London duo KAWALA have had a major impact on Sync’s own playlists with their first two singles, both of which are major earworms. Latest single Do It Like You Do, appeared last month as the follow up to debut single Small Death. It is a slinky, summery jam that features hushed vocals that could easily belong to Wild Beasts or Glass Animals, and brings together touchs of afrobeat, indie-pop and plenty more besides.
Jim Higson (vocals) and Daniel McCarthy (guitar), met at Leeds College Of Music but are now based in their native Kentish Town, London. Their live band enlists the help of friends Ben Batten (drums), Dan Lee (guitar), and Reeve Coulson (bass).
Since we’ve already been mesmerised by their music, we thought it was about time we caught up with Jim and Daniel to find out more about the hotly-tipped band…
Photo: Aron Klein
SYNC: Please tell us a bit of the background to KAWALA; who you are, how did things get started, and what exciting things have happened so far?
KAWALA: We’d say KAWALA first came about while the two of us were studying up in Leeds. We knew each other from home but had no idea we both did music. We sat down one day and started throwing ideas about and something clicked straight away!
We found our break on Mahogany sessions which was huge for us as a band who were completely unknown. Off the back of the response to that, we thought we’d give this everything, so we dropped out of uni and ventured back to London to pursue it full time. We’ve just spent the last couple of years defining and expanding our sound, and we finally released our first track and the end of last year, which was incredibly exciting.
KAWALA – Do It Like You Do
SYNC: How does the band’s songwriting process work? Does one of you typically take the lead or is it a more collaborative process?
KAWALA: The normal process for writing starts with Daniel writing a finger-style inspired guitar part in various annoyingly varying guitar tunings. Then the two of us get together and start shaping a melody and harmonies over the progression. Last always come the lyrics, which we create (arguably stupidly) out of noises we make when shaping the melody. A slightly unorthodox approach to songwriting, but it seems to be working okay so far!
SYNC: It sounds like there is a wide range of influences at the heart of your music. How would you describe your sound and where you come from musically?
KAWALA: We absolutely love the fact that most people find it really difficult to define what genre we belong to! Early songwriting inspiration was definitely bands like Bombay Bicycle Club and Half Moon Run. Our sound has hugely developed from expanding to a full band sound with almost afrobeat elements from the drums and electric guitar, and classic indie style strong rhythmic bass. But we maintain a focus on the core close harmonies and busy acoustic.
KAWALA – Kept In The Dark (Mahogany Session)
SYNC: Your live shows in London so far have attracted plenty of attention, selling out in each case. How important is the live performance side of making music to you?
KAWALA: Live shows are absolutely everything to us! And we still can’t believe these shows are selling out. We work super hard on our shows, from getting the songs as tight as possible, to creating a real full spectacle. Our shows are definitely the best way to experience our music!
SYNC: Which artists do you count among the most important in your musical development – and which new/emerging acts should Sync readers be sitting up and taking notice of?
KAWALA: 100% artists like John Martyn, Crosby Stills Nash & Young, Bombay, Half Moon Run, Fleet Foxes, the Staves, Simon & Garfunkel (we could go on…). In terms of new artists, you absolutely have to have to check out George Ogilvie, a band called Island and Aaron Taylor.
SYNC: Finally, what are the plans for the near future? Any new material or live dates on the way?
KAWALA: Lots of exciting plans! We’re off around the country in May playing all the city take-over festivals and then a fair few live dates being announced for the summer. Most excitingly, we’ve got new songs coming out incredibly soon!
KAWALA – Small Death