Sundara Karma swig back bottles of fizzy water disguised as champagne, they dip crisps into hummus, and excitedly show off the toaster they’ve bought for the tour, proudly pointing to an opened pack of New York bagels.
“Nothing beats a toasted bagel, ” they tell me. “We’re stepping up in the world. You go tour van, toaster, tour bus.”
There’s a saying that ‘boys will be boys’, and Sundara Karma are a band that reinvent the well-worn phrase. Friends since primary school – where they’d pull sickies in various ways, such as bassist, Dom Cordell, chucking baked beans down the loo – this is a true band of brothers. Sharing their childhood and adolescence in Reading, they’ve done the lads holidays, the crappy movie binges, the deep philosophical conversations, and, most importantly, the ever special ‘chip and dip’ moments. To disrespect hummus is blasphemy in this band.
“There will be a time where technology can stipulate your senses to be able to feel things. It’s gonna happen, man. Within the next few years I reckon,” says Oscar Pollock.
The guys are self-confessed sci-fi nerds. The OA? They loved it, though it was spoiled at the end. Stranger Things? Sundara Karma could star in the next season. Taboo? Why the fuck hasn’t anybody watched this yet, they ask exasperated. It’s got Tom Hardy in. Binge watch it.
“The HTC Vive, look at that and it’ll blow your mind. It’s like, you put the goggles on and you slip into another dimension! I’ve read a lot of articles,” gushes Oscar. He tried a similar game in the tour van, but ended up feeling nauseous.
The excitement of virtual reality transcends over the boys and they fall into a babble of technology. Talking fast about space and the sea, not a gibberish word is lost in translation between Oscar, Dom and Ally; maybe they’re telepathic, after all.
Deciding that “we’re gonna live in this world though where it’s not even real” Oscar determines that to do so, “we would have to have a pain setting or a sensory setting on us” and it’d be like the film Surrogates. Another must-watch, by the way. Slot it next to their favourites: Snakes on a Plane and School of Rock.
In a world where millennials are over-stimulated, and “everything has to be now now now now” this “instancy and short attention span” that we’ve developed has caused us to “probably all feel a little bit lonely too.”
Yet, Sundara Karma’s debut album Youth Is Only Ever Fun in Retrospect provides light relief. The enthralling record fizzes through euphoric – yet very real – memories from the band’s first seven years. The magic is that these songs, modest in their championing, have room to grow into rip-roaring, timeless epics.
“The thing is that we just love good songs and that’s as far as our song-writing process goes… This album in particular, wasn’t thought through at all. It was a drunken babble at a party, that was it,” explains Oscar.
A voyage into the very depths of youth, there’s a song for every defining moment of the tricky period. The shaken lemonade can romanticism of She Said slots beside the slinking etherealness of The Night before bursting into the whirlwind that truly is A Young Understanding.
“It felt kind of like a documentation of the years that we’ve had growing up together in Reading and with our mates, that seems to be the post.”
Admitting that they’re “just cruising through”, the band shrug off any pressures of being a hype act, or ‘hotly tipped’. Instead they share stories of Oscar’s 21st birthday trip to Vegas to watch “mad acrobatics” in Cirque Du Soleil , before the night took a somersault of its own. Another occasion saw them dropping acid and sitting in a hot tub, seeing Jim Morrison as their spiritual guide.
“The concept for the album came afterwards. Like everything was written and then the title came – that was the last thing to be added.” These are feverish songs, made to be moved to, and the words are graced with metaphors (“I’m tired of watching the shadows on the wall”), tangible imagery (“taste of the thunder from her thighs, makes me shake”) and confidently question human mainstays (“Is heaven such a fine thing?”) .
While youth may only seem fun in retrospect, youth feels fantastic when you’re with Sundara Karma. Their shows are eclectic and bold, a warm union for glittered faces and linked arms to move for the same reasons that the New Romantics did in the early 80s.
“There’s not really any hate,” Dom smiles, proudly. “That’s one of the very big perks of this generation.”
Whether it’s down to access of information, or thirst for education, “the level of acceptance is so high now too, especially amongst our age group.
“We’ve sort of had more of an awakening to the bullshit that the media pedals out and the government tells you, I think people are more aware of that now.”
Unfortunately however, anybody can be sucked into the ‘fake news’ circulating, and it leaves a sour taste in the discussion.
“There was that hover-board story that came out, I was so excited.” Oscar tells me. “I thought it was real! I was telling everybody ‘oi look at this!’ I was like ‘there’s a fucking hover-board out man!‘
“ … It was all shit. I do that sometimes, I just get excited.”
Then Ally reveals, “it was more gutting because Tony Hawk was the one like ‘yes, this has just been invented’…”
With a bond tighter than the Stranger Things kids and songs to craft their own alternative reality of shimmering guitars and glamorous sophistication, Sundara Karma are a band that not only enter the heart, but the mind too. According to the lads, they wanted the headline to be: “We’re mind fucking the shit out of you right now.”
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Words by Tanyel Gumushan