Sirius XM Presents Alt Nation's Advanced Placement Tour
888, Coast Modern, Sundara Karma
2477 18th St. NW
Washington, DC, 20009
Doors 7:00 PM
This event is all ages
Resting confidently within layers of synthesizers and demonstrative drums, the Critical Mistakes EP, debut release from Denver, Colorado based 888, rests a poignant and reoccurring message- “Don’t give up.” Throughout the course of the infectious Alternative-Electro EP, road-tested frontman Danny Stillman repeatedly reaffirms the significance and impact of staying the course. Regardless of life’s accomplishments and catastrophes, the band, rounded out by (keyboardist) Aaron Rothe and (drummer) Danny Cooper, defiantly accentuate the importance of continuing on. Critical Mistakes EP opening track and lead single “Critical Mistakes” professes “Come wake me up before I die and never get to live,” before adding “let the tide wash away my critical mistakes”. Unwilling to rest easy, 888 is pushing forward and reaching for more.
That tenacity bleeds through the entirety of their self produced EP. Combining the enlightenment that complements growing into our own skin, The Critical Mistakes EP explores the drive to succeed and change in relationships that accompany this era of life.“Young and In Love” explores temporary infatuation and limitless possibility before life-altering responsibilities settle in. Each track solidifies the band’s impetuous intentions to live in the moment and to experience each occasion wholeheartedly. Placed impeccably over an ambiance of optimistic and animated orchestration, a contrast of hope and reality are flawlessly achieved. The band has come of age as a collective who’ve together spent over a decade conquering numerous styles of music in several different bands. The blending experience with personal growth in both musical taste and talents has culminated into a spry and animated explosion of sound.
“Critical Mistakes” has quickly turned heads, spreading internationally and become a top pick for prominent playlists. The trio won KTCL’s 2015 “Hometown For The Holidays” competition in both fan voting and live performance categories, cementing their place in Denver’s burgeoning music scene and garnering the attention of radio stations all across the country. 888 are readied to manufacture beyond their previous success with Drop, Dead Gorgeous and Bleach Blonde, with The Critical Mistakes EP situated to make 2017 their most prevalent year to date.
Sometimes the only way to get ahead is to stop following the leader, and start running your own race. Coast Modern flies out of the pack with a refreshingly uninhibited sound for disenchanted dreamers everywhere. Building on an admiration for the spirit of misfit alternative bands and the fearless ethos of modern hip hop, the duo creates alternative pop with a wink that aims to push the genre into the future. Seattle-native Luke Atlas and LA-local Coleman Trapp met while working as Los Angeles-based songwriters, fellow rats in the race to land songs with mainstream pop artists. After more than two years of peddling some great, some terrible, and some very weird creations at the gates of the mainstream, they received little more than fleeting glances. Watching so many of their creations die on the operating table left the two burnt out and questioning their path. With just a backpack and a tape recorder, Coleman escaped his oversaturated hometown for the mountainous serenity of Denver, Colorado. What was meant to be a quick, head-clearing vacation soon turned into months as Coleman blended into the community, working at a used instrument store, and enjoying the simple pleasures of a “normal” life. Without the pressure of writing-on-demand, he began messing around on a borrowed acoustic guitar and recording tossed-off ditties on an old cassette recorder through the smallest hours of the night. The pure, child-like enjoyment of writing only for himself led Coleman to a realization: maybe he’d overlooked a path that was right in front of him the whole time.
Soon, warbly tape recordings began appearing in Luke’s inbox. “At first I didn’t think much of these songs because they were so different, but they kept randomly getting stuck in my head” says Luke, who further encouraged Coleman’s experiments. On a whim, Luke created a production around one of the acoustic demos and sent it back. Coleman was thrilled. “It felt like this could be something,” says Luke. “I told him to get his ass back to LA.”Returning with renewed vigor and a rusted-out car hood after a Mile-High winter, Coleman quickly sought out Luke. With their new musical experiments buzzing in their heads, the pair discussed creating a personal project based purely on the whims of their creative spark,
wherever that led them. “After we stopped shooting at an invisible moving target and had no agenda, that’s when the sound came,” explains Luke. And Coleman, who had not so much as even sung “Happy Birthday” until a few years prior, began finding the confidence to take frontman status, lending his vocals to the tracks that began to take form through a playful, stream-of-consciousness process.
