were making the biggest impression of all. After unexpectedly going semi viral in Korea, the band headed out to Seoul for their first ever international shows where they received a welcome usually reserved for pop idols. Fans gathered at the airport to meet them and a meet & greet session ended up taking several hours rather than the originally scheduled 30 minutes. Their first show, a headlining gig, sold out in under five minutes, and their second performance was a packed set at the country’s top showcase festival, Zandari Festa. Following their successful debut in Korea the band signed up with local label Beeline Records. After a massive 2018 the band have hit the ground running and 2019 will see them back in Korea for two bigger headline shows (Seoul on Feb 22nd at Rolling Hall and Busan on the 23rd at Club Cynic {sold out}) as well as a recording session. On top of that their latest single is set for release on Feb 11th. Despite their hectic start to the new year the members of Karkosa found time in their schedules to have a chat with us. Check out what they had to say below, then grab a ticket for the Seoul show before it sells out like the Busan one.

Tell us how you came up with the name Karkosa.

Michael: At the time we were choosing band names we (the band members and our manager) all came up with one suggestion each and then let our fans on social media decide which one to use. The winning name was Karkosa.

We actually came across the name in a book called ‘The King In Yellow’ by American writer Robert W. Chambers. It denotes a place or a city and usually is related to a character called The King in Yellow. The book describes the city of Carcosa as “a mysterious, ancient place”. We changed the spelling from a ‘C’ to a ‘K’ because we wanted a name that would be unique and thus stand out on search engines. In the last band we had, people could never find us because the name was not unique enough.

# How did you first meet and come to form the band?

Michael: Jack and I started it off together; we were a little duo band called ‘The Season’. We played at family get-togethers and school shows. We decided to try to make a proper band out of it and got in touch with two of the lads at our school who we knew kind of well. That was our first lineup for Karkosa. From there the lineup has been developing and changing all the time. I met Tom and Will at our college and Tom ended up replacing our old guitarist. Will replaced a long line of Karkosa keyboardists who had not worked out, for one reason or another.

Will: I remember going to Karkosa shows and seeing them perform.

Michael: Right. There was a time where Will was just a fan, but we ended up getting him to come and join the crew.

Tom: I remember going to your first show too and thinking that I’d love to be a part of the band. Not long after that, the guitarist left and I ended up joining Karkosa.

Michael: Yeah, it’s crazy how far we’ve come. Ryan joined us around Christmas 2015, just before Tom, I think. So the final lineup as it stands now was completed when Will joined in October 2017.

# Michael and Jack, you guys are brothers playing in a band together, much like the brothers from Oasis.  What’s it like being in a band together? Have you had any big fallouts?

Michael: No fallouts really. Not to that extent, anyway. Obviously we have fallouts at times, but never anything that makes us want to leave the band or anything like that. Mild arguments about drum fills and stuff like that.

Jack: Right, sometimes there’s something I want to do, but Michael has a different opinion.

Michael: Yeah, usually it’s about drums. Jack will want to do one thing and I will want to do another thing. But we work around it. We get along really well.

# How do you go about writing songs as a band? Is is a collaborative effort?

Michael: We always do things a little differently for each song. Usually the way we go about it is that I come up with an idea and take it to the band, and we then elaborate on it together. Usually I will have the structure of a song, or perhaps some lyrics down, and we work from there. For ‘Sheffield’ I had the whole first part of the song done, but the last part of the song was just an idea in my head. I took it to the band and we finished the song together. The others all know what they want with regard to their separate parts; everyone has their own way of writing music. We all like to have a say in the songs and the writing process. That keeps our Karkosa sound intact throughout our songs.

Recently we tried something a little different. Me, Tom and Will met up and tried to build on an idea that Will had. That has turned into a new song for us. There’s no set way we do things, but we do like to have it as a group process.

Will: We all had different ideas for this song and we basically put them altogether. I think it is going to sound a little different from the other songs we’ve made before. I think it has worked really well. There is probably going to be a time signature change, which we have never done before. There are lots of different parts to the song; it kind of changes key as well. 

Michael: Right. You expect it to be a certain sound, and then it changes. I like the idea of that. I have been working on the lyrics this past week and will be bringing them to rehearsal over the weekend. Jack and Ryan are yet to hear it, but it is a really cool sounding song. It will be interesting to see how we develop it at rehearsal over the weekend. I think it has some similarities to our song ‘Mango Tree’, but at the same time, it’s not the same at all. It will almost certainly make its live debut at the shows in Korea. At the end of the day, I like everyone to have a say in the writing process. It has to be a group thing for me.

