KarmaTax is an alternative indie/rock band that you need to watch out for. They recently released their first EP at the end of February. The band mates that make up KarmaTax are vocalist/guitarist Umar Ganai, bassist Chris Melfi and drummer Michael Melfi. All based in the the nice town of Hayes, Kent. KarmaTax has been on my radar for a while now, they have a unique sound which you can’t help but jam out to. Read their interview below to dive into their world.
Nikki Lamboura: Describe the sound of your new EP
KarmaTax: Simple, ambient, guitar driven and a little bit dark! All 4 of these songs transition between echoey spaciousness and tight grooves. We’re a three-piece band so we have to be really resourceful and creative about what we play and where we play it! Bright Jingly guitars on top of a tight rhythm section seems to work well for us at the moment (kinda like The Smiths). We’ve also taken some creative liberties in the studio and started to experiment with piano and synths just to add that subtle modern touch! We used Radiohead’s song “Weird Fishes” as a reference for our title track ‘Zero’ and kind of went from there; agreeing that we wanted a sound that would be engaging through headphones, whilst playable live.
Nikki Lamboura: What genre would you classify your music to be?
KarmaTax: There will always be an underlying rock influence in our music, but typically we would say indie/alternative rock, with the ambience of shoegaze, and the hooks of pop.
Nikki Lamboura: Which song is your favourite on your new EP?
KarmaTax: Our producer Tony Sage has done a tremendous job on all of them, but I would have to say track 3, ‘Cyclone’. It’s the hardest to play live (especially vocally) because sonically it’s so open and exposed, but through recording it we’ve come up with a great arrangement. It’s a dynamic, emotionally driven piece, in which all of us were able to shine.
Nikki Lamboura: What/who are your music inspirations?
KarmaTax: Jeff Buckley is probably my biggest songwriting inspiration, I love his band’s compositions in ‘Grace’ and vocally he was ridiculously good. Guitar wise I will always reference Johnny Marr from The Smiths and Andy Summers from The Police, both amazing guitarists in amazing three-piece bands. Collectively we’re all into Foals at the moment, as they’ve found a great modern sound whilst still being mostly guitar driven.
Nikki Lamboura: How did you meet your band mates?
KarmaTax: Me and Chris have known each other for nearly 15 years now; we met in our first year of secondary school! I met his brother Michael shortly after that when our parents came to pick us from school one time, but he doesn’t remember because he was a very young, hyper-active child who was climbing up a fence as I recall. Anyway having graduated with a music degree in 2018, I was looking to start a band. I knew Chris had a tonne of musical experience from playing in church so I messaged him asking if he fancied jamming. He mentioned that his brother had become a really good drummer so I was reintroduced to the (nearly) adult version of Michael. We played a short original song called Enemy at our first rehearsal and it sounded great!
Nikki Lamboura: What is your creative process like?
KarmaTax: It’s mostly a case of me bringing an idea (anything from a riff to a fully written song) and the Melfi’s picking it up and giving the right energy. We’ll play around with it; take out parts, write new ones, shorten, lengthen, until we have something we’re happy with, we usually have a complete song after one rehearsal. The songs are lyrically very personal, and together we are musically driven by our influences whilst steering away from the clichés. Authenticity is always the goal.
Nikki Lamboura: What is your dream venue to play in?
KarmaTax: Any venue is my dream gig right now! At this stage I would love to play a venue with a 100+ capacity to a crowd who know and love our songs, that would mean the world. Somewhere like The Underworld Camden would be perfect!
Nikki Lamboura: How have you been coping with lockdown?
KarmaTax: It’s had us all down at some point, inevitably. However, we’re very proud of what we managed to do in 2020; in April, during the peak of corona virus we remotely recorded, mixed and released our first single ‘Unapologetic’ onto Spotify with help from no one but ourselves. When we were allowed to meet again in the summer, we started to record our EP ‘Zero’ and record our first proper music video for ‘Paradise is Mine’. So lockdown 3 isn’t as bad as it could have been because we didn’t take one day for granted when we were free, hence, world domination starts when Covid has sodded off.
Nikki Lamboura: What message do you want to convey to your fans through your music?
KarmaTax: All of the songs we have released so have been about mental health in some way or another. Our EP ‘Zero’, in particular, is about the extremely difficult transition (in my experience) between adolescence and adulthood. Topics like isolation, learning how to deal with sadness and regret from the past, taking responsibility for your happiness, doing things that scare you, addressing bad habits you have and celebrating small victories. There’s a song about heartbreak in there too but we’ve already said we avoid clichés so don’t tell anyone! That’s just me personally, but the take away message is that you’re far more capable than you think you are, and it’s within you to achieve big things, even if it doesn’t feel like it yet.
Nikki Lamboura: If you could choose any band/artitst to open for, who would it be?
KarmaTax: A band I follow very closely is Everything Everything, I think we would compliment them well as an opening act. Foals are a powerhouse of a band too, so we’d love to support them. All in good time though.