Lads eating chicken sandwiches. Impromptu socially distanced park gigs, with fans sitting under a canopy of trees. Atmospheric performances in the twinkling dusk of twilight, with punters dancing in the dark. It can only be the rollicking scenes of the “Car Boot” tour video diaries from North London wunderkinds KAWALA – which saw fans phone a secret number in each town to see where they are playing. In uncertain times, music adapts and is triumphant.
Centred around the core duo of singer Jim Higson and guitarist/singer Daniel McCarthy, the outfit have been making waves since they came on the scene – characterised by finger-plucking acoustic guitar, rich dreamy melodies, and melting harmonies.
With their sun-soaked new track “Ticket To Ride” out now, we caught up with KAWALA on acclimatising to lockdown, their car boot tours and new music…
Hey guys, how has lockdown been treating you? What’s one thing you’ve learned from it?
Hey! It’s certainly been an experience that’s for sure! Hurt losing so many shows but learnt how much Jim and myself rely on each other for writing.
How did you guys meet? And what do you each bring to KAWALA?
We both grew up together in Camden and were opposite sides of the same friendship group. At every party we’d talk about jamming together until it finally happened, and now here we are! I think I’m the slightly manic control freak, while Jim is the calm and collected one. It’s an incredibly necessary balance.
And how has North London influenced you sonically – who did you grow up listening to?
I think we were super lucky to grow up where we did. Camden is so chaotic but has such a rich musical history. It was impossible not to feel a little inspired by our surroundings. I think we both grew up listening to our parents’ vinyl collections. Led to us listening to such an eclectic array of genres that have definitely helped us define what we make ourselves.
So cool that you guys were Mahogany’s first signing – how did that moment feel?
Being signed to Mahogany was so special! They gave us our first break doing a session with them, and when they got in contact to sign us for a couple of EPs, it was overwhelming. It helps that they’ve become such close friends too. Felt like a real family moment.
How has your sound developed and progressed when you added to the band?
Ah the sound development since adding the band has been beautifully natural. It helps that we’re all such close pals. I think we were getting a little bored of playing acoustic Sunday events in churches, which we did love! But we just felt there was a ceiling to that. We always looked at gig line ups and wondered how we could find ourselves at the top of a bill. And adding a big live energy to our songs has really brought them to life.
The Car Boot Tour is such an interesting way to interact with your fans – what made you want to add an extra layer to your performances?
The concept really came from how much we desperately missed gigging. It seemed there was no concrete return date for shows to go ahead, so we decided to take matters into our own hands! We know our songs work acoustically as that’s how they started. So we thought, let’s get everyone to sit socially distantly in the park while we get back on the road and play to them.
Congratulations on your latest single “Ticket To Ride” – what was it inspired by?
Thank you! It’s a strange one as the concept for the song was really about things that have become so much more relevant after being in lockdown. Just the sense of dreamlike escapism from normal life. And after being locked indoors for months, it feels more relevant than ever!
How do you want your music to make fans feel?
We get told a lot that our music feels pretty hopeful. We often write about more sad situations but then discuss how there’s reason to be hopeful and how things can change/move forward. But in all honesty, it people want to take whatever they want from our music, then we’re just happy they’re listening!
What are you excited for next? What’s next for you in 2020?
Obviously things are up in the air with gigging but as it stands we still have our big old UK tour in November which we’re buzzing for. We’re also doing our first proper residential getaway recording sesh with one of the best producers in the game. Very excited about that!