# Who would you say are your biggest influences?

Michael: I am a big Catfish and the Bottlemen fan. I love bands like the Amazons, Kasabian and loads more whose names suddenly elude me. I like some older bands too, like Queen. I like lots of different rock bands, but if I had to really nail it down, I would say those indie rock bands that I mentioned. I listen to them a lot.

Jack: I like a similar sound to Michael, that indie rock sound. I’m into Arctic Monkeys and Royal Blood as well as Catfish and the Bottlemen and the Amazons too.

Ryan: I grew up listening to a lot of pop music like David Bowie. That is a big influence. These days though, it’s definitely indie bands for me too. I would even go as far to say rap artists as well.  Lots of my friends are into rap and the kind of atmosphere that it creates appeals to me. Singing along to it at parties is great and it really does have an influence on me.

Tom: As a guitar player, my influences come from people like David Gilmour from Pink Floyd. There is a blues artists called Dan Patlansky. I really love his style of playing. I try to get a lot of influences like that when I’m playing guitar. From a songwriting point of view I have always liked bands like Elbow, Modest Mouse and Rival Sons.

Will: I am a classical pianist so I try to implement that classical side of things into how I play. I take influences from film music by people like John Williams and Howard Shore. That kind of thing. For songwriting, because we are an indie band, I listen to and take influences from a few other indie acts that use keyboards as well. Like Blossoms, for example.

# I think that playing keyboards is one of the hardest things to look cool at, but you do it well.

Will: Thanks. I’m always putting one foot in front of the other; it looks like I’m running.

Michael: You need a keytar! That would be even cooler.

# Michael, you do all of the lyric writing, correct?

Michael: Yes, I believe so. Last time I checked I did, anyway.

Will: He is the most emotional!

Tom: He’s been through the most breakups (nah, I’m joking)!

Michael: Aside from the occasional word or line, all the lyrics are me.

# Your lyrics seem to be fairly autobiographical...Are you drawing inspiration from real life experiences?

Michael: Yeah, I’ve always found it easiest to write about real life experiences. Stuff that has happened in my life. If something is on my mind, I like to express it though our music. I think that the best way to deal with things is to say it through the words of a song. I would like to try to write about more challenging topics, maybe a story about something completely different. Writing lyrics is something that I enjoy doing and it is something that I am always developing and improving on.  

# Lyrically, which of your songs are you proudest of? Can you tell us more about what the lyrics are about?

Michael: All our songs are very different when it comes to lyrics. I think I am proudest of our new, yet to be released song ‘Mango Tree’, or ‘Seoul’. ‘Sheffield’ is a nice and simple story story too. It’s about a girl I dated and then broke up with. The song is about the aftermath of that and not being able to let her go in my mind after we broke up. It was early on in my songwriting endeavors; most people would probably say it is our best song, it is certainly one of our most popular. However, I personally think I have written better lyrics. It’s all about perspective, I guess.

Will: I think the lyrics on ‘Aurora’ are good too.

Michael: ‘Aurora’ is another good one, too. It’s a new song that no one has heard in Korea yet. That is about a friend who broke up with his girlfriend. He was really down about it and it moved me to see him like that. This is a a song that’s basically saying that although you’ve lost your girlfriend and times are hard, you still have your mates around you. I think in the later songs, my lyrics have been getting better and better. The more you are inspired by others and the more you work at it, the better you get.

# Your song ‘Sheffield’ was played on BBC Introducing, by DJ Steve Kelly. He said "No exaggeration, but the guitar work on it is up there with ‘Hotel California’, which is my favourite track ever". That’s quite some praise! How did that make you feel?

Tom: I really wish it was! It was weird hearing that while I was sat at home listening. It is nice to be complimented for something that I’m doing because you don’t often get that much acknowledgement as the guitarist. The focus is often on the lead singer. So it was a really nice feeling to get some praise for something I was doing.

Ryan: What about bass players? They never get any love!

Will: What’s a bass player?!

# 2018 was a whirlwind year for the band. What were some of the highlights? Is there any one thing that sticks out?

Michael: I had a lot of highlights throughout 2018. South Korea was definitely one of them. It was mad; we went from being normal, average dudes in Birmingham, to low key celebrities in the city of Seoul. Not many people get to experience that kind of thing. That was a surreal moment. Aside from that, our very first outdoor show in Bath. The gig itself was so so. But the actual trip was really great.

Ryan: I would say the Ryan Trash  / Ryan Trott fanpage that appeared. When everyone at my school found it, it was really funny. People started sending them mugshots of me at school to share. It was hilarious. I would say, what really made the year for me was when we came back from Korea and played a gig in Scotland. We just saw how different things were and it put it all in perspective for us. We realized how amazing the fans were in Korea and how amazing the whole trip had been.

