9 June 2023
British psych rockers IT’S KARMA IT’S COOL released their third longplayer titled,
THRIFT STORE TROUBADOURS last week. Following their 2020 debut Woke Up In Hollywood and Homesick For Our Future Destinations (2021) they come up with another colourful and varied psych pop opus.
They know how to construct, what many artists/bands can’t or just ignore, sticky
tunes and infectious melodies. Always welcome on my ears’ stereo. Their combination
of electric-powered jingly jangly guitars, lively vocals/harmonies, inspiring stories and their greatly layered and orchestrated musicality makes this new LP a must-hear one. I’m sure you’ll join The Karma Army afterward.
Enough said. I’ll let frontman Jim Styring do the talking now. But as usual,
we start an interview with a slice of music. Here’s one of the album’s
highlights Old Bones.
Did you have a game plan for the writing/recording
of THRIFT STORE TROUBADOURS, Jim?
“Not really, we just wanted to write a bunch of strong songs and put them out.
We always try not to repeat ourselves, so as our previous album ‘Homesick For
Our Future Destinations’ was kind of a concept album, we wanted these songs to
be able to stand on their own.
I guess if there is any recurring theme with ‘Thrift Store Troubadours’ it’s believing
in yourself and knowing you’re going to get through whatever life throws at you.
Sometimes themes jump out at me once the songs are finished, I don’t always
see it at the time.”
Was the whole band involved in the writing/production?
“The whole band is always involved in the writing process. Martyn or Mikey
will send over guitar ideas, I’ll write my words and melodies to the ones that
grab me. We take them into the rehearsal room and work on the arrangements
Martyn produces all our records, so he always has
a clear vision of how he wants the songs to sound.
What’s the story behind the album’s title?
“It’s a comment on how everyone seems to be struggling at the moment, either
with money, or should I say without it, or just life in general. Every time you turn
the TV on or read the news, things seem to be getting worse.
But we’re all in it together, and we’ll all get through it together.
We always have and we always will. People Power. As long as we
have each other, we’ll be ok.”
Are all songs connected in some way, or
are they each standing on their own?
“Like I mentioned, we wanted the 12 songs to be able to stand on their own,
each a potential single, each telling its own story. People don’t listen to albums
as they used to, a beginning, middle and end, songs are listened to at random,
out of context, so they have to be self-contained and able to survive on their own.”
Who designed the LP’s artwork. Does it express
something specific related to the record?
“A talented designer I know, Sophie Adams, did the artwork for us, I think she did
a great job. We wanted something that looked like you’d found it in the thrift store,
or a charity shop.
An old, dog-eared album that you’d just discovered on the shelf. The coffee cup stain on the cover is a deliberate reference to our song ‘Coffee Cup Circles’ from our ‘Homesick For Our Future Destinations‘ album, for those who spotted it.”
60s psych pop harmonies are a big part of the band’s sound.
Any influences from giants such as The Beatles and Beach Boys
or other bands?
“I can’t deny there’s probably some Beatles influence in there, but a lot of it is just experimenting in the studio. We just bounce ideas around and try different things,
until the song sounds as we want it. Quite often it’s knowing when to stop layering
them up, you could literally go on forever.
But yes, there’s some 60’s psych pop influences in there, for sure.”
The cool and catchy lead-single A GENTLE REMINDER
already came out last summer. What‘s the song about?
“It’s a IKIC ten-point plan to live a happier and more contented life. It’s a list of instructions to follow if you want to find your own personal salvation. It also mentions an XTC track, ‘Making Plans For Nigel‘ so perhaps it’s not too serious and just a catchy pop song after all.
It features Peter Holsapple on keyboards, adding a real alternative/punk rock vibe.
Which one/ones are your favourite track(s), Jim?
“Great question, but it changes every time I listen to the record. We put as much time and effort into each song, so it would be unfair to pick out just one. At the time of writing this, I’m really enjoying ‘How Be You Be Blue?‘ but it’ll be something different tomorrow. ‘Jenni, We’re All Fighting Wars‘ is another favourite.”
Was there any particular music/artists you were listening
to for inspiration during the creative process?
“Not consciously, we always try and do our own thing, but I guess a band is the sum
of its influences. We all listen to different things, and bring all that to the IKIC sound, whatever that is. We kind of like the fact that we’re hard to label, we don’t fall easy into
any particular category. But you always know it’s us when you hear it.”
Which movie would be ideal to have the new album as its soundtrack?
“Another great question! I don’t know a movie as such, but the closing track,
‘City Kids’ is pretty cinematic, so maybe they could write a movie around that?
Having said that, if Spielberg wants to use the album for any upcoming projects,
please give us a call.”
Peter Holsapple, the main-songwriter of 70s jangly guitar pop legends The dB’s plays on three tracks. How did you get in touch and what made the collaboration happen?
“I’ve been a fan of Peter‘s for a long time, it really was just a case of asking him.
I sent him some of our songs and he said he’d like to be involved. It was as
simple as that, really. He brought the three songs to life, ‘A Gentle Reminder,’
‘Winter Coats’ and ‘City Kids’.
To have someone on our record who played on REM’s huge album ‘Out Of Time‘ is
a dream for me. And the doors are always open to work with him again in the future.”
Are you touring the album? If so, which big name would
you go on the road with, if you had the chance to pick one?
“We’re currently working out some live dates, we’re mixing it up, some full electric,
some stripped down acoustic. We like to keep things interesting for our followers,
recently christened ‘The Karma Army’ and ourselves.
Most of the songs lend themselves to the acoustic treatment, and it’s always fun to do something a little different. Regarding a big name to go on the road with….we’re open to offers and can be packed, ready to roll as soon as the invite comes in!”
One more for the road…
Thank you very much, Jim, for this interview.
May the road rise with ‘It’s Karma It’s Cool’.
‘Thrift Store Troubadours’
Jim – Vocals / Backing Vocals
Martyn – Guitar / Backing Vocals / Additional Instrumentation
Mikey – Bass
Danny – Drums
Peter Holsapple – Mandolin on ‘ Winter Coats’
– Keyboards on ‘ A Gentle Reminder’ and ‘City Kids’
Gabby Porter – Additional Backing Vocals on ‘Winter Coats’
Recorded, Produced, Mixed & Mastered by Martyn
@ Playing Aloud Studios, Lincoln UK.