Micky James and Mango of The Karma Killers. Photo Credit: Tara Dettman
New York rockers The Karma Killers are building up their name on this summer’s Vans Warped Tour and are slowly gaining a fan base along the way. Fans are getting a taste of their music off of their debut EP Strange Therapy, out now via Island Records.
Band frontman Micky James talked about how the band got their name and their music out publicly, and the early struggled made them a better band as time went on.
“Maybe the first two years of the band we did the Do It Yourself thing in New York City. Through that time period we were writing an insane amount of songs and wanting to get better as a band. Our producers (Shep Goodman and Aaron Accetta) got wind of a song that we put out a couple of years ago. He wanted to cut a production deal with us for an ep, and from there it was setting us up to hopefully get us some label attention, which it did and it took off from there.”
James shared his love of the Big Apple’s musical history but also talked about their musical scene’s recent struggles for musical acts to get discovered.
“I love New York City bands. I’m a big Strokes fan. I don’t think there’s too much diversity in New York. It’s becoming very stale. It’s like the one trick pony everywhere. Everybody’s looking the same and writing the same songs and playing the same music. I think that’s what it is. It’s all about writing good songs.”
“Actually there’s a lot of bands that, not intentionally put boundaries on what they allow to influence them,” added bassist Mango. “That knocks them into a corner that they can’t get out of, if you try so hard to fit into a scene. For us, we just see it as a big picture. There’s a whole world of music. It all means something to us, no matter what kind of music it is. That becomes a bit of a melting pot. It gives us a bit of originality to our sound.”
Billy Stevens and Micky James of The Karma Killers. Photo Credit: Tara Dettman
Rock music in the New York City area was once engrained within their DNA, as history has spawned a number of once promising acts within the music scene and made that region a desired destination to launch many artists’ careers at one time.
After years of crafting their sound and fine tuning their songwriting skills, The Karma Killers are taking their music onto the road and sharing their music with the masses. They have released their debut EP Strange Therapy via Island Records and have been playing every day this past summer on the Vans Warped Tour’s Ernie Ball stage to lots of new yet enthusiastic fans on each tour stop.
“It’s been fantastic. It’s been really great,” says frontman and guitarist Micky James, about their touring experience. “The kids have been very receptive so far. It’s been hot. We’re getting into the groove of things and the swing and becoming really awesome. I can’t wait until we work on the rest of the tour.”
“It’s the first time on this tour and our first real tour. We did a little run to South By Southwest, but this is the first real tour. We’re really trying to catch on.”
Billy Stevens of The Karma Killers. Photo Credit: Tara Dettman
Their band name came together by sheer accident and evolved from there. Taking musical influences ranging from David Bowie and the Cars to Billy Idol, U2, and The Ramones to a variety of new wave and classic punk rock, they began to build a foundation of what is heard on their ep.
“Billy (Stevens, guitars) had this name Killing Karma at first and then we talked about it. We thought it was a cool name, but we wanted to throw in a “The” in front of it. We wanted it to be like The Rolling Stones. Micky was like ‘what about the Karma Killers?’ It was that simple. We all thought it sounded good. We were strangers at the time. We had just met. It was the first or second night we had met each other and we walked away with a band name,” said bassist Mango.
“I liked how it had a meaning to it. I see a lot of bands that don’t have that kind of thing to it any more. I thought it was cool. That’s what I was drawn to,” added James.
Josh Grisby of The Karma Killers. Photo Credit: Tara Dettman
So what was their reaction to how they fit into this year’s Vans Warped Tour lineup, considering they are not either pop-punk, screamo or any of these other subgenres that this tour is well known for featuring every summer? “I mean a lot of the bands here seem a little different from us…but it’s cool. We feel like there’s a bunch of different bands out there. We like that,” said James.
The real surprise came where they had some fans who were familiar with their material on some of the earlier stops across California, where the Vans Warped Tour began. Plus the irony of it all is the band had never played anywhere on the West Coast prior to this moment.