Jack: For me as well. Seoul. The second gig probably, at SangSang Madang. We were getting loads of attention from the delegates there and there was talk of record deals, etc. That feeling was crazy. A few weeks before we had just been this little band from Birmingham and all of a sudden it felt like we were big stars.  

Tom: It has to be the show at Club Sharp for me. The amount of people that were there and the fact that they all knew the lyrics to our songs. Especially that moment during ‘Red Hoodie’, they all got out their phones and held them up with our logo on. That was absolutely surreal to see from the stage. It is was amazing to see people from so far away singing every word to the songs and loving it just as much as you are enjoying playing to them. It’s so much more enjoyable to play live to a room full of people who are so into it. It was a great thing to experience. I thought it was a joke at first; it didn’t quite feel real. In the car on the way to the airport I was dreading it. I was thinking, oh no, what if we’ve dragged everyone all the way to Korea to play in front of, like, four people in some tiny little club where no one knows us. It didn’t feel real until we got to the airport and were met by some of our wonderful fans.

Will: After having a pretty good summer with the World Cup and some actual sun in the UK, coming to Seoul still beat it all. The biggest highlight for me was the fans coming to meet us at the airport, and of course, the actual shows in Seoul too. I also want to give a shout out to a Japanese band called The Rodeos. We saw them play an insane gig in Strange Fruit. It was great to have a few drinks and see that band.

Tom: They were playing a kind of folk/ska reggae mix. They had a trombone, banjo, acoustic guitar, accordion ... all this great stuff. It was great to be there in this weird little club surrounded by people having a great time.

Will: We would never even have had the chance to see those guys and experience that if not for the fans in Korea that made it all possible for us.

# Talking about the fans in Korea, you added a huge amount of followers almost overnight. How did that feel when it was happening?

Michael: Yeah, we started on like 300 and then overnight we added 400 or so. Then it kept going up to over 2,500. I found it all really funny. It’s one of those things that doesn’t REALLY happen. I had a full plan for the year for Karkosa, but I would have never imagined that something like this would happen. All of a sudden we were a band with fans, like real fans. It’s such a hard thing as a band to build a legitimate fan base. They treat us as if we are celebrities, like a real band. I couldn’t believe it. By the time we got to October and came to Korea it was even more surreal and even better. It was amazing to see what we meant to all these people. I will never forget that.

# It was your first time in Korea, and it is wildly different in Seoul compared to Birmingham. What would you say was the biggest culture shock for you?

Ryan: Tea. 100%. I have come home and my tea cupboard is filled with flavored teas. As soon as we arrived I went to the shop and come out with some green tea flavored Kit Kats. Everything seemed to be green tea. It’s lovely. I will get more when I go back for sure.

Tom: Not so much a culture shock, but something I noticed. The fast food there is so much better than at home. I’m not sure why. It just seemed better. Bigger and tastier.   

Why were you eating Burger King out here in Korea?

Tom: Home comforts.

Michael: We got roasted for that a lot. Two fans found us in McDonalds one night and started roasting us online.

# You must have had some Korean food while you were out here, did anything stick out?

Michael: Korean BBQ was beautiful. I really hope to have more of that when we go over again. It was so nice. I want to try more; I was playing it a bit safe last time. Now I know more about the country, I want to try lots more food.

Will: Unfortunately, I couldn’t try all that much, as I am a vegetarian. The hot chocolate, though, was much better than in the UK. I’m looking forward to more of them. We went to Ediya a few times. I want to learn some Korean so I can actually speak in the restaurants and find some vegetarian food to eat.

Tom: We didn’t really know what to try. That’s why we went for the easy home comfort option. We did try some Korean fried chicken; that was really good.

Aside from playing the shows, what did you get up to in Seoul?

Michael: We went to Lotte World, Lotte Tower. The palaces--I cannot remember the names of them. We had a look around the Hongdae area and went to an arcade there. We also popped into a Racoon Cafe.

Ryan: I love Racoons. We went in there, but everyone wanted to go and eat. So we decided to eat first, then completely forgot to go back. I was on the flight back home and I suddenly realised we never went back. I was heartbroken.

Did you see any local acts you enjoyed while you were here for Zandari?

Michael: I really liked a band called Ludistello, who we saw play at Zandari the night we got our passes. They were mostly instrumental and they were really good. 57 (Oh-Chill), who played with us at Club Sharp, were great too.

Tom: I was recommended a few bands whom I checked out. Sanulim was one of them, and another I liked a lot was Guckkasten.

Will: I really liked 57 too. It was great to see the fans who had come to see us really supporting them as well.

