Shadows flit across walls, menacingly twisting into peturbed shapes, hugging the wall. The clock is ticking, each second of your life ceromoniously marked. The skies are dusky, the beat of footsteps running in rings through your mind. Click, click.
"Cold fire feeling, is the cold fire feeling in my bones".
Sundara Karma is a Reading based band made up by Oscar Lulu, Haydn Evans, Ally Baty and Dom Cordell. They write songs about escaping monotony, inspired by their beginnings among small-town life on the brink of the city. Infectious and deep, the boys are bonded by their sense of adventure and fun, and their inescapable desire to release themselves from the hum drum of day-to-day life.
Photographer Sophie Mayanne meets the four-piece indie band as autumn sneaks its way into our lives captures. She captures the boys amidst clouds, waterfights, pots and pans and regulated mischief, as the boys demonstrate their day-to-day humour and frolics. Stylist Dasha Kova wraps the boys' casual aesthetic together in a mix of high-end brands from Mr Porter, Ben Sherman, Sandro, Kenzo, Levi's and Marc by Marc Jacobs amongst others, as the boys aim their gazes at the road ahead and their looming headline tour.
Oscar: We are Sundara Karma. We’re a rock band from Reading. We are all 19 and all about having fun. Young, dumb and full of even more dumbness.
Above Left to Right: Ally wears Shirt by BEN SHERMAN, Leather Jacket by MINT VINTAGE ARCHIVE, Boots by DR. MARTENS, Jeans Model's own, Dom wears Shirt GIVENCHY at MRPORTER.COM, Leather Jacket by MARC BY MARC JACOBS at MRPORTER.COM, Jeans Model's own, Belt LEVI'S, Shoes by DR. MARTENS, Oscar wears Roll Neck and Coat by KENZO, Jeans by SANDRO PARIS, Belt by LEVI'S, Boots by DR. MARTENS, Haydn wears Top by MARGARET HOWELL at MRPORTER.COM, Jeans Model's own, Belt by LEVI'S, Shoes by UNDERGROUND.
You recently did a competition where the winner gets a private concert in his living room. How did it go?
Oscar: It was an interesting gig. It was in a tiny living room of a student’s flat. He had these two sofas, which were positioned in a way that it would have led you to believe that they were thinking of sitting down whilst we were playing. He had about six friends there, but it was all really cute. We had to get our equipment in, so we had to get rid of the sofas. As it was in Reading, so some of our friends also came down and it was a lot of fun.
In what way is it different to play in someone’s living room to touring with the Wombats and Circa Waves?
Oscar: It’s really different, a completely different vibe. When we are playing with the Wombats the shows are huge, which is crazy and people are really up for it and energetic. Those shows compared to let’s say a 300 person show, it’s just a different energy - it’s more thorough. I don’t know if you can compare them. They’re both really fun to do. It’s like a bigger reciprocal energy when you do a large show, and have a more grungy vibe.
You’re playing another one?
Oscar: Within a few months, and hopefully we’ll get more blood, sweat and tears. Maybe no tears, but blood and sweat would be nice.
Have you played any gigs in a house party when you were starting?
Oscar: Not in a house party, but we played really quiet shows in Reading, where you’d have like three fourty year old men watching. They’d all be bearded with long hair and a bald patch on the top of their head. Yeah, that was our demographic of that time, but then the audience gradually got younger as we got older.
How did you start the band?
Oscar: Hadyn and I met when we were eight and we started a band even way back then. We were called Wreckage Day. What a shit name. We were a pretty awful band, to be honest.
What kind of music did you play when you were eight?
Oscar: It was really shit, haha. I mean, it was still guitar music, but even then we were doing our own songs to be honest. We did covers as well, but it was never jazz covers. When the other guys came in and we were like thirteen or fourteen we played a lot of The Doors, Thin Lizzy, Arctic Monkeys, Kings of Leon and so on.
Can you remember your first ever gig as Sundara Karma?
Oscar: That would have been Plug’N’Play. It’s this awful studio in Reading, which isn’t a venue anymore, but it is actually where we have our rehearsal space so it’s nice. That was the first gig and it was okay. We were still quite underdeveloped, though.
Have you changed now?
Oscar: Yeah I’d say, big time. We’ve grown up a little more and matured, and have more of a vision of where we are going.
What do you usually write about?
Oscar: I suppose the main theme of all the songs seems to be escapism at the moment. Someone wrote about Reading being close to London, but not close enough. It’s close enough for you to see the glitz and the glamour of it, but you’re still stuck in a dead end town, so you still get that humdrum, mundane feeling. The songs are based around wanting to break out of my current reality.
Above Left to Right: Oscar wears Jacket and Jeans by SANDRO PARIS, Top by CHEAP MONDAY, Boots by DR. MARTENS, Dom wears Top by RAG & BONE at MRPORTER.COM, Jeans Models own, Boots by DR. MARTENS, Ally wears Jumper by 3.1 PHILIP LIM, Jacket by MINT VINTAGE ARCHIVE, Jeans Model's own, Shoes by DR. MARTENS, Haydn wears Top and Jeans by CHEAP MONDAY, Shoes by UNDERGROUND.
Where does the band name come from?
Oscar: I suppose so, yeah. It’s a little misleading I think. Some people think we’re some psychedelic hippie revival thing, which in ethos we probably are, but musically I don’t think we’re anything close to that. The name means beautiful Karma. We are all quite into Eastern philosophy.
You played at a festival this summer and your September just finished, are you doing another tour?
