INTERVIEW: BIG SOUND FESTIVAL - Karl S. Williams
What's Big and Sounds Awesome? In honour of the insanely epic upcoming Big Sound Festival and Conference in Brisbane next month, The Soundcheck will be featuring an artist from the festival every two days until the event kicks off on Tuesday 5th of September.
So far we've met Melbourne alt-soul machines The Cactus Channel, and this time round it's self-described "musical fool" (but actual Blues king) Karl S. Williams answering the B-I-G-S-O-U-N-D questions. Beware for some seriously smooth vibes ahead.
Karl S. Williams grew up in a nowhere rural river town and somewhere between the flooded cane fields and deep forests, he came to identify with the music of the southern United States. His sound is strongly influenced by the blues of the Mississippi Delta and swampy soul.
B (BACKSTORY) TELL US A BIT ABOUT YOUR BAND AND HOW YOU GOT STARTED: I dug this band up from the red earth of a coffee plantation when I was labouring. The songs were in the ground. I carried them around for a while and then when I decided to record I was lucky to have an old friend from school to call on for drums. Jesse Carroll came up home-schooled out in the swamps and only just got a bus run later on. I guess that kind of isolation encouraged a preternatural musical ability. He brought Daniel Aurora in on bass (who is similarly, freakishly gifted) and that was the genesis. We’re more of a collective these days, Crick Boue is a masterful guitarist and bassist (and bottomless wealth of musical knowledge), George Carpenter fills in on the skins from time to time and rocks the Hammond with aplomb. Lately my very good friend Jared Franzen (and fellow member of psych band TSUN) has also joined the gang on bass and keys.
I (INFLUENCES) WHO ARE YOUR INFLUENCES? ARE THERE ANY NOT-SO-OBVIOUS ONES? I got deep into blues guys like Son House and R. L. Burnside, gospel singers like Mahalia Jackson and Mavis Staples and old-time stuff like the Stanley Brothers. I certainly took a lot of notes from the total emotional disclosure of Nina Simone and the lyric beauty of Leonard Cohen but all these artists have contemporaries that I love equally. Big Thief has recently influenced my desire for more guitar and I’m presently devouring Lana Del Rey’s new album. I feel not a shred of guilt.
G (GIGS) WHAT'S BEEN YOUR MOST MEMORABLE GIG SO FAR? I keep going back to Bluesfest in my mind. It was the biggest festival I’ve played and I was pretty nervous for the first time in a long while. I remember starting with my head down and then looking up to see a somewhat-full tent! There was a couple in the audience screaming out the name of my hometown (which is a very small place not too far from Byron Bay) and I later realised they were some of teachers from back in high school. It only got more surreal when I nearly bumped into Ben Harper on the way out of the green room and saw Tony Joe White sitting under by the dam or the Alabama Shakes having a smoke under the trees. The soul was filled.
S (SONGS) WHAT'S YOUR FAVOURITE SONG TO PLAY LIVE AND WHY? I love each of them for different reasons but my new single ‘Blood To Give’ is my current favourite because it’s a bit weirder than anything else I’ve done. It’s short and sweet, it rattles along steadily until it opens up in the bridge (which is really fun to sing.) Crick, our guitarist plays this twisted riff in the back end that makes me want to wiggle.
O (ONE OTHER BAND) WHO IS THE ONE BAND/ARTIST YOU'RE MOST PUMPED TO SEE LIVE AT BIG SOUND? There are so many good ones and many friends among them. If I had to pick one I’d say The Teskey Brothers because I love their sound and they have been absolutely killing it since their album came out.
U (UPCOMING STUFF) WHAT HAVE YOU GOT ON THE HORIZON, ANY UPCOMING TOURS OR NEW RELEASES? I have recently released my new single ‘Blood To Give’ and after Big Sound I will be hitting the road for a 15-date tour along the East Coast. This is my biggest tour yet with my band so it’s very exciting and somewhat chaotic.
N (NAME) WHAT'S THE STORY BEHIND YOUR BAND NAME? I am exposed as a terrible narcissist, my band is simply called ‘Karl S. Williams’ but that’s the way it has always been. My given names both belonged to some of my Nordic ancestors. Would that I inherited more from my Buttula or Darug forebears (but that goodness is in the blood). I think I was inspired by Josh T. Pearson to include my middle initial (and a desire to create some distinction from a well-known Melbourne underworld figure).
D (DREAM TOUR) WHO IS YOUR DREAM BAND/ARTIST TO TOUR WITH? Oh, so many… Currently, Marlon Williams - I would love to listen to that voice and those songs night after night. I feel like we are coming from complementary musical traditions too, shared but also different. My dream tour would be one that is run like a big family, like Willie Nelson does it. Everyone just playing and hanging out together on and off stage. You wouldn’t miss home because the tour itself would be homely.
You can catch Karl S Williams in action at Big Sound, all details plus a whole lot more below:
KARL S. WILLIAMS - BIG SOUND LIVE SETS: CLICK HERE
For more info on Big Sound head to: https://www.bigsound.org.au/
BY TIANA SPETER