One of the first songs they plucked from the ether together was “Hollow Life.” An anthem for
restless souls everywhere, the lyrics drip with the same frustration the duo once felt for their city,
while Coleman yearns for a simpler life away from it all. “Racing towards a dream on the horizon / Gimme something better than this Hollow Life,” he sings over plinking marimba mashed up with angular fuzzy bass and booming 808 kick drums.
“The song is about finding distance from what is hindering you, whether it be physical or mental distance,” explains Coleman. “But we’re no gurus. We’re just trying to let people know that we’re
here figuring this shit out too.”
Coast Modern followed “Hollow Life” with another addicting earworm called “Animals,” and then reggae-tinged single, ‘Guru’, a perfect jam for slow summer days. Their fourth single, ‘The Way It Was,’ celebrates the present moment with a groove fit for a tropical jungle cruise. While the world was busy re-blogging and pushing repeat, their tunes were creeping up the Hype Machine charts, with each of the four singles charting at #1 or #2, racking up a cool 12 million streams. Their eclectic sound caught the ears of a multitude of media, including Pigeons and Planes, Billboard, Vanity Fair, Entertainment Weekly, NYLON and Interview Magazine. Their songs began receiving spins on SiriusXM Alt Nation, KCRW, KEXP and Zane Lowe’s
show on Beats 1. After playing their first ever shows at SXSW in 2016, they were scooped up to tour with acts like BORNS, The Wombats, and The Temper Trap on nationwide tours. Behind the scenes, Luke and Coleman were busy knocking out a myriad of unreleased jams for their forthcoming LP - due for release in Spring 2017. The entire album was written, recorded
and produced by the duo in Luke’s living room, leading to an organic and distinctively Coast Modern sound. The songs travel all over the musical spectrum, from “Dive,” a bouncy tribute to nascent romance, to the psychedelic, weird and wild “Comb My Hair,” to the hip hop leaning
anthem 'Pockets.' Digging deeper, there's 'Wild Things' which encompasses a wistful meditation on the passage of time, and the slow-burning, fireplace crackling “Frost,” recorded at the dawn
of Coast Modern. Coast Modern have the rare capability of covering a large swath of musical territory, yet a strong, self-aware voice and a sense of groove tie them all together. With their destiny now grasped firmly in their own hands, Luke and Coleman are reveling in the freedom of their newfound artist status. At the will of their muses instead of the tidal flow of the pop world, the group can create the genuine, self-assured music that had been locked inside. Coast Modern is what happens when you let go of what you always thought you wanted and embrace the unexpected; when you stop chasing and start taking the lead.
Oscar Pollock looks through the headlines, joins all the dots, peers to the very core of modern society, politics and social media, and senses crazy hands on the controls. "It's like there's this weird creepy clown who's controlling everything and getting a real kick out of these bizarre things us humans are doing," he considers. “Like, 'oh my god,
look what I can make them do now!'"
Forget the box, art rock sensations Sundara Karma think outside the whole damn packing plant. Their songs are personal reactions to art, literature and culture -- Plato, Wilde, Bram Stoker, Manet, Buddha -- that tackle topics from online self-obsession to consumer capitalism, the smokescreen of the nuclear family and the lies at the heart of the teenage dream. Oscar, aged just twenty, is already emerging as the most captivating frontman of our times, plucking at the long, silvery thread of rock'n'roll androgyny that runs through Bowie, Bolan, Suede and My Chemical Romance while embracing high art, questioning The System, probing his darkest autobiographical depths and musing -- jokingly -- about the evil clowns controlling the Earth.