Oscar: Yeah, our headline tour starts at King Tuts in Glasgow, which is wicked. We're way excited for it. Our upcoming show in London will be a blast, too.
What’s the best thing about touring?
Oscar: Just having fun, I suppose. I think everyone being together and having a laugh is the best thing. It’s like a massive lads holiday.
Because you’re all best friends and just having fun?
Oscar: Yeah, we left school one year ago now, and it feels like that summer has not ended, haha. It just all feels like a massive summer holiday.
What’s your favourite memory from tour?
Oscar: Berlin was pretty cool. Although that wasn’t really tour, because we were recording the first half of our album in Berlin. So probably playing Ally Pally. That was pretty awesome, and then the party afterwards was really fun.
What's the worst thing about touring?
Oscar: Probably not having your own shower, or like having to wait until there is a shower free. Or not having your own bed to sleep in.
You often directly interact online with your fans, is this something that is important to you?
Oscar: Yeah, definitely. We really try hard to be good at that, because at some point it is good to have a strong connection with the people who are coming to our shows and investing their time and money into what we’re doing. So yeah, we’re trying to be as active as we can on social media.
What are the funniest memories you have as a band?
Oscar: There are so many, but I don’t know if they are quite explicit, haha. There is many like hungover or intoxicated moments, those would be the funniest. Involving lipstick, especially, haha.
Is your sound due to a similar taste in music or to completely different ones?
Oscar: I’d say we’re all pretty much on the same page. I think each of us offer something unique in terms of inspiration and influence. On a general level we’re pretty much on the same page. There would be Beach Boys, Radio Head, Aphex Twin, Marilyn Manson, Die Antwoord. I think, literally the reason why we’re so similar is because we like fucking everything.
What’s your favorite song at the moment? Was it the song you were singing all day?
Oscar: Which one was that? 'The Weekend'? It is a good song, but my favourite song at the moment might be ‚Bitter Town' by Anne Heaven. Yeah, I really like that track.
What's the best piece of advise you were ever given?
Oscar: Finish every song you start writing, or at least try to finish it, because I can move on really quickly and have loads of like scrappy messes. So yeah, it’s nice to tie everything at the end.
What was the best advice you have given to someone?
Oscar: Fuck it all and the rest, haha.
What would you do on your free day?
Oscar: Uhm god, yes, our last free day we literally spent inside our travellodge room watching awful daytime TV. We wanted to go bowling, but our tour manager had other plans, haha.
Tell me an interesting fact about yourself.
Oscar: You want to start, Hayden?
Hayden: I don’t know anything interesting. I’ve got a pet called Slinkey.
Oscar: That’s pretty cool.
Dom: I used to have a goldfish called Bubbles.
Oscar: My first dog was called Fluffy.
Who takes the longest to get ready in the morning?
Dom: Oscar! Easy.
Oscar: Yeah, guilty.
If you could live in one movie what would it be?
Hadyn: Inception. Haha.
What kind of pranks do you play on each other?
Oscar: Mostly just filming each other when the other person is not aware. I remember when we were fifteen we would all share a room together if we were staying over at one of our houses, and for some reason Dom would always want to sleep and complain ‚I need my sleep!‘. And we would be completely pissed and try to annoy him to keep him awake as long as possible, haha.
Name three items you can’t live without.
Oscar: A comb, my laptop and a nice pair of headphones to listen to music.
How would you describe your ideal party?
Oscar: Lots of good vibes, lot of nibbles, and probably Spice Girls playing all night long. Or Lionel Ritchie’s ‚All Night Long' playing all night long.
Which Spice Girl would you each be?
Oscar: Probably posh Spice.
Ally: I wouldn’t mind being Mel B. Is she scary Spice?
Oscar: I could be the blonde one, baby Spice.
Dom: Hayden can be Mel B.
Hadyn: Ally can be sporty Spice.
What’s your best festival memory?
Oscar: I saw Die Antwoord at Reading Festiva, that was incredible. That was my best festival memory.
Dom: I remember the first Reading Festival was amazing.
How do you see yourself in 10 years time?
Oscar: Hopefully still alive and functioning. Twenty albums in, haha. Just happy I would say. As long as I’m happy, then that’s good.
What’s coming up next for Sundara Karma?
Oscar: We’re starting Headline Tour, and then we’re working on our album, which is coming out next year around April. That’s our main focus point at the moment, to get this album to a place where we’re really happy with it.
Will it be different compared to what you've done so far?
Oscar: It’s going to be more focused around Loveblood sonically. It’s a good reference point. I think when we released that track it felt really good and the response was great, and it had the sort of vibe people seemed to connect with. We really like playing it. We want to try and make a classic rock’n’roll album. We will definitively come back to the more quirkier and more electronic songs at some point, but for now I think we want to start with a more organic foundation, and later we will add in crazy shit.
Tell me about the video shoot you had.
Oscar: We shot our first music video in Berlin with this director called Eastern West. He was crazy, and really good. The shoot started at 9 in the morning and went until 4am the next morning. So it was a long shoot, and I had to swim in this freezing cold river. I thought I would die, haha. You’ve got to sacrifice yourself for the art, man.
Find out more about Sundara Karma here.
3.1 PHILLIP LIM
GIVENCHY at MR.PORTER
MARC JACOBS at MR. PORTER
MARGARET HOWELL at MR. PORTER
MINT VINTAGE ARCHIVE
RAG & BONE at MR. PORTER
Interview by Dasha Kova.
Words by Sophie Mayanne.