Sundara Karma: “Sometimes, you gotta give the people what they want”

SUNDARA KARMA are a band constantly on the move, but with their new single, ‘Friends of Mine’, they’re reacquainting themselves with their roots. Read our latest Dork Playlist cover feature now.

Words: Stephen Ackroyd.

The indie-rock landscape is always fertile ground for up-and-comers – new bands here, emerging scenes there – but as the machine eats up and churns out fresh blood, only a handful carve out a distinctive space to stick around and make a lasting impact. One band that has undeniably managed to do so is Sundara Karma. After yet another creative swerve, they’re back, reintroducing themselves with the rip-roaring new single, ‘Friends of Mine’.

For now, though, frontman Oscar Pollock is looking forward to spending the day in the park with a good book, far removed from the hustle and bustle of the tour life that’s doubtlessly around the corner. The band, he explains, have been on a bit of a rollercoaster since their ‘Oblivion!’ EP, released in 2022. They’ve been finding their footing amidst the challenges life throws their way, slowly but surely.

That footing feels pretty sure with ‘Friends of Mine’. A confident, bombastic banger, it’s no wallflower.

“I wanted to test the waters and see if I still had the knack for writing a decent indie tune,” Oscar says, “and I think I still can. I’ve shied away from that sound lately, but it feels like the right thing to do at this point.”

A track that’s an ode to friendship, it carries a fresh sound reminiscent of what the band was doing on their first album, ‘Youth Is Only Ever Fun in Retrospect’. That record fizzed with excitement, lighting up a scene and propelling the band to a triumphant show at London’s Brixton Academy as a crowning glory. After that point, they flew off in new directions, attempting wilder, more creative swerves. Never anything less than brilliant, that initial blast is still cherished by many – for good reason, too.

“It’s an attempt to immortalise the ephemeral ‘good times’ I’ll never get back,” Oscar offers. “I think it’s a song that our fans will resonate with. We’ve been exploring some different sounds recently, and we’ve had to do some convincing along the way. But sometimes, you gotta give the people what they want, especially when it’s what made them fall in love with your music in the first place.”

It’s clear that ‘Friends of Mine’ signals a return to the band’s roots, taking fans back to the days of their debut. Oscar explains, “As I learn more about myself as a songwriter, I have a clearer view on what certain projects should sound like, and I think maybe I’m only just appreciating what Sundara Karma does best.”

When it comes to finding creative inspiration, Oscar’s approach is one of laid-back spontaneity. “I’ve also not really been seeking out inspiration in a conscious way recently; I’m more going with the flow, seeing where life takes me, and trying to not get in the way of things,” he shares, though he admits he’s been “revisiting a lot of the music I grew up with.”

“We’ve been exploring some different sounds recently”

Oscar Pollock

While ‘Friends of Mine’ does have a certain nostalgic tinge to it, Oscar is pretty plain that he thinks the indie scene could be a bit more inventive with itself. “Honestly, I wish I could say it has evolved,” he considers, “but not really. It’s one of the things that saddens me most about the genre. It’s very backwards-facing in terms of its references and aesthetic. I would still like to see a larger space created for underrepresented communities. I would like to see artists be more distinctive and brave with their output. It really feels like peak saturation right now! I don’t want to come across as a cynical person, though. I’m only saying this because I know we could all be doing so much better.”

Despite the concerns, the band’s future seems bright. Their new music is practically begging to be played live – there’s news on that coming soon, apparently – and album three is basically done (“I’d say we’re about 99.8% there”).

It’s not been an easy road – Oscar admits to “battling with depression”, something that he’s been dealing with since his early 20s. “There was a brief moment just before the pandemic when things felt really great,” he admits. “I was in a wonderful relationship, and life felt almost dream-like, but somehow the self-sabotage streak in me didn’t let all that last long at all. The thing with depression is that it eats away at your confidence and corrodes your self-image to the point where you either don’t recognise yourself or you hate yourself because what you end up seeing in the mirror feels too brutally true.”

Hold that mirror up to Sundara Karma, though, and you’ll find one of the most inventive acts of recent years reflected. In doubling back to where they started, they’re certainly not just treading old ground. That rollercoaster may loop around, but it’s anything but a flat and boring ride. ■

Sundara Karma’s new single ‘Friends of Mine’ is outnow. Follow Dork Playlist on Spotify here.