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A Short Conversation With Jim Styring and Peter Holsapple About Recent It's Karma It's Cool Activities

25 May 2022

A lot has been happening in the It’s Karma It’s Cool camp of late. Gigs at The iconic Cavern Club, new tunes about to be launched upon the unsuspecting public and they even got to work with Peter Holsapple whose musical resume includes the likes of, The dB’s. R.E.M., Hootie & The Blowfish, to name but three. It seemed the perfect time to sit down with Jim and Peter and find out a bit more about what’s been happening.

Hi Jim, can we start with a bit of background on the wonderfully named It’s Karma It’s Cool – how did the band come together and what musical paths got everyone to that point?

Jim: I’d been in a previous band with our bass player, Mikey (Barraclough) and we’d become good friends and decided to write a bunch of new songs together. We had no plans at that point, other than working on a few ideas and seeing where they would take us. We brought Martyn Bewick (guitars) and Danny Krash (drums) in to help out in the studio but gelled so well together that we became a full band very soon after. The initial ideas quickly became finished songs, with everyone’s input, and the whole thing came to life. We’ve been very lucky.

And we can’t pass by the splendid name without asking for an explanation?

Jim: It’s Karma It’s Cool, because it is, right? What goes around, comes around. Everything you do comes back to you sooner or later. Good and bad. It doesn’t forget. It bites you on your ass.

How would you describe your sound and what influences, musical or otherwise go into its DNA?

Jim: It’s always hard describing your own sound. I guess we’re a guitar-driven, melodic alternative/indie rock band, that doesn’t necessarily fit any category; we take influence from many sounds and styles, but it’ll always come back to the melody and how it connects with people. I think folks can get too hung up on what category a band fits into, are they this?, are they that?, the important thing, the music, can get lost in the debate. We’ve never been interested in labels, good music is good music, regardless of which shelf it sits on in the music store. We leave it to other people to decide. As long as they’re listening and it resonates with them, we don’t mind what they want to call us.

You have just played the iconic Cavern Club as part of the International Pop Overthrow Festival, how did you get onto that bill and what is the festival all about?

Jim: Yes, we just had a great time in Liverpool. The International Pop Overthrow (IPO) is a music festival that travels around America, stopping off in the UK for a week, every year. It brings together some of the best unsigned (and signed) bands from around the world to showcase on the famous Cavern Club stage. I’d played previous years with different bands, and It’s Karma It’s Cool was lucky enough to be invited this year. David Bash and his wife, Rina, work incredibly hard to make it all happen and run so smoothly. And the people of Liverpool are very passionate about their music and their city and are a brilliant audience to play for.

You have just been recording some new tracks with It’s Karma It’s Cool, what can we expect from this latest creative flurry?

Jim: We’re in the recording studio as we speak! There’ll be six brand new songs, ‘digital only’ singles, that will be released individually over the coming months. We believe they’re some of the strongest songs we’ve written as a band, and we have a very special guest; an ‘honorary 5th member’ of It’s Karma It’s Cool, joining us for three of the new songs. We’re over the moon to have Peter (Holsapple) on board for these songs, he’s brought a little magic to the tracks. There’s some big guitar kind of things, some Beatles pop kind of things, some folky mandolin kind of things. We’re very excited for folks to hear them.

So, here is where we bring in Peter Holsapple who features on three of the tracks. Can you tell us a bit about your musical journey and how you came to be on the latest IKIC recordings?

Peter: I’ve been a recording and performing musician since I was about 14 years old, back before the Gregorian calendar was established. Short history would be that I made a record in 1972 with Mitch Easter and Chris Stamey, two guys whose careers I’ve been adjunct to; joined the first punk band in Winston-Salem NC (Little Diesel); moved to NYC in 1978 to audition on keyboards for The dB’s, whom I joined, wrote for, and performed with until 1987; became a touring associate of R.E.M. on the Green World Tour, and subsequently performed on their Out of Time album (including acoustic rhythm guitar on “Losing My Religion”); joined Los Angeles band Continental Drifters (whose ranks included Vicki Peterson from the Bangles, Mark Walton from the Dream Syndicate and my future ex-wife and pal Susan Cowsill from the Cowsills); served as musical additive to Hootie & the Blowfish for over 25 years of touring and recording; did three albums with Chris Stamey, my dB’s writing partner; released a couple of solo records (Out of My Way in 1993 and Game Day in 2018); have flown under the public’s radar and scrutiny successfully for nearly fifty years. So when I got the email from James from IKIC about doing some online overdubs on their new work, I saw another fleeting opportunity to jump back into the public spotlight, this time with a fabulously talented band from England.

