Interview by Mark Lacey – Photo (C) Georgia Furness
Emerging new rock sensation, The Karma Effect, talk about their 2022 rise to prominence, new music, and connecting positively with fans through crowdfunding
Following the release of their impressive debut album in March 2022, The Karma Effect have been winning over fans the length and breadth of the UK through their high energy shows, and by bringing feel-good groove laden rock back to the fore. 2022 has been a rewarding year for the band, and there are plans for more music to come.
MGM talks to founding vocalist / guitarist, Henry Gottelier from the sleepy commuter village of Oxted at the foot of the Surrey Hills, and guitarist Robbie Blake, dialling in Basildon (or Bas Vegas, as he prefers it).
For someone who’s not heard of Karma Effect, describe what the music sounds like and what the influences are.
Henry: It’s got its roots based in bluesy rock. The big thing for us is we’re big fans of the funkier side of rock. I think there’s a lot of amazing bands out there doing amazing things, but we found that we were all drawn to that bluesy Aerosmith style with the swagger and then a little bit of a Southern influence. We love the Black Crowes, there’s a little bit of that in there as well, and BlackBerry Smoke. For us being two guitar nerds as well, we just love good riffs, and good melodies.
Robbie: A lot of that funky side comes through our drummer Ash, who gives us that groove. A lot of rock drummers just hold that solid beat, whereas we always try and get that swing to it or that swagger. Ash tells me his biggest influence is Chad Smith, which is not the sort of style you would put with our band. But having an influence like that is going to naturally bring that groove. We’re quite lucky to have a drummer like Ash, who has an active role in the song writing.
Henry: Yeah. That’s really cool. We do a lot of it together, but Ash; he’s a real vocal element. He plays a rhythmic instrument, he knows how it should sound, and he’s good at vocalising that, even though he doesn’t know what it is you have to do to make that sound on a guitar. In a weird way, it’s really helpful when someone’s like that, they’re looking at it from the outside in, rather than the inside out.
Henry: We played with Myke. He did an acoustic thing at Leo’s Red Lion in Gravesend. He’s got Dan Byrne, an amazing singer. I hadn’t listened to a great deal of that band; I’ve listened to them more now that people have compared me to SKIN’s singer, Nev. We’ve been compared to a few different bands, and I like that because people hear different things in our music that make them think of different things. Someone said to me the other day, you guys sound a little bit like Nazareth. I was like, okay, cool. We’ve been compared to our influences, like Aerosmith and the Black Crowes, but it’s really cool when people hear different things in our sound. We don’t openly ever try to be like someone, but at the same time, I think it’s fair to say we want to play good time music that we’re inspired by. When we’re writing, we don’t sit there and go, let’s write ‘Love in an Elevator’. We want it to just be our sound. We couldn’t be more proud of our first album, but now we’re sitting down to do the second album and we’ve got these new songs. The way I would compare it would be like when the Black Crowes did the first record and then they did ‘Southern Harmony …’, and it was a big shift. Everything was more, and they really found themselves as a band and as songwriters. Because we started in the pandemic, we did our first cycle and it was a bit disjointed because we were still learning to play with each other.
Robbie: Our album was entirely written and recorded during lockdown. We’d never actually played any of the songs live. I remember saying to Henry at our first ever gig, “We’ve got it all written and recorded now. What if no one likes it?” But it seems to have gone down well with people, so I think we did something right.
Henry: I think it went our way!
Robbie: Some people can almost be offended when they get compared to bands, and I don’t think there’s any shame in being open and saying, yeah, we’re influenced by so and so. Even when you go back to Led Zeppelin. They weren’t hiding who they were influenced by. The important thing is to try and take that to the next level without just being a carbon copy.
MGM: Tell me about how you guys met, and how the band came together, given that some of you are in Oxted, and some in Basildon.
Henry: Most of the guys live in our hometown, which is Oxted, and I went to school with Liam (bassist) and Ash (drummer). I’ve done things on and off musically with those boys since we were twelve; we’re best mates, and know each other inside and out. We had put the whole making music thing on a back burner. We were off doing session work, but our passions all lie in writing our own music. I told Ash I was going to put a band together, originally as a solo project, and asked my friends to come and support me. It was literally right up until we’d recorded those first three singles ‘Testify’, ‘Shine On’ and ‘Better Days’, and we were in the studio. Robbie wasn’t even in the band yet, I was doing all the guitars, and it just felt weird having the boys saying, “what do you want to do, Henry?” I’m so used to working in an environment where it’s what are ‘we’ going to create, rather than what am ‘I’ going to create. It very naturally became a band. Ash and I went to university in Brighton and we met Robbie. We met on a guitar course and hit it off. It was through a couple of covers gigs, we needed a guitar player, and we reconnected after university.
