Karkosa: An Interview With lead singer Michael
By Maya Kubisa
Interviewed: Thursday 11th June 2019
Image credit to: Karkosa
I discovered Karkosa when they were the support act at the BBC introducing showcase at the Castle and Falcon in Birmingham. I sat down with lead singer Michael at the Sunflower Lounge in Birmingham for an interview. We chatted about song writing, overcoming your fears and how he learnt to love singing again. Michael really opened about overcoming his fear of singing in public, how that affected him and how he managed to overcome that. I think without saying it directly, his experience with that shows how important it is to go to places like BOA (Birmingham Ormiston Academy). It a pleasure to interview him and find out more about Karkosa.
How did Karkosa begin?
Karkosa officially started back in 2013, we’d both been learning guitar and drums as a duo act. My dad asked us if we wanted to start a band. My brother and I asked a few friends we went to school with. Our first gig was at a primary school and now we’ve done a few O2 Academy’s. It started from nothing and we never expected the band to be where it is now. We’re still learning and developing though.
How was it being part of the BBC Intro West Midlands, do you hope it’ll lead onto bigger things?
The BBC Intro gig was a turning point for us, it was the first time we performed a Birmingham gig and felt like we got a good response from it. Lots of times we’ve performed gigs and never felt like we got a huge response. With the gig a couple weeks ago, we got such a good response from and gained a following from it. It’s really nice to see new people love our music, hopefully soon we can headline here at the sunflower Lounge.
Have you always been into music from a young age or is it something you picked up later?
I think I started playing the guitar at about 7 years old. My dad wanted me to get into a hobby, I tried a lot of things like sports and hated everything. I did dance at one point. It was my guitar teacher that really pushed me and encouraged me to get more into music and improve my guitar playing. She said I could write songs about things I liked, so we wrote a song about Mario called “Yoshi Blues”. Definitely the worse song I ever wrote but it got me invested.
I went to BOA college in Birmingham and being surrounded by other musicians really helped me grow as a musician myself. Being there inspired me to get better at song writing, try out different genres.
Was there any music that you listened to when you were younger that made you pick up the guitar?
At a young age I just listened to what my dad listened to and that was bands like Kasabian, Artic Monkeys. I had it in my head that Kasabian was my favourite band. I didn’t really start getting into music heavily until I was a lot older, my friends at college got me into Catfish and the bottle men. I wanted to write music like that!
Who would you say is the main songwriter in the band? Do you all write together?
Usually it starts with just me, With Sheffield I had written the entire song. I usually go in with my ideas and we all build on them together. When I wrote Sheffield, I wanted it to be like Catfish and the bottle men meats Lynyrd Skynyrd. Every time I say that story everyone is like I don’t hear that, but I guess that’s a good thing. The song is its own thing. I think being in a band you have to take in everyone else’s ideas too, it’s crucial to the overall creative process. Will and Tom are heavily into like heavy rock and metal, Tom is a fan of bands like rival suns and Black Sabeth, he wants to bring some of that into Karkosa. It’s important to have a collaboration of idea.
Have you always wanted to be in a band?
I’ve always liked the idea of being in a band, When I was younger I liked music and film, those were the two things I loved. As I got older, I realised that I could express myself through my own music and was a cool thing for me. I do it through music.
Have you always been a singer?
When we first started the band, no one wanted to be the singer. Then everyone was like Micheal is the best out of all of us and I really didn’t enjoy it. I hated singing at first, I was at school at the time and it wasn’t considered cool for boys to sing. People used to laugh at me when I sung and that knocked my confidence massively, I kind of vowed never to sing again. It wasn’t until I got to BOA and was surrounded by loads of guys that sung and were really good that I was like actually I wanna get better. Once I treated it like an instrument, I started to really enjoy it. I learnt that male vocalist where varied and that’s when I learnt to love my voice again.
Your newest single “Aurora” is quite different from the rest of your songs, was that a conscious decision or did that happen naturally?
That’s Karkosa really, we have lots of different taste in genre. We don’t want to be in one boat. When we released Mango Tree, people thought we were a typical indie/rock band and said we sounded like Circle Waves and Catfish and The Bottle Men. Although I like that comparison, we like the kind of synth rock sound. Sheffield is a lot heavier, when I say heavier, I mean like more of a rock sound. Maybe one day Karkosa will release a full-on slipknot track. For us we don’t want our band to be in a box, we want to explore different sounds. I couldn’t be writing songs like Mango Tree for the rest of my life, I wanna challenge people.
You have quite the fanbase in South Korea, how did that happen?
Our Korean fanbase came about by a sort of social media following, we were trying to gain an audience. We had a fan of the Amazons follow us, she said ah you guys are awesome I’m going to tell my friends about you. Next minute my phone’s blowing up and like we were getting hundreds of Korean followers. It was a good accident!
What’s your dream venue?
I kind of look at the smaller goals, there was a venue in South Korea we knew of called the Rolling Call. It was the venue the Amazons played at and we knew we had the following to fill that room. We went there back in February this year, stepping onto the stage was cool.
In my wildest dreams Wembley.
Where do you see Karkosa going in the future?
I would love to see Karkosa, as much as we’ve done a lot in South Korea, I’d love to build that same fanbase in the UK.