“The past two shows there were actually kids actually knew the words. I was completely shocked. This is so new to us. Even kids knowing our band name is or knowing the words is incredible,” said James.
“It’s crazy. We’re literally on the other side of the nation from where we come from and where we’ve always been playing in New York City. To be in California and see even one or two people that are aware of the band’s existence, it’s awesome,” added Mango.
Within a relatively short period of time, The Karma Killers grabbed attention within their own area through their songwriting and strong live shows.
“We started in 2012 in New Jersey. I was starting off writing a bunch of songs as a solo artist and this guy I was recording with, I was looking for a band and he knew our guitar player and was introduced to Billy [Stevens]. Billy knew Mango [bassist], and a couple days after that we were writing songs and it instantly clicked. We found the name of the band from there. We wrote a bunch of songs. We played in New York City for years. Just breaking our backs trying to be a do it yourself rock n roll band. We took some steps and now we’re here.”
“I’ve been in bands since I was ten, kind of like hardcore bands in New Jersey. Then I started writing songs when I was 18. My old band fell apart and I was looking for something else and something new, and this fell in my lap. It was a blessing,” said James.
But Mango shared the moment where the band knew they had something special and made the band click. After sifting through songs James had written on his own, they knew that they were into something that could make the Karma Killers special.
“Actually he had on his own did a demo track, I guess you could call it. When Billy and myself heard it that is what started the band. We got wind of that song and that track, and we loved it so much, we thought it was great. From there we got together and we kind of molded it together as a solo artist, but it eventually took on its own life. It really became the Karma Killers after some time.”
Lastly, being on their first tour, the Karma Killers have faced a learning curve towards necessities of life on the road. “Three days without showering was definitely interesting. We ran out of water on our van wagon,” said Mango, boldly sharing his Warped Tour moment.
“At the first day in Pomona, I had to shower at the amphitheater and I forgot my towel. So our tour manager Christian, who is the man, gave me paper – pieces of paper you’re supposed to put down on a toilet bowl. I dried myself with that! It’s probably the worst shower I’ve ever had. At least I took a shower. For me that’s my most interesting moment.”
“Now we know we’re going to keep that tank filled with water, so we can shower every day.”
Another year has arrived for the Vans Warped Tour full of anticipation and excitement to hit the summertime across North America. This year’s edition maintains their tradition of youth oriented angst filled music (or whatever the kids call it these days) and carving a path for the next batch of rising stars on the scene. Thanks to photographer Kevin Estrada for shooting these two dates of Warped tour for Ghost Cult!
The main stages (Shark and Unicorn) showcased the main attractions on the tour, ranging from the pop punk acts (The Wonder Years) to the screamo/emo (Pierce The Veil, Blessthefall) to the crossover half melodic and half aggro (We Came As Romans) to the harder sounding (August Burns Red) managed to keep the kids bouncing around in the crowd and rarely laying low.
Tour veterans Motion City Soundtrack made their brief California run appearance, showing the crowd how things are done on this tour. Metro Station (featuring Trace Cyrus, son of country performer Billy Ray Cyrus), melodic punk act Man Overboard, and hardcore outfit Fit For A King all set the pace for the day with their respective sounds while keeping the crowd engaged.
The main acts on these stages won over the crowd throughout the day. Memphis May Fire got the crowd into a high with their half heavy yet melodic styling that struck a nerve with them; Attila, led by their enigmatic frontman Chris “Fronz” Fronzak and his guitar crunching yet Eninem-esque “meth” suit bouncing along with the crowd; Black Veil Brides and their legions of die hard fan base singing along to every word; and Miss May I and their modern metallic sound that got the crowd worked up later on in the day.
