An Interview With…Sundara Karma

The sun was shining, we had just finished our exams, and Sundara Karma were playing the 6th night of their UK Loveblood tour in Glasgow – as you can imagine, everyone was in a pretty excellent mood. This interview was quite unlike any we’ve done before. As soon as we sat down with Oscar Pollock (lead) and Haydn Evans (guitar), an extremely insightful and interesting conversation opened up about feminism, gender roles and misogyny.
Frustratingly, half-way in we realised it would have been a good idea to record
what had been said. Despite this, Oscar and Haydn engaged in a conversation
which is often difficult to get band members to open up about – not only this,
but it was passionate and knowledgeable.

We firstly discussed the pressure women face, just because they’re women – namely the issue that women face of the constant fear of assault, whether it be at a gig or walking home alone. We discussed our own experiences as women, and how often we’ve had to supress them, without us even realising we’ve done so.

Oscar:
“It’s really fucked up. Anything you supress is gonna come out, somehow, and it’ll be really ugly. That’s why it’s good to talk about it..”

We then mentioned how worried we often feel for ourselves as women, and the women close to us in our lives, and how we receive a lack of respect when we try to speak about it.

Oscar:There shouldn’t be a worry though. We’re in the 21st century, it should not happen.”  

Haydn: That’s the worry for me, for my little sister. As a guy I don’t need to worry but as you say, it affects everyone.”

Oscar: “How do you police something like this? The person who’s assaulting must be under the impression that it’s okay to do – but where does that stem from?”

This idea of men feeling they have entitlement over women’s bodies, of course, comes from images that we’re shown e.g in advertising, where women are often shown as tables and being overly sexualised, and particularly in high fashion. Music, too, is an extremely beneficial tool for misogynists to place ideas into people’s minds – mostly, as it became apparent, mainstream music.

Oscar: “It’s kind of that whole gangster-rap then, and the misogyny that goes on, but that’s kind of what mainstream music is. I used to hate when I was 16 and we snuck into shit clubs in Reading like Lola Loh’s or Rev’s and it’s just the amount of awful, misogynistic lyrics that you almost grow accustomed to. It’s just so popular.” Of course, we all had one song in our minds – Blurred Lines.

We then asked if we think anything akin to that would ever come about in the indie scene, and if they’d ever come across any bands with misogynistic or laddish lyrics.

Oscar: “(Lad culture) was a craze, a kind of fad, that ‘lad indie’. Although I mean I guess it kind of still goes on.”

The conversation moved onto bands who obviously know that sexual assault occurs, and that the campaign exists, but yet choose not to be involved with us *not naming any names*. We ourselves emphasised that of course bands don’t have an absolute obligation to support us, but Oscar and Haydn wholeheartedly disagreed.

Haydn: “I don’t see why they wouldn’t wanna support it anyway.”

Oscar: “Fucking use your voice! For me, it’s my favourite part of music, I think – how it can affect lives in a really profound way.”

And then we moved onto the actual interview questions we had, rather than passionate feminist chit-chat.

What do you think of Glasgow?

Oscar:Love it.”

Haydn:It looks even better in the sun.”

Oscar: “Red wine in hand as well – decent!”

Judging by your music videos and style, you don’t really seem to feel pressurised to conform to traditional gender roles. Do you think music has let you feel like that, or have you always been like that?

Oscar: “Yeah, I think so. I’ve been wearing eyeliner and clothing that would be considered not normal for a long time, and that I guess stems from when we were emos!” *cue the moment of mutual bonding where Anna and Oscar fist-bump over their emo past*

Speaking of Glasgow, do you know where Four Corners is?!

Both:No?”

We then explained the pride of Glasgow – Four Corners, where the emos of our city hang out and visit the alternative club Cathouse.

Oscar: “We might have to go!”

Back to the original question…

Oscar: “So yeah, it came from that; My Chemical Romance were the gateway. And Robert Smith, the original goth.”

How much do you think that masculinity and conforming to that stereotype affects the way that bands in general present themselves?

Oscar: “I’ve been watching this thing that Grayson Perry’s doing at the moment called All Man – it’s on Channel 4 – he’s a wicked artist and he basically focused on cage fighting, the bankers and the police force and crime.”

Haydn: “And how these are like considered really masculine jobs, and you don’t get a lot of female stock broker bankers and stuff and he touched upon the pressure to be ‘manly’ affects individuals in their jobs.”

Oscar: “What he found was that there’s an incredible amount of insecurity amongst all of them and I think you can’t really tackle this subject just by saying ‘how do people in bands feel?’ because they’re just people doing their job. Just like most jobs, masculinity comes into play big time and I think is someone feels they can’t be sensitive or they can’t be effeminate and that they have to be stern or provide, I think that’s really gonna take its toll and luckily I’ve never felt that I’ve had to be that quintessential male figure. Maybe because of the acceptance of my parents; luckily I’ve been able to paint my nails and dress up in god-knows what. Maybe if you are looking at it from a band perspective, maybe that’s one of the good things about being in a band – it gives you that self-expression.

