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An Interview with 'Kawala'

Throughout 2018, the North London based five-piece, Kawala has been spreading their joyous unique pop sound across the UK. Singles such as Do It Like You Do have kickstarted the band’s journey to their sold-out appearance at The Camden Assembly, I was eager to catch up with the boys before their set.

As a group that just recently moved to North London, I was curious to find out a bit more about being from Leeds and what that has meant for their pathway so far. “The time away from London meant we could play at venues and become a slightly bigger fish in a much smaller pond. It allows you some perspective,” Dan explained, “I don’t think we’d be where we are now if we hadn’t started in Leeds.” The group started out in Leeds as a duo comprised of Jim (vocals) and Dan (Guitar and vocals), but have since returned to London and bolstered their lineup with the addition of Ben Batten on Drums, Reeve on bass and Dan on guitar. I wondered when the band realised they wanted to upgrade to a full team. “As soon as we got Ben on drums, we realised we needed more,”Jim replied. “We got bored of basically just playing in churches,” Dan added, “we were playing a church a week or something, and none of us are Christian.” Whilst the duo of Jim and Dan's sharp vocal melodies and striking harmonies really set their music apart, the band provided such a slick performance bringing life to precise recordings with raw backing vocals from Dan complimenting and harmonising subtly with Jim’s.

Lead singer Jim’s vocals are a part of what makes Kawala’s sound unique. Although his vocals were softer at times, leaving room for Dan’s coarser tone, Jim’s presence and movement on stage as well as his delicate and decisive vocal performance was a real highlight of this gig.

Since the band has a largely acoustic-based sound, I wanted to know if the band’s decision to omit any accompanying tracking or samplers on stage was a deliberate one. Songwriter Dan thought about it for a moment: “For me, what I really like about what we’re doing is that we can make a full sound without people asking, ‘So, how much track are you guys using? How much stuff is plugged in there?’ We just plug in our instruments and go.” Drummer Ben Batten added, “a lot of bands rely on track way too much, we don’t want to rely on something that could get fucked up and then everyone’s like ‘wait this sounds so different.’”

The band’s live sound and their desire to keep largely acoustic and completely live is admirable, tracks do lend themselves to a certain level of homogeneity - I had hoped more variety in their set. The band’s most recent EP ‘D.I.L.Y.D’ has turned a lot of heads, helping them to secure slots at festivals such as Rise Festival and Dot to Dot earlier this year. I asked Dan about these bigger shows, and what had been the highlight for him so far, “Rise Festival I think. It was an alien experience - our first proper festival stage, 2,000 people - no one expected it.”

These type of shows are clearly something that Kawala can look forward to in the foreseeable future. Their tight, folky and emotive playing had the crowd gripped, building them up to massive choruses and back down to the delicate and acoustic sounds at the band’s core. The band’s next EP is set to be released early next year followed by extensive touring. Clearly, their summer is going to be particularly busy.

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