“This is definitely the proudest I’ve ever been of our music”- An Interview with KAWALA

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Only moments before KAWALA’s first gig in Southampton, I caught up with Jim Higson and Daniel McCarthy to discuss their tour experience, the new single, as well as an upcoming EP.

So how is tour going so far?

Jim: Good, really good!

Daniel: I’m knackered though. It’s funny, we were all really ill at the start.

Jim: This man right here, Daniel McCarthy, was so ill when we first got into the van on day one, and we were like, we know what’s about to happen…

Daniel: I tried my best to keep myself isolated, but we’re in a small van most of the time.

Jim: There was no escape.

Daniel: So it just worked its way around the group. I was fine by gig two or three and everyone else was so bad!

Didn’t you play a Freshers’ gig in Falmouth?

Jim: Yeah! So maybe we caught freshers flu!

Daniel: Yeah! But the tour has still been really good. The shows have been awesome.

Jim: Despite everyone being ill, we’ve pulled it out of the bag. However it has gone really quickly though, the build up to the tour seemed like ages, and now we’re all of a sudden on day 7.

Daniel: You know what’s actually really helped though – we’ve stopped off at home a couple of times, just because of the route, so the stop offs  kind of break it up a bit, so it’s felt like three leagues, rather than one big one.

Jim: So we’ve cheated really.

You played Camden Assembly quite a few times, it that close to where you’re from?

Daniel: I literally live at the end of the road! I think that what’s really weird on this tour, is that we’re going through this period of having gigged London pretty hard over the years, whilst there are some places we’ve never been to before.

Jim: Yeah, like we’ve never been to Southampton before.

Daniel: So with some of the gigs that we’ve done on this tour, even in bigger places like Liverpool, where we’ve never really been, the venues have been around 100/200 capacity rooms, but then we have London gigs which are like 900 capacity rooms, so it’s a bit of a weird mix, but we do get to experience them all.

Do you have a preference of playing larger or smaller venues?

Jim: I personally am a fan of the small shows.

Daniel: 250/300 capacity rooms are the perfect size venue I think – it’s big enough that we don’t feel too cramped.

Jim: I like the 100 capacity ones too though – they can get really rowdy and it’s really intimate, so it’s nice because you can actually see everybody’s faces, and despite them being small, I’m still amazed that we can play these small shows.

Daniel: We’ve never been here before, so the fact that there’s anyone even coming tonight is kind of mad, obviously it’s a really nice feeling.

So how do these small shows compare to being on the main stage at Reading Festival?

Daniel: What a scale up that was. It was such a weird one, I mean we actually got a bit of stick about that online, because no one knew who we were, so people were questioning if we had paid our way up. But like, I would’ve paid my way up, if I had the money, but I don’t, I’m a musician!

Did you manage to see any other artists whilst you were there?

Daniel: We didn’t really because we had to go straight off to Leeds! Because we were early both days, we didn’t really get the chance to relax into it at all, so it was difficult to stick around. Also it was so overwhelming, I felt like such an old bloke, walking through reading and seeing who was on after us and there was just a sea of young people.

So the new single, what kind of message are you trying to promote?

Jim: Well it’s a sad song, obviously. It’s kind of about mental health and how the smallest things can be difficult – like getting out of bed in the morning. But despite its sad tone, the lyrics are still quite hopeful in a way, cause we didn’t want it to be a depressing song, but more of an encouraging song.

Daniel: Yeah, it’s not a ‘give up’ song. It’s more from a perspective of trying and keeping at it. With our music, we’ve never wanted to be pigeon holders, with people thinking, ‘oh yeah that’s that band that play high-life music’, or ‘that band are just an indie band’, because there’s so much of that at the moment.

Jim: It’s important for us to have a range, so we like to have these juxtapositions, with the upbeat happy songs, to the acoustic two-piece sad songs.

What about other songs that haven’t made it onto the EPs, like ‘Animals’, will you be releasing any studio versions or are they staying hidden?

Jim: No not at all, we still play all of the songs we’ve ever written pretty much.

Daniel: We’ve actually got another EP coming out. ‘Heavy in the morning’ is the first of the four songs. We’re gonna be playing the EP tonight.

Jim: Minus one.

Daniel: Oh yeah, that poor song, but everyone kept whinging about our set being too long. We’re too self indulgent, we wanna play like 45 songs, and have the set 3 and a half hours long.

When is that EP gonna be released?

Jim: We’re gonna release the tracks individually.

Daniel: Yeah, have them staggered. We don’t want them to be all out in one go.

Why is that?

Jim: Each song is a little bit different from the others, so we want to give each song its space.

Daniel: Also, this is definitely the proudest I’ve ever been of our music. It feels like that with each EP we’ve done, we’ve really progressed in terms of our own happiness with them. With the first EP, we didn’t really know what we wanted at the time, but the songs did better than we could’ve ever imagined; the love and response was insane. Then with the second one, we wanted to protest how clean it was by going as live as possible.

Jim: One track was recorded completely live, with minimal production, and that really worked, so now the third EP is going to be a combination of those two different approaches to recording music.

Daniel: We’re working with the most incredible producer, Charlie Andrews, who produced all of the Alt J albums, so we already know we’re in safe hands. So to have someone who, I think Jim called our sixth member, has brought it all to life, is so exciting for us.

Is there a reason that you prefer EPs rather than albums?

Jim: I don’t think that anyone wants an album from us yet, its just not the right time.

Daniel: I just think that EPs are nice little mini albums that allow people to experience who we are, and had we put an album out, I feel like in today’s musical society, people’s attention spans are so short. Like I’m a massive music fan obviously, but it would have to be an artist that I really, really liked to sit down and listen to an album cover to cover.

Jim: Also, there is an element of us that are still developing, we’ve only just found the producer and the sound that we’re completely enjoying and are proud of, so when we’re writing songs every time we write one they get better and better, so we’re still developing ourselves. I think we’ll know when the time is right for an album.

Where did the idea for the ‘Runaway’ music video come from?

Jim: So my older brother came up with the concept and directed it. We had no idea what to do and found that nothing was quite right, so my brother was like, “Just come and meet me, I’ve got some ideas, we’ll sit down and talk”.

Daniel: And he’s nuts.

Jim: So we sat in a room and he explained, “Right I’m thinking, you guys, dressed up as spacemen, on another planet, saving an alien man from an evil queen” and that was it, that was the pitch.

Daniel: There was probably a minute of silence, and we all just turned to each other and were like, “This is the one”. I think music videos project personality well, and as we don’t take ourselves very seriously, we just have a laugh.

Jim: I think you can tell that from the music video.

How long did it take to film?

Jim: It was just a day’s filming.

Daniel: Well a day and a half, cause we did the spaceship scene the next day; in our mates living room actually.

Jim: Ben, our drummer, had been in Thailand the day before, so had just come back from a really nice, hot, sunny beach, to a freezing cold quarry in Ipswich.

Daniel: Dressed as a spaceman within 24 hours.

Jim: But he did have an incredible tan so…

Daniel: Yeah he did look good. But whilst we’re not exactly natural in front of a camera, working with his brother and having such an amazing team of friends around, including our mate in a monster costume, just made everyone really comfortable. But because we were taking the piss and not trying to do something Westlife style, like “Ooh I’m looking out the window”, (no offence to Westlife), it just meant we could be more natural and have a laugh.

Tickets for the rest of KAWALA’s tour can be purchased here.

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Psychology student who spends all of their maintenance loan on gig tickets:)

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