How much/often do you think other social issues are discussed in the music industry, e.g classism in the UK and racism?

Haydn: “I don’t know about other social issues – maybe politics are discussed a lot within band culture because that’s just how it is but I don’t know.”

Would you say that they need to be discussed more?

Oscar:Perhaps it should.”

There’s been discussion about bands being too apolitical, do you have any opinions on that?

Oscar: “It can almost become gimmicky, especially if you don’t really believe the stuff you’re saying. I think you should only talk about things if you really, really feel passionate about them.”

We mentioned that often, support bands may say something vaguely poltical to get the crowd to like them, for example ‘fuck the Tories!’.

Oscar:
“That’s so true. I’ve noticed that at loads of gigs. I guess it’s very easy to hop on bandwagons *pun intended*.”

Haydn:
“We’re especially big on politics. And ‘fuck the Tories’ is such an easy dig, isn’t it?”

Both:
“But yeah, fuck the Tories.”

As active participants in the music industry, how much do you think feminism and the industry’s treatment of women is discussed?

Oscar:
“I mean, just from looking at festival line-ups you can clearly see that it’s not a true reflection of what’s actually out there. I saw this interview with Nicki Minaj and it was about her saying if she acts authoritatively, she’s a bitch, and if a man does he’s a boss, he’s a player, and that’s so true! You hear people saying that all the time. I think you can always talk about (feminism) more. I don’t think we’ve even hit the surface yet. It’s kind of like global warming, how a lot of people talk about it (but nothing gets done) unless serious action is taken –
because it’s a fucking mindset thing, it’s a complete social conditioning. It
needs to be dealt with from the roots, they need to be taken out.”

We then mention just how huge an issue feminism is, and how Girls Against as a campaign isn’t in for the short run, it’s extremely long haul. As well as this, we discuss that even when we as a campaign are going to interview bands, we often aren’t taken seriously because we’re young and female  – we’re often simply considered groupies, even if we’re carrying equipment and are there with a purpose.

Oscar:
“That’s awful, I can imagine that feeling like shit. Like we’re saying, you have to look at the bigger picture, and their presumption of who you are comes from a whole load of social conditioning – what his TV is telling him, what his parents are telling him, the ‘right way of thinking’, which is obviously incorrect. That’s the beast that we all need to look at. Mainstream media, basically; as Jim Morrison says, whoever controls the media controls the mind, which is very true.”

Focusing more on the campaign, have you been aware of sexual assault occurring in crowds at gigs before Girls Against?

Oscar:
“Not before at all. My friends who are girls said they had experienced it at clubs, but never at a gig, which is crazy isn’t it, because there’s obviously loads of it going on.”

If you were to see it happen, would you speak to security? What do you think the band’s responsibility is?

Oscar:
“You have to stop it straight away. I think if you don’t, if you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem.”

Haydn:
“Especially if you have a chance to stop it. You can speak to the entire crowd. It’s doing the right thing, for yourself – not saying it’s selfish, but you’re doing the right thing for yourself to stop that, as a decent person. You’d naturally feel (like stopping it).”

Oscar:
“I mean, being a guy talking about feminism, I can never fully understand what it feels like for you girls. But I’m gonna do my fucking best, and we all are, to make sure that there is more equality, that’s what’s needed. Compassion, tolerance.”

We mentioned how society becomes much more tolerant of things the more exposed to it it is, for example women’s bodies in the media.

Oscar:
“But I’m a massive optimist, and I think we’re at a really important time, and there’s a lot of stuff being talked about that hasn’t been talked about in the past. There’s a lot of young people wanting to make the changes.”

Hann then mentions the lack of respect the received from adults when telling them about how she meets bands – namely them assuming she’s a groupie and spends all her time on Twitter – and how in actual fact, our generation is so much more socially aware and actively political then the past generations.

Referring to you guys, the new single Loveblood and video is great!

Oscar:
“(referring to video) We love it! It’s our favourite video that we’ve ever done; it’s like a step up. We just need to find something to follow it up now!”

What was the process like – direction, the concept, etc?

Oscar:
“So we got a few treatments sent in and Michael, who ended up directing it, his treatment was this two-page treatment – normally they’re about ten pages long – and it was just like ‘red’ on one page and we were like ‘yeah we’ve got the one!’ Less is very much more. It was also one of those things that came out exactly how we envisioned it in our heads and that’s quite a rare thing when it comes to art.”

It must feel quite special?

Oscar:
“That’s the perfect word for it – it’s that visual representation.”

What are your plans for the rest of 2016?

Oscar:
“An album. We should probably mention the album, Youth Is Only Ever Fun In Retrospect, we’ll plug that!”

After asking them what they were doing that night, we somehow got onto the discussion of cocktails…

What’s your favourite?

Hayden:
“Mine’s a mojitio…”

Oscar:
“Yeah a mojito. Or a Long Island ice tea!”

Excellent choices, boys. Catch Sundara Karma on their September UK tour here.