It's midsummer and you're firmly in the midst of festival season. Sat in an open forest, surrounded by blankets of trees swaying with open arms, they politely invite you into their mystical realm. Fairy lights dangle from the branches dancing and sparkling with excitement. A festival in the woods can offer surprises, adventures and plenty new finds. It's time to stand up and explore.
Plodding along in your wellies, up and over dishevelled logs and sleeping bodies, you hear sounds in the distance. The distinct plucking of rusty guitar strings are followed by harmonic vocals of two boys. Stood still, eyes closed, singing to the open world, the melodic sound of Kawala welcomes you to their intimate show. The raw crisp edge of Jim's vocals echo throughout the forest and the vibration of the hand on a wooden drum calls you closer.
Jim and Daniel grew up partying together. Now singing together, they create songs with a strong narrative and a sweet purity runs through their acoustic sounds. Proudly representing their Camden roots, the North London twang is carried through their songs. Beauty is formed through their simplistic way of arranging a song, stripping back to basics of an instrumental and a vocal. The kind of raw vocals that warm your belly and make the hairs on your arms stand on end.
Shot in their hometown, photographer Lillie Eiger
captures their playful relationship. Dressed in oversized vintage shirts and patterned tees, the boys epitomise the 'just chucked this on' look and still look good. Their secret is to love the music that you create and in turn, hope that other people love it back. Kawala thrive to continue growing organically like that old oak tree in the wild forest.
Jim: That's K-A-W-A… LA
About that... why are you called Kawala?
Daniel: It’s a funny story actually.
Jim: When he says funny story, he actually means it's not funny at all.
Daniel: Yeah, basically when we used to live in leeds, I was always desperately trying to get into his house, and he would always be hiding in his room. I’d be trying to get him to go to rehearsal and he’d say; "give me a minute!" I’d then hear this tapping and think; "whats going on?" So one day I decided to go barging in.
Jim: My door was always on the latch.
Daniel: So I walk in, and I catch him doing the worst possible thing he could be doing in that situation. He was playing 'Call of Duty' on his computer instead of rehearsing, and his C.O.D. name was… Kawala Boy or something like that. It’s funny, because that's how he thought you actually spell the animal koala. We've actually benefited from Jim's dyslexia you see.
Where did you guys meet?
Jim: At a 'Call of Duty' convention...
Daniel: Nah, we've been friends for years.
Jim: Through parties, not through school.
Where did you guys grow up?
Daniel: Camden Taaaan, Kentish Town.
Do you find it intense trying to be successful musicians in London?
Daniel: Yeah, because everyone and their mums, and their mum's dogs, and their mum's dog's friends are trying to be musicians.
How are you guys able to stand out?
Jim: Our music being sick.
Daniel: Do we even need to tell you that?
Jim: Everyone that writes music hopes that their music is unique, original and stands out while still being genre specific. I think our music incorporates different genres.
What would those genres be?
Daniel: Heavy metal, punk and…
Daniel: Kind of like a jazzy new wave.
Where do you guys find your musical inspiration?
Jim: Personally, I love live session music the most, because it is always in its simplest form. It’s not over-produced and the writing and the structure shows so much better. I love things like Mahogany sessions.
Daniel: It’s a great way for us to show our stuff, because we still haven't released any official music yet. We're still kind of building up to that - we want to get it perfect.
Can you tell me a bit about Sofar and what it has done for you?
Daniel: As a concept it’s great, because it's all about stripping it back; it’s just the band and you in a weird location. You're sent to some place, you don't know who's playing and it could be terrible or it could be great. You could get us and you'd be well disappointed haha! We’ve been back to do loads and we're doing a couple soon actually.
Jim: Mahogany and Sofar are both great ways to hear new music; as an emerging band, they're great platforms for us.
Is that how you think a lot of your fans are finding you?
Daniel: Yeah, I think it has Sofar.... wheey see what I did there? Yeah, that's what has got us where we are now. Everything that’s happening now, these things only came about because of the online presence we got from these sessions. Our fan base is incredibly loyal and they respond very well. It's great, because they're genuinely interested in the material we release.
You guys play a lot of gigs in Islington near where you grew up, is that on purpose?
Jim: It’s good to represent where your from.
Daniel: I think we've been incredibly lucky, because we can say were from Camden/Kentish Town.
Jim: We're surrounded by amazing venues.
Daniel: People try to play these venues when they live halfway across the country, and we're just lucky to have them on our doorstep.
What have you guys been up to recently?
Daniel: We have been focusing on recording and getting the live set together like ‘big style’. That way we can play at bigger venues, 'cause we've found that when we did play at bigger venues, the sound gets a bit lost, as we were still playing the Mahogany set up.
