Band of the Day: Karab

I first met heavy/progressive metal band Karab at Heat 7 of Metal 2 The Masses London back in January 2017, and though they had great stage-presence and a brilliant sound. Fast-forward almost 18 months and I finally got to see the band play live again earlier this month and felt they were worthy of being featured as our Band of the Day, so here we go:

Simple things first – where are you guys from?

Jack: Short answer, South West London. Though we’re spreading out a little bit these days.

How did you meet?

Rob: Joseph and I have been playing in bands together for years, which is where the blueprint for Karab was created.

Jack: I met Joseph through work, we inadvertently chased each other around bike shops for a while, and eventually ended up working in the same place at the same time. A shared a love of Deftones, started discussions of me getting involved with his musical projects with Rob and we kind of went from there.

Rob: Finding a great bassist was a bit more of a task, but eventually we came across Luke via an advert we’d put up somewhere. Turns out he’s amazing. We can say that because he isn’t here.

How long have you been playing as a band?

Rob: I guess the songs we’ve been working on for Karab have been around for maybe 4 years, but things took a while, and our first EP Growth was released at the start of 2017.

Jack: To be honest, I have to take most of the blame for that. It was a very different writing process for me, so there was a bit of a learning curve. Our first gig was in January 2017, so I guess we can call that the public birthday.

Before you get sick of being asked… where does the band name come from?

Rob: Originally we were Karaboudjan, which is the name of the ship used to smuggle opium in a Tin Tin novel.

Jack: This ended up being shortened to Karab, and we later found out that it means ‘to cry’ in Arabic, and ‘angst’ in Urdu, which felt pretty appropriate.

What are your influences?

Jack: Exclusively pre-2000 Korn. Not really – it’s a pretty broad range, though the more psychedelic side of modern metal is pretty upfront. We’re really into bands like Karnivool, Deftones, and anything James Maynard Keenan has touched.

Rob: There are heaps of bands coming through right now that are super influential to be honest, it is a really potent time for heavy music. Conjurer and Black Peaks come to mind in particular.

Jack: There are definitely a few curveballs in there too. My background is much more within alt rock and post-hardcore than the others, so writing wise I tend to pull in influences from that world. Life Of Agony, Manchester Orchestra, Alexisonfire. That sort of thing.

Describe your music. What makes you unique?

Jack: Not that I think it makes us unique necessarily, but we work pretty hard at stepping back from our songs and working out which bits are really important and which parts don’t pull their weight.

Rob: We pay a lot of attention to dynamics. Basically to make sure that every super heavy bit has maximum impact! But while we like to write big riffs and give it all plenty of weight, we try to make sure the hooks are there too. The melting pot of influences within the band definitely give things a unique flavour too.

Do you have any particular lyrical themes?

Jack: Our first EP was based on the concept of a life cycle, but pretty broadly. For example the first track “Infancy” was about the feeling of a generation pushing out the one that came before it, and that older generation resisting the change. The theme of each track was more just a springboard to get things started.

Since then there hasn’t been anything thematic going on that I know of, but I tend to use lyrics as a notepad. They’re a snapshot in time rather than a manifesto of beliefs or anything like that, but they’re always rooted in a genuine moment.

What’s your live show like? How many shows have you played?

Jack: Well we can’t afford pyro…

Rob: I think we all see the live show as an opportunity to enjoy the work we’ve put together. These songs take time and hard work, but once it’s done and we’re onstage, we can let go.

Jack: Yeah, I definitely agree with that. The writing also always has half an eye on live performance.

Rob: Big on dynamics, short on gaps between songs. We don’t let the momentum drop.

What’s the wildest thing you’ve seen or done at a live show?

Rob: We’ve shared stages with some pretty wild looking acts, there are plenty of mad costumes and so on around our scene. That’s the beauty of it though – the chaos.

Jack: Give me half a chance and I’ll inevitably wind up unplugging half the stage by accident. Getting out of that habit though.

What kit do you use / guitars do you play / etc.?

Rob: I’ve always loved Strats, so I’ve got a couple of those I use on record. Live, I’ve started using an ESP MH series which felt instantly familiar but also really reliable and heavy sounding. Joseph and I use Victory, Diezel and Peavey amps depending on our mood.

Jack: They also both use an array of pedals with crazy names and too many flashing lights. There’s this brilliant internal tug of war over how many sounds is too many, and how much stage any given person can take up on their own.

What, if anything, are you plugging/promoting at the moment?

Jack: We’ve just released our latest single “Revenant”. It’s a great little pop number about that feeling where someone will do anything for a short-term gain, no matter how damaging, and the only way to fix it is to bundle them into the boot of a car and blood eagle them in the woods. And if that’s not enough to sell it to you, it also has a cool video.

What are your plans for the rest of 2018?

Rob: We’re going back into the studio shortly, lots of new songs in the pipeline.

Jack: Really looking forward to the Prog Metal Madness all-dayer on 11 August, but also itching to get some of these new songs out into the open. We’re starting to really hit out stride now, it feels like, so every track is a step up and we’re desperate to see everything through as fast as possible.

If you were second on a three-band bill, which band would you love to be supporting and which band would you choose to open for you?

Rob: Tricky one – we’d be very keen to share a stage with Black Peaks.

Jack: I think my top choice headliners would be Mastodon or Parkway Drive. Or a Poison The Well reunion! With Cane Hill to kick things off at the start.

From previous Band of the Day Spylights: What do you do to stay inspired and creative during rough times?

Rob:I find the rough times usually breed very erratic and intense creative periods, when there’s a lot of emotional fuel bubbling away but I can’t always use it.

Jack: If I’m having a difficult time creatively, I try to read and draw more. It’s easy to get stressed out with mundane everyday stuff and end up with no time to kind of let your imagination go again. Taking long train journeys is good too.

From Hey Charlie: What would be your dream venue to play?

Jack: I think mine is maybe the Roundhouse, because the sound is always really good. Or Hammersmith Odeon (now called Eventim Apollo) because I went to my first show there.

Rob: Headlining somewhere like Brixton Academy is the dream really, but it would be great to play a headline show at The Black Heart. Always a massive vibe in there.

Header image by Katie Frost Photography

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