Sundara Karma talk CineJam, film obsessions, and playing Brixton Academy

Reading band played NME's film + music festival this week (July 12)

It’s been a whirlwind few months for Sundara Karma. After years as hotly-tipped Reading newcomers, they finally released their debut album – the gloomily-titled ‘Youth is Only Ever Fun in Retrospect’ – back in January. Combining stadium-worthy scale with a glammed-up aesthetic, they gave the impression of a band destined for bigger things. Since then, they’ve played Glastonbury, conquered SXSW and toured with Two Door Cinema Club. And just recently, they announced a headline tour including their biggest show to date, at London’s Brixton Academy.

Before they become permanent arena fixtures, the band stopped by at the second night (July 12) of our summer-long festival – NME and BFI’s CineJam supported by Zig-Zag. Hosted by the Rooftop Film Club on the top floor of Peckham’s illustrious Bussey Building, the unique event has been curated by Bastille – with the band hand-picking both the live acts and the classic films on show.

Backstage at CineJam, NME spoke to Sundara Karma about their first work, future plans and their love of film.

Sundara Karma play CineJam 2017

You released your debut at the start of the year. Since then, has 2017 panned out exactly how you thought it would?

Oscar: “I mean, it’s hard to plan this kind of stuff. You put out an album, you don’t really think too much about what or where it’s gonna take you. I just think the main focus was getting it out and trying to play as many shows as we can, and that’s what we’ve been doing. It’s been nice to have like festival opportunities as well, like playing Glastonbury – and we have Reading coming up. Those are all things we hoped would happen and it’s nice that it did.”

It was a long build towards the debut. From your point of view, was it worth the wait?

Oscar: “Yeah I think so. Earlier on, there were a lot of magazines and blogs that weren’t so sure about us. Radio, too. But it’s been the organic growth from our shows that’s really pushed us over the line for people to be like ‘Oh, okay yeah, we like this.’”

So many bands get rushed to releasing a record before they’re quite ready. Did you feel 100% prepared when you released your first work?

Oscar: “No, the record we put out wasn’t even the record we wanted to put out originally! We recently put out the updated version of the album which is where we wanted to go with it from the start, but we couldn’t convince enough people. When you’re 21, I don’t know how ready you can be. For us it was quite soon, and for a 21 year old it’s difficult enough knowing what you are and who you wanna b,  let alone having to frame it within the context of a brand or package.

You’re playing Brixton Academy in October – how much of a big deal is that?

Oscar: “I’ve never been to Brixton! But to have that amount of people come and see us is mental.”

Have you been writing any new material since the start of the year?

Oscar: “I mean it doesn’t stop too much when we’re not on the road or even when there’s a little bit of time, we’ll be writing.”

Sundara Karma hanging out backstage at CineJam (July 12)

You’re playing CineJam before they are The Big Lebowski. If you were approached to write a film soundtrack, would you jump at the opportunity?

Oscar: “If it was like a Disney film, that would be sick. The Tarzan soundtrack and Lion King soundtrack were the first bodies of work I got into! I had them on cassette when I was really young. I was obsessed!

Is there any dream director that you would like to work with?

Oscar: “Nicolas Winding Refn. He directed Bronson and he did Drive and The Neon Demon – all really good.”

What kind of films do you watch on tour? Do you have any repeated viewings?

Haydn: “It’s pretty shit. We watch films that are easy to watch, rom-coms, that sort of stuff.”

Oscar: “We watched The Matrix recently. That’s such a good film. When it came out it must’ve blown people’s minds. On tour, you need comfort – rom-coms are always really good for that. Anything with Adam Sandler.

If you were going to create your own CineJam line-up, which band and which film would you combine?

Haydn: “All of Twin Peaks, soundtracked by the band Twin Peaks.”

NME and BFI present: CineJam supported by Zig-Zag is hosted at the Rooftop Film Club, Bussey Building, Peckham. The big screen event runs until August 30, 2017 – find more information here.