Speaking of the set up, do you guys prefer when it's just you two or when there's more?
Jim: I like both.
Daniel: Yeah, I like both for very different reasons.
Jim: It’s great that for Sofar gigs, it could just be me and Daniel even maybe with a cahon.
Daniel: We had a meeting with someone, a woman who is quite high up in the music industry and she said; "it's really great, you're definitely on to something, but you don't want to play to coffee shops for the rest of your life." And she's right, we love playing acoustic gigs, but we don't want to be just type cast.
Jim: I like having both, I wouldn't want just one. Both is perfect.
Daniel: Reaching our goal of making a big set with a full band is tough. It’s a hard transition, because we don't want to isolate our super loyal fan base. We just want to be more accessible to a wider audience.
Talking about plans for the future, what's happening with this tour?
Daniel: We’re off to Europe on a “mini” tour.
Jim: We’re playing some festivals in Germany and some shows across Holland.
Daniel: We're playing with some amazing acts in Germany like Lucy Rose and Jamie Lawson.
Jim: They're people that have come from a similar background to us and started with Mahogany sessions.
Daniel: Lucy Rose’s music is amazing, it’ll be great. We’re just gonna make best friends with her, and she's gonna let us support her, or we're gonna ask her to support us sometime haha.
Jim: It'll be interesting to see people come to our shows across the country.
Daniel: We were doing this show at Barfly in Camden and it was a great turn out. There were a group of people we had no idea who they were, and they were singing along. They knew more lyrics then I did! There was also a group of Spanish girls at the front singing all the lyrics; it was so surreal.
Whats your favourite part of being a musician?
Jim: Watching a song grow.
Daniel: Having people appreciate the music. It’s naff to say, but positive reinforcement is such a glorious thing.
Jim: Also, being successful in a creative environment is one of the most rewarding jobs in the world. You're getting paid for what you really love doing. This is our career. I absolutely adore music and I absolutely adore our music, and we get to do it full time. That's what I fucking love about music the most.
What do you guys hope to achieve by the end of the calendar year?
Jim: Release music.
Daniel: Yeah, finally!
Jim: It’s going to be a short EP with about four or five songs.
Daniel: We had to work backwards. We’re just getting our live set big and together, and that's normally what people do first. The big aim is getting the live set ready and to be gigging regularly at bigger venues. Oh, and get out and see some of the world. The dream would be to travel the world with our music.
Jim: And also to write the best song ever written.
Biggest musical influences?
Daniel: Half Moon Run, Bahamas, Justin Bieber.
What about the two of you? Can you tell me something about your relationship?
Daniel: Ugh, I hate him….
Jim: Daniel makes me sandwiches.
Daniel: He gives me foot rubs.
No, but seriously guys, does it get intense being a duo?
Jim: Only when I get lazy.
Daniel: Yeah, I'm the annoying ‘let's do stuff’ one.
Jim: Other then the time I punched him in the face, it’s never intense.
Daniel: Yeah, it’s really great fun! We just split our time perfectly between playing music and getting pissed.
Tell me about the biggest mistakes you've made on stage.
Daniel: I once played 'Mighty River' so wrong at a gig. It’s like the easiest guitar part in the world… it's so basic and I managed to fluff it five times. It was one of the worst moments of my life.
What about Jim?
Daniel: Yeah, I’ve got one for him.
Jim: He probably remembers better then I do.
Daniel: One time, rather then saying, "this is the penultimate song" as in the second to last song right, he said, “this next song is a little bit penultimate.” AHAHA and everyone just kind of was like…
Jim: Penultimate, penultimately pan…
Daniel: What are you doing?
Jim: I think I created a new way of saying it.
I also wanted to ask you guys about your style.
Jim: Funky shirts.
Daniel: I kind of dress like an ageing golfer.
Jim: Daniel has a collection of about 20 bowling shirts.
Daniel: I love bowling shirts. This is an exclusive! For merch we're going to make Kawala bowling shirts.
Jim: I buy my clothes from charity shops.
Daniel: Yeah, he’s a charity shopper. Jim, do you get your underwear from charity shops?
Jim: Yeah, I get all my underwear from charity shops.
Daniel: He’s the kind of person that could put anything on and it'll automatically look great. It’s really annoying.
Let's finish off with the most valuable lesson learned since starting Kawala?
Jim: Work hard, don't give up too easily.
Daniel: Not getting complacent and yeah, don't be put off - it's a long game.
Find out the latest about Kawala on their website.
Interview by Lillie Eiger.
Intro by Ede Dugdale.