Robbie: That was Groove Hoover. We did a few pub gigs and went to France just for fun. Henry said to me, I’ve got this thing that was going to be called “Henry Gottelier & The Karma Effect”. After I’d come in, everybody settled on it being more of a group project. Although Henry is probably the main writer of things, it’s a band, and everybody brings their own feel to it.
MGM: You’re quite a multi-instrumentalist Henry? You sing, you play the drums, the guitar, the bass etc, so you must have a clear picture of how you wanted the band to sound?
Henry: When we started the group, it was actually going to be more Americana. I was really inspired by Tom Petty and Jackson Brown, and I wanted to do that kind of thing. But I’m a heavier singer and player, Ash is a heavier drummer, and then you add Robbie, and Seb with the screaming organ, it just naturally turned into this bombastic, massive band. I was never going to stop that because it felt so natural. We’ve got to go hammer and tong and whatever we come up with, we’ve just got to do it. I remember the first day Robbie came down, he brought in the parts for the song ‘Doubt She’s Coming Back’, which is the second track on the record, and we wrote it in half an hour. I remember saying to Ash in the car, this has got to be a big thing. That really set the course then, and even now, I’ve never been so excited about a project.
MGM: You’ve had quite a lot of success this year; your album’s done well on the independent album chart and you’ve been touring with the likes of Kira Mac, Gorilla Riot and Massive Wagons. You’ve also played some big festivals. Have you achieved what you anticipated you would achieve at this point in your journey?
Henry: We didn’t expect anything. When you create something, there is always that feeling of ‘is it going to be well received and what are we going to do?’ but every time we’ve done something, even just down to people turning up to the shows to see us, or gaining fans at gigs, it’s amazing. Now we’re looking more at headlining shows in certain places. I think every gig last year, big or small, was just a milestone and we never would have thought we’d have got what we did from the album; achieving number two in the Amazon rock chart, and Top 40 of the independent album chart. It’s already bucket list stuff. I think a big highlight was playing with Massive Wagons.
Robbie: It’s felt nothing but a privilege the whole year. If you’ve been to one of our live gigs, you can see that we’re absolutely loving it. We’re just five mates who love the music we’re playing. It’s never felt like a chore. I think it shines through that we genuinely love the music that we’ve written and also love seeing the reaction we’ve had from people. It’s amazing to see people wearing your t-shirt. One of our top fans has got this little teddy bear that she’s printed a Karma Effect t-shirt for. I wouldn’t say we were lucky, because we put the work in for it, but last year almost felt like we were a year ahead of where we should have been.
Henry: Our manager also looks after Bad Touch, Gorilla Riot, and Revival Black. He was managing Scarlet Rebels. He took a big punt on us before we’d even stepped foot out of the house. He saw something there, and I remember him saying to me to me “if I don’t sign you, someone else will sign you, and I’ll kick myself that I didn’t sign you. If I’m going to do this, you’ve got to prove it.” I like to think we did that ten-fold. He’s brilliant, keeps us in check, keeps us firmly planted on the ground.
Henry: London is such a saturated scene. We’ve played all over the country, and London is still one of the hardest places to play.
Robbie: Southerners are the hardest to read. When you’re up North and people are enjoying it, you can see they’re enjoying it, whereas whenever you play in London, you’re looking out in the audience, and thinking is anybody really enjoying it? You’ll get congratulations from people afterwards, so they enjoyed it, but they don’t show it.
Henry: It’s the same with Brighton, it’s such a saturated music scene, and it’s quite tough.
Robbie: Those areas are very hard to break out of. I think you get stuck. A lot of the bands in those areas will be big fish in a little pond and they can’t break out of that. In Oxted and Basildon, you’re more on the outskirts, so you’ve got to travel further. We’ve not been afraid to go further.
Henry: I like to think that as a band, we’re well aware, and we’re very humble in our approach. We know that we’re a very small fish in a very big pond. We are just eternally grateful at getting the opportunity to drive to North Wales to go and play at the Tivoli, to be asked to open for Massive Wagons and becoming friends with them. We don’t take it for granted, but I’ve never been someone that just wants to stay in my bubble. There’s a massive world out there and I want to take this thing to the masses.
Robbie: I also love the community. You meet other bands and they’ll say, “I listened to your album” and then you end up becoming friends. People who are not in bands sometimes see it as a rivalry thing. Whereas for me personally it’s awesome. I’ve been chatting with Arran from These Wicked Rivers and we just geek out over guitar stuff. There’s no rivalry, it’s just “hey Arran, check this guitar out”. And that’s all we tend to talk about with other bands, like, “what pedal are you using?” …it’s very nerdy.
