Every Monday we will be bringing you an unsigned singer or band as part of our Independent Music Monday feature. This week, we caught up with London/Kent band Naropa to find out more about them…
Who is in the band, how did you meet, where are you from and how did you come up with the band name?
Francis (Drums), George (Guitar), Josh (Vocals), Sam (Guitar) and Rosie (Bass). Josh and George went to school together in Kent and wrote and played in various bands for a couple of years before meeting Sam, who was in another band. We managed to poach Sam by asking him to jam with us; we realised straight away there was loads of chemistry, and Sam joined us. The three of us decided to go to university together in London to nurture our creativity and hopefully meet a drummer and bassist. Fortunately we ended up meeting Francis and Rosie by the end of our first week in London due to a shockingly beautiful pair of shoes and a proclivity for Blur and Red Stripe respectively. The name was pretty much confirmed before the band got out of Kent. “Naropa” was this really forward thinking Buddhist monk who went some way towards revolutionising spirituality around the tenth century. A Buddhist university in Colorado named themselves after him, and that university was frequented by the likes of Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg – who we’ve all idolised massively at some point or other. It’s just a sweet name; it sounds cool.
We love If Only While I’m Sleeping, what was the influence behind it?
Thank you so much, we’re really glad you like it. It started out a bit like a “Girls” song, but as we jammed it more and more the drum beat and bassline became a bit dancier. We’d been listening to loads of 80’s music like Prince, Roxy Music, INXS and wanted to try and take the song somewhere a bit more creative and interesting than what we were used to. Josh’s words were influenced by something that had recently happened to him, so it was really important to us to write a song that showed our sincerity, but was also true to the influences that we had pooled together in writing it. The song represented a chance for us to show our versatility and we wanted it to reflect our many different influences without being derivative. The distinct changes between the upbeat verse, the melancholy chorus, and the really intense end section were partly deliberate and partly really natural; it felt like we were writing something we’d love and was honest!
Who were your musical influences when you were growing up and who are your influences now?
We have so many and probably too many to name in truth. We’re constantly influenced by everything, positively and negatively, consciously and unconsciously! There’s a lot of pop music, some good and some bad, and less indie music, some good and some bad, but the more music you expose yourself to the better really. Francis grew up on Van Morrison and Bowie, but listens to loads of classical music as well these days, apparently drumming to classical music is really good practice. Rosie loves the 90’s, specifically Blur, Sam loves Hendrix, The Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin. Josh and George share similar influences in The Cure, The Smiths, The Libertines, The Beatles, and through this really diverse range of influences we find it really exciting jamming together and bringing so many different sounds to the table.
How would you describe your sound?
Someone recently described the new single as “cosmic pop” which we quite liked. ️Obviously no new band wants to be restricted by a label or a genre because when you’re labelled by something you can easily by defined by it. We’re writing a lot at the moment, really trying to hone in our sound, it’s important to us to try to be as creative as possible and constantly seek to try new things. We want to try to do things people haven’t done before, and try to infuse different sounds and our influences into something really unique to us, but of course that will take a very very long time to get right.
What’s your local music scene like?
We’re really lucky to live in New Cross, it’s full of trendy music aficionados who support all the local bands and love live music. There’s loads of great bands; our mates The Snides, and of course Goldsmiths alumni like James Blake, Blur and Beach Baby. Goldsmiths itself is a great place for creative people to come together. Also, if you go to the right pub at the right time, you might find yourself at the urinal next to Yannis from Foals.
What do you have planned for the next 12 months? Any albums or festivals?
We’re definitely thinking ahead over the next twelve months but of course it’s difficult to predict where we’ll be and what will happen. We’d love to be in a position to release an EP next year and we definitely want to be on the festival circuit over summer. We’re very fortunate to have had loads of support from BBC Introducing Kent so hopefully that will be a springboard onto bigger things; they do loads for new bands like us.
Is there anyone you’d love to collaborate with?
George would pick Nick Cave, Sam chooses Keith Richards, Josh would go for Ariel Pink, Rosie punts for Damon Albarn and Francis’ collaborator of choice would be Jack White.
Any funny stories surrounding your live performances?
One of our really early gigs was at the Amersham Arms, it was our biggest headline show to date and everyone we knew was there, it was packed. In an attempt to combat nerves and boost confidence we started drinking quite early in the day and we weren’t due to play until 11pm, and we were given loads of free drinks by the promoter. Naturally, by the time we were all on stage, we were quite inebriated, to the point where George was seeing two guitars and Francis kept missing the symbols. It was horrendous, we were awful and were so embarrassed, but it was a lesson learned and we won’t be making that mistake again any time soon. Hopefully.
What is the one thing that you want readers to know about your band?
That we’re pretty good. And that Sam is a black belt in Taekwando. Real talk.
Naropa’s latest single If Only While I’m Sleeping is out now. You can find it on Spotify here.