Interview: James Styring on It’s Karma It’s Cool’s “Woke Up In Hollywood”

You can read our review of “Woke Up In Hollywood” here. I spoke with James about the creation of the album, how he’s faring in the current music industry climate, and what’s next for It’s Karma It’s Cool.

1). Battle of Burnt Out Bliss was a stand-out track for me…it has a big, rich, orchestrated sound. What was your inspiration for this song?

I always wanted the song to have strings, give it that big movie soundtrack feel. Martyn did a great job with the orchestration. It’s basically about the thin line between love and hate. Looking back on something you thought was right at the time, but with hindsight, realising you were never truly happy. It doesn’t have to be a relationship with someone, it could apply to anything. You think you’ve found bliss, but it soon turns into a battle.

2). You have two songs that feature Rex Broome from The Armoires (“Healer’s Leap,” also featuring Brian Barry on Harmonica) and Lannie Flowers (“The Girl Who Gave You Everything”). Did you begin either of the songs with their participation in mind, or did that come to you after you’d written them? What unique qualities did you feel they each brought to your music?

We knew we’d love to have those guys on the record, as we’re fans of their music. Our friend, Stephen Schnee, pulled a few strings to get Lannie onboard, Rex said he’d love to be involved, and I’d known Brian for years, having played with him at The Cavern Club, in a previous band. As soon as Lannie added his guitar to ‘The Girl Who Gave You Everything’, it came to life, real creative playing. Rex added some great authentic 12 string jangle to ‘Healer’s Leap’ and Brian plays some FAB harmonica. That track has a real Merseybeat feel to it. We also have to thank Spyderpop Records and Big Stir Records for allowing Lannie and Rex to be on our album.

3). How would you describe your growth as an artist from the “Hipsters and Aeroplanes” EP to the new album? I hear all of the things that made the EP a winner, but it also feels like you built on that foundation and made the music more expansive.

Yes, you’re right, Michael. I think the first EP was us finding our voice. This new record is us shouting about it! As you say, we built on the foundation, we still kept the big choruses, melodies, harmonies etc, but wanted to push ourselves as songwriters. It’s just natural development of ideas. As a songwriter, you’re always looking to do something a little different than before, but still keeping that sound you’re known for. I think if we’d written 12 songs all sounding too similar, folks would have got bored pretty quick. There’s enough things happening on the new record to keep them listening (I hope!)

4). The music business has changed for everyone during the COVID-19 crisis. How has it affected you personally, and how have you adapted to it?

Yes, it’s the same for everyone at the moment. Our official album launch was meant to be at The Cavern Club, as part of David Bash’s, International Pop Overthrow Festival. That’s obviously not happening now, and it’s very disappointing, but we’re all in the same boat. We can’t even get together for rehearsal or plan any shows, it’s just a waiting game. We have started writing for the next album, though, so it’s not all time wasted!

5). Was “Woke Up In Hollywood” an all-inclusive project, or did you have material left over for the next album? What comes next for you?

We’re always writing, so it was a case of picking the strongest ideas for the record. We wanted each song to be as strong as the last – almost like a greatest hits album – if we felt anything wasn’t up to scratch, we dropped it early in the process. There’s a lot of fantastic music and bands out there, so we knew we had to deliver a strong album to stand a chance of being heard. It’s not a competition, there’s room for everyone, but I hear so many great records that don’t get the credit they deserve. At some point we’ll look at playing live again, until that time comes, we’ll continue writing for the next record.