In Conversation with… KAWALA

It’s not often you see indie pop described as ‘interesting’ – but Kawala is a band to which it applies well. A vocal and strong acoustic core is amplified by afrobeat-infused drums, rhythmic bass and electric hooks, allowing for a beautifully layered listen.

And it seems the beauty has been spotted – as one of the UK’s most notable live music clubnights Hopscotch powered by Utilita, is presenting Kawala as part of a six-day tour across the UK this month.

As part of this, Kawala will be supported by two other rising indie groups – Apre and Sun Silva – as chosen by Jack Saunders from Radio 1 & MTV, with dates including Bristol, London and Manchester’s Night People on the 16th November.

It’s certainly been a journey for Kawala, who began out of a duo of Jim (vocals) and Dan (acoustic guitar, vocals) when they were studying in Leeds, locking down their love for acoustic music, atmospheric upbeat rhythms and stand-out harmonies.

Having achieved growing recognition on platforms including Mahogany sessions as an acoustic indie-folk act, the duo then moved to London, signed to Mahogany Records and expanded the band to include Ben (drums), Reeve (bass) and Dan Lee (electric guitar).

But just as the band has evolved, so has the sound – taking a distinctly more experimental approach recently – pulling in world music influences, bringing stronger basslines to the surface and spinning melodies at new rates of pace. Powerful and interesting indeed.

In turn, Bitter Sweet Symphonies decided to speak to KAWALA themselves to find out more…

Hello. What does it mean to you to be going on tour as Kawala?

Dan: Hey! Without sounding clichè, we feel like we’re living the dream. Being on the road with your pals playing to strangers who for some reason know who you are. So it means a lot!

How did it feel to be chosen by Jack Saunders (Radio 1, MTV) for the Hopscotch Tour?

Dan: It feels surreal but a complete honour for him to want us on his line-up. He’s a top guy and a genuine music fan so for him to show some belief in us was insane.

Can you tell us a little bit about some of your creative/musical inspirations?

Dan: The core influence comes from a lot of older folky harmonies and finger-style alternative tuning acoustic playing like that of John Martyn. We’ve always been inspired by the magical polyrhythmic writing of bands like Half Moon Run.

It’s been quite a journey – going from duo to now a full band. How did you use this step to evolve your sound and what was the biggest challenge?

Dan: It’s been such an exciting progression for us! I actually think the biggest challenge was just as to whether our acoustic sound would translate on a bigger scale… but it’s honestly transformed so naturally. Adding super rhythmic drums and bass and atmospheric electric lines has really taken our sound to a level we didn’t think it could reach.

Is there a particular impression you would like your music to make on people? How do you think it stands out?

Dan: I guess we’d love for people to walk away from a show having moments that make you want to dance, but also moments that make you sit back and listen to the close harmonies and songwriting we’ve thrown together. One of the things we want to challenge, is the idea that you can’t have a real boogie to an acoustic guitar.

Your more recent output has seen an even greater diversity of sound and experimentation enter in, yet still maintaining that strong acoustic and vocal core. Why this direction?

Dan: Firstly that means a lot that you hear that! We’re just trying our best not to sit in a single musical box with our writing. We love the idea of being able to do real stripped back folk-inspired stuff, all the way to the big highlife-esque stuff. Just to keep it interesting for our audience and us too!

The Hopscotch tour continues in Manchester at Night People on Friday 16th November, before heading to Sheffield (17th Nov) and London (23rd Nov) and culminating in Brighton on Saturday 24th November. Tickets are available here.

Find Kawala on Facebook and Twitter.

Emily Oldfield
Lover of music, poetry and Manchester.

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