Henry: Everybody thinks it’s just getting battered and doing naughty things, but actually we just nerd out over guitars and stuff.
MGM: You’re being invited to play lots of the new festivals across the UK, which aim to support this new wave of artists coming through. How important are these to The Karma Effect, and how do you raise your heads above the parapet to take this to the next step?
Henry: I’m so grateful to this scene that we’re in, and I love it. I love the community. I love the people. I love to meet new people and see familiar faces coming to gigs. But I definitely want what we’re doing to appeal to the masses. I’m always looking to the horizon.
Robbie: We’re five musicians who want this to be a career. We’ve all got day jobs, but it’s a means to an end for now, until we can make that next step, because it’s what we’ve all wanted since we were young kids.
Henry: As an example … Dirty Honey have, especially in the States, broken through the underground scene to become quite a big mainstream act now, and they’re making waves in Europe. We look at that and the way they’re doing things and we think, that’s what we want to do.
Henry: The album is written and we are literally counting down the days now until we go into the studio. We’ve been working really hard. It came together quickly and the songs are strong, it’s a big step up. We wanted to go for a slightly bigger sound on the next album. The riffs are a bit more groovy, with a harder edge to them, but it still keeps that proper head banging groove. And then big choruses and big melodies; things that people are going to sing forever. We are only just really finishing the first album cycle. With the crowd funder campaign, I was the only one that was a little bit unsure about it, because I’ve seen other people do it and I’ve felt it’s been a little bit half measure. I thought if we’re going to do it, we’ve got to offer something really good back to the fans. Our fans are some of the best. They’re so generous. We tried to make the campaign something really personal and give people a real slice of the band. We’ve said to people who pledge, you can come down to the studio and you can sit in on a session, or you can maybe even get a couple of hand claps on the album, whatever.
Robbie: it was mainly that studio opportunity; to come in … something that I would love to do as a fan … to own the album and say “I was there when he recorded that guitar part and I remember he completely fucked that up and then I was there when he got it right”.
Henry: The response has been amazing. It’s helping us achieve bigger things this time around. We want to be able to have a bit more time in the studio and spend more money on the actual making of the record, because the last record was done on a shoestring budget.
Henry: Thank you. That’s where we paid most of our money! We love that raw, dirty rock sound and it has to be organic. With the new record, that’s what we’re trying to go for again, but we want to be able to spend a little bit more time.
Robbie: We can’t afford long studio sessions. My main concern was I didn’t want us to come across as being like Oliver Twist, ‘please, can you give us money?’ But it’s an expensive process and we’re not rock stars with an unlimited budget, so it’s helping us to create something that’s going to be an improvement on the first album.
Henry: We’re so excited about it, I’ve got all the demos on my phone. When it comes to the song writing, we are meticulous, always trying to make it better and better, but we’re also very good at knowing when it’s done. I can’t wait to do the whole cycle again. I’m not very good at being in the studio, I get itchy feet, I just want to hear it finished. But it’s a process and we’ve got to do it. I can’t wait for people to hear it. We’ve got a really big year of festivals and gigs coming up, so the plan is to have the album wrapped up by the spring and start promoting it. We’ve got to wait for the vinyl, so it’ll probably be out in January 2024, but we’re hoping to have a lot of singles out this year to get everybody excited.
Robbie: The hardest thing once you’ve recorded the album is knowing it’s there and wanting everybody to hear it.
MGM: I see you’re playing the Winter’s End, and a few other festivals in 2023. A great opportunity for fans to see you live.
Henry: We’ve got Call of the Wild, which we’re blown away to be a part of, because that’s a really cool one. We’re also going to be doing Steelhouse. We’ve got some of the biggest rock festivals next summer. For Stonedead we’re hoping to have a big single out that weekend, ready to push the record for the latter half of the year.
The Karma Effect will be playing across the UK throughout 2023.
For more information about The Karma Effect, check their website
January 22nd: The Black Heart, Camden (w/ Sweet Electric)
January 28th: The Giffard Arms, Wolverhampton
February 5th: Planet Rock Winter’s End, Mid Glamorgan,
March 3rd: Home town show, Oxted
April 14-15th: SharkFest 2023 – Cannock
June 3rd: We Are The Cae Music Fest, Penycae
August 25th: Stonedead – Winthorpe
September 23rd: NWOCR Live – Wolverhampton
The Karma Effect are:
Henry Gottelier, (lead vocals and guitar),
Robbie Blake, (guitar),
Seb Emmins, (keyboards & vocals),
Liam Quinn, (bass),
Ash Powell, (drums & vocals),