“There’s a lot of nostalgia and alienation…” - hmv.com talks to Sundara Karma
As they release their debut album Youth Is Only Ever Fun In Retrospect, we chat to psychedelic upstarts Sundara Karma and their frontman Oscar Lulu about recording in Berlin and on a boat, working with one-time Hundred Reasons guitarist Larry Hibbitt and one very strange signing request...
Your debut album is out today! Have you been sat on it and waiting to release for a while?
“It’s been ready for six months actually so we’re all excited to get it out, once we see it on shelves it’ll be a real weight off our shoulders, it’s been odd having it sat there.”
Are the songs mainly newly written? Do they come from right across your career?
“They are a real mixture. Some have been there right from the start, we’ve been writing since we were 14 and there are some very old songs on there as well as really recent stuff, it’s a nice mix.”
How did you make the album?
“It was done in lots of little sessions. I would love to have done a solid two months in the studio, but it just wasn’t possible, maybe for the second album. For this we recorded six of the songs in Berlin, a few in Brixton in Larry Hibbitt’s studio and some in this place in the Oxfordshire countryside, then weirdly we did some songs in this studio that was also a boat. We covered all the elements”
Do you think you benefitted from the breaks? Were you able to reflect on what you’d done and improve the songs?
“Absolutely, especially with the earlier tracks. It was great to be able to sit with the songs, if it didn’t thrill us, then we’d do something about it.”
You worked with Larry Hibbitt, who people will know best as the guitarist in Hundred Reasons, what was he like to work with?
“He got the sound absolutely right. He’s an absolute legend and a wizard with guitar pedals, he just has this knack for making guitars sound incredible.”
What kind of album do you think it is lyrically?
“I think loneliness is the main theme on the album. There’s a lot of nostalgia and alienation, always being on the outskirts of situations, struggling with social interactions. It’s got a vast range of emotions, it’s a real journey of youth and how I’ve grown up.”
Who are some of your favourite lyricists?
“Leonard Cohen, Bob Dylan, I like how obscure David Bowie is, from newer artists I love Father John Misty, he’s a genius with his words. He’s a real one-off, I don’t think there are a lot of great lyrics around, there’s a lot of great music, but for me the lyrics fall short.”
Do lyrics come easily for you?
“It depends. I have to be in the right mood, I never force it, it has to be easy. For quite a lot of this album the lyrics were written maybe an hour before we recorded them, it’s really interesting to do it like that.”
When did you settle on the album title?
“It’s a lyric on the album. We were going to call it ‘A Young Understanding’, but I wasn’t sure that would give people quite enough. I’ve always liked the lyric ‘Youth Is Only Fun In Retrospect’ and it sums up the album so well. After we got the track down, we settled on the title, it was quite late.”
What are your plans to take the record out live?
“We’re about to head out with Two Door Cinema Club, then we’re off to South By South West and then hopefully another stint in America, then after that it’s festival season. We’ll be doing as much as we can.”
Finally we’ve got you doing some hmv in-stores for the album, we know you haven’t been a band for a long time, but what’s the strangest thing you’ve been asked to sign?
“We were in Manchester and this girl came up to me with this polaroid picture and asked me if I would sign it, she was a bit shy about it, but handed it over for me to sign. It was a picture of her naked on the bed, fully naked! So I signed it and then her boyfriend came up and said to me ‘Thanks for doing that mate! Really appreciate it’. How bizarre is that?”