Add in a truckload of solid gold anthems that view classic noughties rock melodies through the modern indie prism of Arcade Fire and The Maccabees, and it's no wonder Sundara Karma are being hailed as the bright future of alt-rock, a reputation built on a clash of exotic and ordinary that's embedded deep in their roots. Oscar was originally born in Singapore and lived there until the age of seven, adoring the multi-cultural aspect of the place and recalling the joy of having his mother paint his nails for him. When his father moved the family to Bourne End near Maidenhead for work, Oscar discovered rock music, inspired to write his first song "as soon as I could string three chords together" at the age of eight, inspired by the sight of Jack Black knee-sliding around a classroom like AC/DC's pet rhino in School Of Rock.
At school he met drummer Haydn Evans and formed an "awful" band called Ricochet built around his obsession with Green Day's 'American Idiot.' It wasn't until his parents broke up and the fallout landed him in Reading, though, that Oscar stared into his own personal heart of darkness. "It's a beautiful void," he says. "When you die you're supposed to face a dazzling darkness and that's kind of what Reading is. It's a cultural void, but it means that you're forced to have some sort of reaction against it. It's given us that boredom to want to do something meaningful with our lives."
Sundara Karma, Sanskrit for "beautiful karma," was their yell into Berkshire's abyss. Meeting guitarist Ally Baty and bassist Dom Cordell at his new school, Oscar and Haydn formed the band aged 14 and began sneaking onto bills in "dodgy pubs with three people in the audience, mainly old, bearded, beer-bellied men who were more interested in the beer" from 16, often getting kicked out whenever the proprietors discovered they were underage.
Oscar's androgynous onstage persona turned heads too, an expression of the gender-fluid individuality he sees becoming more accepted by the year. "I've never really felt like I fitted in," he explains. "It's not a bad thing -- if you're gonna wear eyeliner obviously there are going to be people not doing the same. But in the world of music and the creative world it's really accepted to see these genre-crossing ideas, even to the point where quite commercial artists are cross-dressing. Our general level of acceptance has ridden that high that a man wearing a dress isn't that outrageous anymore, it isn't that shocking."
There was a level of pretence to his performance, though. "Getting onstage is such a fraudulent thing to do, and so unnatural, for someone to get up and pretend they're this confident showman. All our cavemen instincts tell us not to do that. So I quite like the idea of playing on that idea that it's showmanship, that it is entertainment. So it's not about 'this is me from the heart,' even though it is a moment where you can forget about all the shit in your life and be in the moment."
After bothering the bellied boozers of Reading for a year, Sundara Karma put a demo of one song called "Freshbloom" online in 2013 and, almost instantly, the world woke up. Blogs swarmed, the industry buzzed, Chess Club Records came calling. "There was a crazy amount of hype around one song," Oscar laughs. "We got swept away by it. We were seventeen, going 'fucking hell, look at this!' But that went really quickly, after we played our first London show at the Old Blue Last and totally ballsed it up. We played a song where there was no vocal melody organised for it or lyrics, it was just me ad libbing a whole vocal line. We shot ourselves in the foot a little bit, but luckily we've been able to pull it back."
And how. When Chess Club released their debut 'EP 1' in February 2015, streams for the vampiric Arcade Fire epic "Loveblood" hit a million ("I didn't think it was real, I thought it was probably my mum listening to it loads, but you can get used to shit so quickly, I think that's one of the tragedies of life"), they found themselves on tour with Wolf Alice and Swim Deep ("it was party central") and bagged a slot on the BBC Introducing Stage at Reading & Leeds. In November a follow-up 'EP II,' more commercial and less obsessed with loneliness and isolation than its predecessor,
capped a triumphant twelve-month rise in which they'd toured Europe in the same bus as Circa Waves, played a "daunting but fucking wicked" show at Alexandra Palace with The Wombats and saw the crowds turn rabid on their own headline tour.
"Suddenly there was this feral engagement from the crowd," Oscar says. "We're not a rock band, nor is our music that heavy, but the people who come to our shows seem to really let go like it's a fucking Rage Against The Machine concert."
