There are few bands which can so easily epitomize the very definition of modern youth within their melodies; however, as the success of indie pop-rock group Sundara Karma demonstrates, it is indeed possible – with a skyrocketing level of success to prove it.
An effervescent, glittering sound, paired with smooth synth chords and the sublime vocals of frontman Oscar Pollock, alongside instrumentalists Ally Baty, Dom Cordell, and Haydn Evans, most certainly lives up to the Sanskrit name of the band ‘Sundara Karma’ – which translates to ‘Beautiful Karma’.
From roots firmly planted in secondary school, the band’s first single “Freshbloom” was released via SoundCloud in July 2013. Fast-forward five years, and after multiple EPs, festivals and signage to Chess Club Records, a veritable bloom in popularity has seen the group rise level upon level within the lineage of indie music as a genre…
All whilst seeing January 2017’s release of their debut LP Youth Is Only Ever Fun In Retrospect and gaining a cult following of devoted listeners on numerous social media platforms along the way. At this point, one must wonder: what is the catalyst for their rapid success?
Described by The Guardian as a group of four ‘Indie-Springsteens’, many combinations of lyrics that suggest the desire to abscond from the shackles and confines of life as youth within today’s society in order to “relinquish deep relief“, (“Deep Relief“) whilst being “disengaged at just nineteen” (“Vivienne“) are all reflective of the theme of celebrating juvenility whilst one still is still of appropriate age to do so.
The distinctively psychedelic tone of each track is, to the educated ear, a Sundara Karma trademark – however, the band has gained recognition from drawing various allusions from the likes of U2, Pulp, and, as mentioned, the indie equivalent of Bruce Springsteen. Perhaps this is another point to which any potential listeners may be attracted – the subliminal similarities to many musical icons?
2017 saw the band’s largest tour to date – aptly named after the debut album, the UK-wide series of gigs were a mere reflection of the immense scale of success that the boys have enjoyed – or, are still enjoying, and may well be for the foreseeable future.
Within the northern stint of the October show circuit, Northumbria University Students’ Union in Newcastle played host to the set. The comparatively small capacity of the venue was not at all an issue; indeed, it may have been this, that made the experience so intimate.
The eclectic range in tempo, pitch and sound within each differing track, provided the perfect balance of mosh pit-to-gentle sway within the audience, with the climax reaching the point at which Pollock braved the jump from stage to crowd as he traversed the flailing hands, arms and heads of the audience.
An encore of the campfire-esque singalong track “Happy Family” concluded the show, with its raw portrayal of, in the words of Pollock, the “tumultuous trials, twists and turns of growing up, and the loneliness that it may bring“. It could be said that these experiences are the basis of what truly differentiates Sundara Karma from other bands.
They provide a humbling and refreshing outlook on the lives of the young and voiceless; perhaps youngsters on the cusp of adolescence and adulthood who often go undetected by society, or those who simply crave a sense of sweet release from the uncompromising regime of day-to-day life.
It is music made for the young, by the young. With a moral backbone based upon this notion, it is almost certainly inevitable that this band is destined for greatness destined to transgress so much further than small stages at British festivals – and I, for one, will most certainly be a supporter in their endeavour.
Words by Evie Mallender