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Sundara Karma on the depression and desire behind explosive new single 'Kill Me' and its Hannah Diamond-directed video

Philip Ibonye

Oct. 01, 2020

Sundara Karma have released new single ‘Kill Me’, their first new material since 2018’s second album ‘Ulfilas’ Alphabet’ .
The first taster of a new EP coming later this year, ‘Kill Me’ is produced by Clarence Clarity, known for working with Charli XCX and Rina Sawayama . Its colourful video is directed by PC Music artist Hannah Diamond , who has become the band’s creative director for their bold new look.
Singer Oscar Pollock tells NME of the dark year which inspired ‘Kill Me’ and how he’s emerged from his troubled times more determined than ever.
Hi Oscar. ‘Kill Me’ is an uplifting-sounding anthem, but there’s a lot of self-doubt in the lyrics. What inspired the track?
“It’s the most autobiographical song I’ve written. It summarises a lot of feelings I went through in the last year. I actually wrote it incredibly quickly. On the day I was handing in our new EP, I wrote ‘Kill Me’ in the morning. It came straight out of me.”
What had you been going through before you wrote ‘Kill Me’?
“I got to a point where I felt lost within myself. I wasn’t really too sure where things were going and I was very close to going away for a year. It was very much an existential crisis which, fortunately, seems to have resolved. I’m definitely inclined to feeling depressive and, basically, depression. That runs in my family.”
‘Am I depressed?‘ – Help and advice on mental health and what to do next
What would you have done if you’d taken a year out?
“I don’t know, and I’m glad I’ve got good people around me who helped me see it through. The guys in the band are super-supportive, and my parents are able to speak sense into me when I’ve needed that. I talked to my mum about a lot of the feelings I’ve had, about wanting to take time out for myself. She burst into tears, as she wasn’t able to get through to me. It was a very poignant moment, a breakthrough in establishing what I wanted to do.”
It feels like a statement of intent that you’ve put those sentiments into a euphoric rocker, rather than an introspective ballad…
“That wasn’t pre-meditated, as the lyrics just fell out of me. But it’s nice to channel those experiences into a song like that. What I see as the most beautiful things in art are when people take suffering and turn it into something others can find solace in. It’s always a good feeling when I can do that.”
Did you have any doubts at putting such honesty about your emotions out there?
“I don’t tend to think about that side too much. It’s only when other people start hearing our songs for the first time that it suddenly becomes a reality. If I sat there pondering how others might react, I might start to filter my songs.”
How typical is ‘Kill Me’ of the rest of the new EP coming later this year?
“‘Kill Me’ is probably the most guitar-driven track. The rest of it is vaster and less emo. I was saying over a year ago that I was ready to move on from ‘Ulfilas’ Alphabet’, and I had a bunch of songs kicking around. But, if I don’t get given a deadline, I’ll just let songs rot on a hard drive.”
How did Hannah Diamond come to direct the hyperreal video for ‘Kill Me’?
“I reached out to Hannah, and we started having conversations about how our music could be represented. She’s helped bring a complete visual world to our music. That’s going to carry on over our next releases and get more streamlined, but I love what we’ve done already. Working with Hannah is so exciting.”
What was it like working with new producer Clarence Clarity?
“All of it was done during lockdown, so we’ve only had one phone call. The rest has been done over emails, so it’s been very virtual. It’s the best we’ve sounded as a band.”
‘Kill Me’ sees Sundara Karma back fully on Chess Club Records, where the band started, after your albums were with Sony. How do you view life on a major?
“ Being on Chess Club is wonderful. We’re in control of our whole team and constantly having conversations with everyone at every level of the label. Psychologically, when you’re part of an organisation as big as Sony, everything felt more out of reach. There were so many different people we met just once or twice throughout an album campaign. There’s not enough personal connection or investment. I should say that’s just our experience: I’m sure it’s not the same for every artist. It’s also partly down to age. I’m 24 now and I know the mistakes I don’t want to repeat. Plus, having been through so much last year, I’ve a new sense of gratitude and excitement in what I do.”
As you approach your quarter-century, how has it felt to grow older with your bandmates, having known them since you were at school together?
“We’ve had to grow up in front of an audience, which isn’t necessarily the easiest thing to do. We were 17 when our first single came out. Who knows who they are at that age? Only time will tell what fulfils you in the long run. But we’ve learned from each release, even if that’s been done while people have been looking in. We haven’t been able to change the band’s name or make the scrappy album that never gets released, like most bands do when they’re growing as songwriters. But we’ve supported each other through and through, and we’re incredibly lucky to have that dynamic. We still spend as much time together as we can. Even in lockdown, we’ve been able to go to see the seaside for our guitarist Ally’s birthday.”
How has lockdown been for the band when you’re not at the seaside?
“It was quite difficult initially, but it’s got easier. I’ve managed to stay creative and focused. I’m a reclusive person, a bit of a hermit, so not much has changed day-to-day for me. I’ve been preparing for lockdown since birth. The biggest difficulty is the psychology of being told you have to stay inside. That’s one of the few things that makes me want to go out.”
How frustrating is it that you can’t play an anthem like ‘Kill Me’ to a crowd?
“It’s a shocker. We so badly want to play these songs and see people’s reactions. More support from the government is needed and there needs to be more recognition for the value the creative industry brings. It’s scary times. But I’m also excited to see what comes from this, both how the industry and us creators adapt. I think it could change how people consume live music, and for accessibility to live events. It’s amazing, seeing the different ideas people have from not being able to play live.”
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