Having recorded tracks for their EPs and debut album in a number of studios in London and Oxford, there was only one place a bunch of inventive, androgynous budding rock icons could go to finish it. Berlin. Over ten "Groundhog Days" they completed six songs there, with producer Larry Hibbitt (ex-Hundred Reasons) dragging them to heavy metal bars after every session. "It probably did have an influence on the record," Oscar says, "because it's not a heavy metal record..."
They came home clutching the first classic album of 2017. 'Youth Is Only Ever Fun In Retrospect' is an artful miasma of modernist indie rock, combining the fizzling gamma energy of TV On The Radio, Arcade Fire, Foals, The Maccabees and The Killers into one killer laser beam of anthemic pop power. But it's the album's thematic intricacies that will draw hordes of obsessive outsiders to Sundara Karma.
The title is adroitly self-explanatory; on its surface, this record details the tribulations of youth that age gradually glosses over. Besides a lingering sense of ill-fitting loneliness and classic tales of foiled romance, unrequited yearnings and dysfunctional relationships on "Loveblood" and the vivacious "Vivienne," the issues run deep. "A Young Understanding" tackles Oscar's struggles with identity, how he attempts to mould himself into whatever the person he's talking to wants him to be and how his interest in Buddhism and meditation helps him combat that "because it tells you that there is no self, there's no fundamental thing which we are, it changes every single second, especially in the quantum world." "Happy Family" is a semi-autobiographical gospel hoedown about the façade of fracturing family life, while "Be Nobody" challenges the expectation that everyone should be a star in their own online echo chamber -- "we're in the age of narcissism, obsessed with appearances, Facebook and putting pictures of your cats up online to get likes, or your dinner," Oscar considers. "It's about thinking into yourself and saying 'at the end of the day I'm gonna die and I'm nothing in this infinite universe.'"
'Youth...' looks outward too. The synth-rock shimmy "Flame" confronts consumer capitalism like some sort of Occupy Walmart protest. "We're told that happiness will come from buying more shit or that you're inadequate, from adverts, that you need to buy the new best thing in order to feel better," Oscar argues. "It's really fucked up and there's definitely some shady shit behind power. For me it's so obvious what's wrong with the world at the moment and what the solutions would be -- improving education for example, and taxing companies that have committed crimes. I don't understand why those things aren't happening. There must be some dodgy shit going on if these obvious things aren't being addressed."
The public myopia portrayed in "Flame" was inspired by Plato's Allegory Of The Caves, in which a prisoner is shackled in a cave facing a wall full of shadows from a fire behind him, believing the shadows to be reality. It's only when released from the cave that he sees the full sunlit picture of the world. "Ever since I heard that story I thought it was crazy, especially how old it is and how relevant it still is." The evocative, Coral-esque "Lose The Feeling" continues the story, imagining the released prisoner "progressing to a more spiritual existence, he's also making a physical journey through rivers and forests and valleys. It's about some sort of salvation."
Elsewhere, "Olympia" is Oscar's response to the titular Manet painting, "Loveblood" is his attempt to personalise the fate and mysticism of Oscar Wilde's Lord Arthur Savile's Crime and "The Night" emerged from his reading of Dracula at school. "I find I hard to go to a gallery or whatever and not walk away thinking 'fucking hell, that was a really cool piece, that's inspired me to do such-and-such,'" he says. "If I can't think of anything else I'll open a book and think 'that's a really inspiring line' and then draw from that."
Sundara Karma's diary for 2017 is rammed with US tours with Spring King, UK tours with Two Door Cinema Club (including a return to Ally Pally) and their own headline shows including their biggest London gig to date at Shepherd's Bush Empire but, like all the best restless intellects, Oscar is keen to keep exploring his billowing creativity. "I'd like to do a second album quickly, just to give people more of a picture of what we're about," he enthuses. "Even though this is our debut album I still don't feel it represents us to the fullest. The stuff I'm writing at the moment is really different and better. I'd like to be a bit bolder with the next record."
Already bold and beautiful, now watch Sundara Karma get big. Very big.