# This time around, you are playing two headline shows in Korea. One at Rolling Hall in Seoul and one at Club Cynic in Busan. Not many bands go down to play in Busan; what was it that made you want to play outside of Seoul?

Michael: The experience in Seoul the first time was amazing, the city is beautiful as well. We just thought it would be good to explore more of the country. There is so much more to see. Being able to go down there as well as Seoul is an amazing opportunity. We have looked at a few pictures online, and it looks like an amazing place. I’m looking forward to going down there and playing another show to some of the fans down there.

Will: As a fan of going to concerts, when a band doesn’t come to your city on their tour it can be really annoying. I would love to do more cities in Korea actually. If we had more time.

Michael: A few fans messaged us last time and asked us to come down to Busan and some other places too. Busan was mentioned a lot. I’m glad we can go and play there this time.

# Have you prepared anything special for these shows?

Michael: We have a few cool ideas planned for the set. We don’t want it to be exactly the same set we played in Seoul last time. We will have three or maybe more new songs to play, and some new merch as well.

Will: We have some surprises in store as well.

Tom: I have some nice new toys that should add to the sound for the shows too.

# What are you looking forward to the most about your trip this time?

Ryan: Probably the weather! I mean, how different it is going to be in the winter. It was warm in October. I know a lot of fans have warned us about how cold it’s going to be, but I’m looking forward to it.

Michael: A lot of people told us it would be cold in October, so we brought lots of cold weather clothes. When we got there, it felt like summer. So we’re interested to see just how cold February really is.

Will: I’m excited to see the fans again. It will be like seeing old friends again.

Michael: I agree with Will. It will be great to see the fans again. It feels like we’re friends with them to some degree. They’re always interacting with us on our social media as well. I look forward to meeting them again and reliving our past experiences in Korea as minor celebrities.

Ryan: And Burger King! Haha

Tom: I can't wait for the gigs. I’m looking forward to seeing the fans and seeing their reactions to our show. It’s exciting to do something a bit bigger, a bit different and some new songs too.

Jack: I think everyone else covered it. That whole experience again, that whole feeling of meeting our fans again, doing more meet and greets, taking pictures with everyone. It was so surreal last time, it’s exciting to be able to go and do it again.   

Will: I’m excited to see Busan too. Recording two songs while we are there too is going to be great.

# What can you tell us about these songs you are going to record?

Michael: We will record ‘Seoul’ and ‘Aurora’. We can all agree that ‘Seoul’ is the perfect song to be recording in Seoul. ‘Arora’ is a great-sounding new song. The demo is sounding good and I have a lot of confidence in that one. We’re looking forward to getting them recorded and released.

# Your new song, ‘Mango Tree’, is just about to be released. Can you tell us what it’s about?

Michael: Yeah. The song is due to be released on Feb 11th! We cannot wait for you all to hear it. I like the story in ‘Mango Tree’. It’s about someone who has a lot to say about everything. I’m not suggesting that person is a liar or anything, but at the same time I do not necessarily believe everything that person says. A lot of stuff they talked about never comes to fruition. In short, it’s a song about someone who does a lot of talking, and not a lot of walking. I am proud of the lyrics, I think they tell an interesting story. I was a bit fed up with the situation when I wrote the song, so wanted to express my thoughts on it.

# Any last things you would like to say to your fans before we go?

Ryan: Thanks for the support. Thanks for posting mugshots of me everyday. Sorry about the technical difficulties.

# Technical difficulties?

Ryan: They ran out of photos of me, and claimed it was technical difficulties. That was funny. Sorry I couldn’t get you enough new ones.

Michael: Right, we all really want to thank the fans for all the support they give us. Our fans are the greatest and we cannot wait to come back and see everyone again. We will be trying to put on a bigger and better show for you all.    

Michael: Can’t wait to see you all and to play the show. The thought of it is getting me through university.

Jack: It will be great to see you all again, and to go meet new fans in Busan too.

SEOUL:

Date: 2019. 02. 22. Fri 20:00
Venue: Rolling Hall (Hongdae)
Adv: 33,000won / Door: 44,000won

BUSAN (SOLD OUT):

Date: 2019. 02. 23. Sat 19:00
Venue: Cynic
Adv: 25,000won / Door: 35,000won

_____________________________________________________________

Interview: Patrick Connor
Korean Translation: YoonJi Lee
Edited by: Rock N Rose
____________________________________________________

For more information on the band, check them out at the following sites :

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/officialkarkosa/
Homepage: http://www.karkosa.co.uk/
Teitter: https://twitter.com/officialkarkosa
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/officialkarkosa/ 

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Karkosa

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