How was the recording process? Was it in person or via a more remote procedure?

Peter: By dint of having the Atlantic Ocean as a physical barrier to doing sessions with the band, I did all my IKIC overdubs from the comfort of my home recording studio, The Hit Shed, here in Durham NC. And as I told the band, it’s easy to be creative when the material is so good.

Throwing the conversation a bit wider, where do you think we are musically these post-covid days? Has normality returned and what was it like for each of you trying to be creative and make music during the lockdown?

Peter: For me, the lockdown was pretty ideal, honestly. As much as I like live performing, I really love the ability to shut myself off from the world at large and concentrate in my little studio. I was able to do a lot of sessions for people all over the globe this way, something that physical proximity would probably prohibit just on an economic basis.

I’m also a songwriter (did I mention that?), and the isolation gave me plenty of time and space to shake the muse’s leg a few more times without her deserting me. So I got a few more songs written and recorded, albeit to no fixed plans of releasing anything presently.

Jim: It’s certainly been trying times for everyone, not just the music world. I hope we’ve now turned a corner and things can slowly get back to normal. Venues are opening again; bands are getting out and playing. We’ve just supported Liverpool Britpop legends, Space, in our home city of Lincoln, so all the signs are positive for some kind of return to normality. It’s sometimes hard to remember what that was.

And what did that period teach you both as creatives and on a more personal level?

Peter: I discovered that, if I was to be isolated from my otherwise regular daily routine as an interactive citizen of Earth, my family were the ideal people to be quarantined with. We got along famously, had plenty of laughs, stayed out of each other’s ways, and generally stayed safe and sound.

As a songwriter, I had what appeared to be All The Time In The World available to write and record. I was able to really hunker down and figure out some of the Pro Tools technology that had evaded me in all the years I’d had that platform; many times, PT had served as a limitless field recorder, and that was about it. But being able to work in virtual instrument tracks (extremely helpful for the IKIC songs) and experiment with microphone placement and outboard effects was very satisfying. I think I became a better recordist during the pandemic, and I’m happy about that.

Jim: We decided to focus on writing, if we couldn’t get out on the road, we’d write a new record. Our latest album, Homesick For Our Future Destinations was largely written during the lockdown, and I think it reflects some of that feeling that was going around. It’s hard to write a happy ‘up’ record when the world is in the middle of a global pandemic. I do think it’s a record of hope, though, there is a light at the end of the tunnel, and dark days don’t last forever. Several of the brand-new songs we’re recording are definitely more celebratory; we made it, we got through together and with each other. We don’t really write stereotypical anthems as such, but some of these songs are anthemic in their own way. We’ve all learned to smile again.

Finally, where next for the band in general and Jim and Peter specifically, both short and long term?

Peter: I will avail myself of any/every opportunity to get to work with It’s Karma It’s Cool whenever they need me. In the meantime, while I’m sitting by the laptop waiting for those calls to come in, I’ll be heading out on my first house concert tour (Peter Holsapple Makes Himself at Home) next week, first date is June 2 in Richmond VA; the tour heads up into the northeast and out to Cleveland and Columbus OH, then back to NC. And if it works out, and I sell some tickets, and the people are happy with what they hear, hopefully, I can do more of that sort of thing. I’m 66 years old and the idea of starting a new band at this juncture seems like more than I’d care to take on, so solo shows are kind of ideal: people come to hear me play my songs, and I don’t become some sort of obstacle between them and the bar/the headline act.

Jim: We’ll be finishing the recording of the new songs, releasing and promoting them, getting out there, and playing live shows again. We may even play a handful of intimate acoustic shows, and strip the songs back a little. I guess we then start writing for the next full-length album; we have some song ideas ready to work on already, and we never seem short of inspiration. And please don’t forget to look out for announcements regarding release dates for the new ‘digital-only singles’ very soon, stay tuned!

Thank you for taking the time to chat with me, very fun and informative. Best of luck with the new release and everything else you get up to. Take care until our paths meet again.