INTERVIEW: Karras | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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You may not know Karass yet, but you’ll know their pedigree. A duo of Lukas Wooller of Maximo Park and Matt Swinnerton, formerly of The Rakes, Karass finds them exploring ideas and sounds distinct from their day-jobs, blending motifs from kosmische, French house and ambient electronica into a selection of melodic, grooving tracks. Ahead of the release of their debut album Municipal Dances, Wooller explained the genesis of the project and its inspirations.

we both have a similar aesthetic, which is quite poppy and melodic, but we approach it from different places.

“We first met back in 2004: Maximo Park was doing one of its first London gigs, and the promoter had booked a support band called The Rakes, who Matt played guitar for. As bands we hit it off immediately, both musically and as people, and as the next few months and years unfurled we crossed paths a number of times and we always enjoyed spending time with them,” Wooller tells me. “But then I didn’t see Matt again until we bumped into each other watching a show in Brixton in early 2015. We started talking about music and Matt mentioned he was doing a few writing sessions. I’d built up lots of tracks over the years that I wanted to do something with and I’d been looking to collaborate with someone so we decided we’d get together for a couple of days and see how it went. Matt and I work well together, because we both have a similar aesthetic, which is quite poppy and melodic, but we approach it from different places.”

Municipal Dances blends serious influences and a dedication to sonic craft with a sense of spontaneity and a whimsical humour. Discussing the track Master Reset, Wooller explains: “It somehow reminded us of music from computer games when we were kids, like Sonic or Outrun, with its eighties soul groove feel, but flattened out into something more metronomic. Matt started playing with some new chords, and we’d been listening to Daft Punk, Vitalic and Justice who often have musical sections of constantly changing chords against a solid four-four dance beat, and we wanted to get that feel.”

The duo found their name through their shared love of Kurt Vonnegut, with Wooller noting, “We’d discussed the idea of doing an album based on literary characters, and I came across this word, karass, which is used to describe a collection of people that you are linked to in a ‘cosmic manner when other superficial links are not evident’. I think we all have people in our lives that seem to crop up from time to time, and that we feel somehow drawn to, but because of geography or lifestyle or whatever, drift out of lives again, only to re-appear at another point in our life. Karass is the word Vonnegut used to describe a group of acquaintances like that – “so-and-so is in my karass”. It resonated because of the way Matt and I become friends again after a number of years.”

Although the duo may now be geographically divided, with Swinnerton having recently moved to Hamburg, they’re keen to keep the project going, initially with upcoming live performances that include a show with Six Organs of Admittance at The Cluny on Wednesday 14th June. “We’re working on it at the moment – it’ll be a four piece band, drums, bass, guitar and synths. We’re going to mess about with the tracks a little, especially the more groove based ones, and play them out and work on the dynamics more. Hopefully we’ll get a few hips shaking by the end of the set!”

Municipal Dances is released on Trestle Records on Friday 9th June. Karass play The Cluny supporting Six Organs of Admittance on Wednesday 14th June.

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