Interview One Step Closer to Heaven: Sundara Karma
Sundara Karma have already made their ambition clear. On their debut album they question life, love and religion while keeping the upper echelons of indie firmly in their crosshairs.
Perhaps it’s a ballsy move to call your debut album ‘Youth Is Only Ever Fun In Retrospect’ when you’ve not long turned 21, but Sundara Karma are far from shrinking violets tiptoeing their way carefully through life. Over the last two years the Reading four-piece have dazzled with poetic lyrics, killer hooks and lofty ideas far beyond what most of their peers are peddling.
Their debut full-length, released last month, shows them doing the opposite of shying away from that approach - if anything, they’re stepping things up to ambitious new heights. More coherent and focused than EPs ‘I’ and ‘II’, it’s also jam-packed with dizzying anthemics that make you feel like you’re cruising at 40,000 feet and some thought-provoking, weighty subjects.
Religion, for instance, has always been something of a presence. Even back in 2014 on debut single ‘Cold Heaven’, they were posing theological questions about that big place in the sky, while their band name makes use of Sanskrit, the language used in Hinduism, Buddhism and Sikhism.
“I wouldn’t say I’m a religious person, but I can really empathise with people who are,” says vocalist Oscar Pollock, sat in an east London cafe. “I think you’re fucking lucky if you do believe in that because isn’t that such a lovely world view to have - that there’s this guy in the clouds who’s going to save you from your sins.” He’s also fascinated by the idea of there being something more beyond our lives on Earth. “That’s what eats up most of my thinking,” he says, fiddling with the empty water bottle on the table in front of him.
Even though he doesn’t subscribe to one faith himself, he says he understands the appeal after seeing how Buddhism helped his mum go from being “quite unwell for a while” back to a good place. Aspects of that religion have aided him, too. Meditation and yoga have helped with his struggles with anxiety and depression, and, without them, he says he can “go to a pretty dark place very quickly”. Being brought up around Buddhism has affected his songwriting as well. “When I was 15, 16, it really started to appeal to me,” he explains. “That’s when I started thinking I can use this in my songwriting. Before then my lyrical content lacked authenticity.”
“When I don't have wi-fi for a few days I get the heroin kicks.”
— Oscar Pollock
"We have more to offer than this record.”
— Oscar Pollock
Sundara Karma’s debut album ‘Youth Is Only Fun In Retrospect’ is out now.
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