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Interview: KAWALA


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The birth of KAWALA came about when Higson (vocals) and McCarthy (guitar), both studying at Leeds College of Music, were signed to Mahogany Records and headed back to North London to fully commit themselves to the band.

After selling out the third headline show at Omeara in April, KAWALA are clearly one to watch, describing themselves as “a north London duo/band, with acoustic guitar and dual vocal lead”, “making music under the uncommon umbrella of Indie/Folk/Afrobeat/Pop.” Their influences include Bombay Bicycle Club and Half Moon Run, which can be heard in the exquisite harmonies and upbeat, soft acoustic sound and compelling rhythms.

They’ve come a long way since their first ever gig, which they told us was a Pub in Leeds called Nation of Shopkeepers, at the time believing that it was “the best gig that had ever taken place in the history of gigs”. They like to think that, on reflection, they’re “unrecognisable now”, putting into perspective just how much they have achieved in a short amount of time. The duo also commented that they would only be “reaching  a mere speck of the audience that they’ve been granted to” if it wasn’t for the exposure from Spotify and their New Music Friday Playlist, being instrumental in their growth. It is KAWALA’s humble and gracious nature, combined with their self depreciating humour, that makes them so likeable as performers. As witnessed in their set in Dot to Do Bristol, this helped them to establish a relatable connection to their audience, making light of the ‘edgy’ spelling of KAWALA stemming from Higson’s dyslexia, subsequently introducing their next song as “this one’s for the dyslexics!”. Commenting on this, they said that they “don’t know where they’d be in all honesty without a bit of self deprecation”, wanting to challenge the concept that a lot of musicians “seem more in to themselves than what they do”, establishing normality.

McCarthy and Higson also told us that their stand out favourite track from the EP is ‘Funky’, “as it’s the oldest song currently out and therefore holds a special place in our hearts”. Their method of writing is anything from tradition, “often makeshifting noises while shaping a melody”, with lyrics coming from “trying to fill the silly noises”. They craft their melody and harmonies from the initial acoustic, wanting the songs to “exist in this format without relying on loads of production to prove that it’s a solid song!” KAWALA’s beautiful harmonies have been highly acclaimed and is what sets them apart, specifically in the track ‘Mighty River’, where they sing an A Cappella section, allowing the focus to be on their voices. Comically, they said that “We love playing that section, in part, as it makes some noisy audience members feel deeply uncomfortable.”

KAWALA are so deserving of their upcoming success and their joy of performing, as well as infectious upbeat songs make them a treat to watch. Catch them this Summer at RIZE London and Neighbourhood Festival in October. They have excitingly teased us with an announcement with a second EP coming up in the next few months!



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