While the main stage had their moments going on, there were a number of side stage acts making noise of their own. The Monster Stage housed their own brand of chaos throughout the day, as Senses Fail, Being As An Ocean, Beartooth, Mallory Knox and The Amity Affliction all got the pit crew throwing down alongside each band and rarely letting down. The harder driving acts such as hardcore outfit Hundredth had the pit kids going in effect, while veteran Canadian post hardcore act Silverstein had their mix of longtime fans as well as newbies who both showed their appreciation for the band. Australian metallic hardcore outfit I Killed The Prom Queen appeared to be bass player less, but that didn’t stop them from bringing out their At The Gates meets hardcore stomp to these fans. British metalcore act While She Sleeps briefly were down a singer (ie visa problems kept frontman Lawrence Taylor making a late start on the tour) but friends pitched in to lend a helping hand and fans didn’t even notice. Plus Escape The Fate closed out the evening with their eclectic brand of punk meets screamo meets modern metal that got the late comers their last bit of a sweat.
On the other stages, indie hip hop acts MC Lars gave a lesson in nerdcore with rhymes about video games and Game of Thrones (ie his latest single “Dragon Blood), while Kosha Dillz brought out his East Coast blend of Spanish, English and Hebrew rhymes; and electro-DJ-performance duo mystery men Drama Club put on an interesting performance that combined part Blue Man Group-esque percussive moments with part electronica meets EDM moments and spontaneous bursts of energy that kept the interested crowd on its feet.
The Journeys Stages found Juliette Sims and Night Riots wowing the crowd with their high energy sets, while hotly tipped electro pop outfit PVRIS became one of the much talked about acts on the tour and their set did not disappoint. Hip hop act Riff Raff put on quite the entertaining show on this stage, with his colorful summertime dress and animated raps to get the crowd bouncing along.
New York alternative rockers The Karma Killers stood out amongst the vast number of acts performing on the Ernie Ball Stage, with their fresh take on classic pop-punk, rock, and alternative rock with an energetic stage show. While they are newly signed to Island/Def Jam and new to the scene, they showed that they could one day end up on one of the larger stages in the new future.
The Acoustic Basement easily became an area largely for shade against the sun, but while most of the acts attracted stragglers throughout the day, Canadian singer-songwriter Saywecanfly and Brian Marquis were two of the acts who attracted a decent sized crowd throughout the day. Saywecanfly attracted a packed tent and entertained the audience with his emotion filled lyrics that got his largely female audience awaiting with anticipation.
Overall, this year’s edition featured a good mix of repeat acts moving up to larger stages, as well as a number of fresh faces to the scene. It is a positive sign to see new acts on the rise at a time when the music industry is struggling to attract new acts to the public. Hopefully someone is paying attention to this tour to see that there is a new generation of artists on the rise.
The Vans Warped Tour announced eight more artists at the kickoff party at Club Nokia in Los Angeles, CA this past Tuesday, April 7, 2015. The acts confirmed include:
Senses Fail Miss May I H2O (08/07-08/08) Knuckle Puck The Bunny The Bear (07/26-08/08) Kaya Stewart (07/15-08/08) TAT (06/19-07/01) Macy Kate (07/02-07/04, 07/06)
They joined previously confirmed acts:
Asking Alexandria Black Veil Brides Attila August Burns Red Memphis May Fire We Came As Romans Blessthefall Hundredth I Killed The Prom Queen ’68 Beartooth Sirens And Sailors (07/14-08/08) Slaves (07-14-08/08) The Amity Affliction Neck Deep Palisades Fit For A King Crossfaith Rotting Out Escape The Fate Being As An Ocean Silverstein Mallory Knox Drama Club False Puppet (07/23-08/08) A+ Dropouts (06/19-07/03) Man Overboard Citizen Carousel Kings (07/14-08/08) Emarosa (06/19-07/12) New Years Day Set It Off Kenneths MC Lars The Ascot Royals (07/01-07/08) Rivers Monroe (07/04-07/21) Svetlanas (07/29-08/08) The Karma Killers Mod Sun Bebe Rexha PUP (07/01-07/29) Youth In Revolt Juliet Sims Koo Koo Kanga Roo Metro Station Never Shout Never Night Argent (06/20-06/28, 08/01-08/08) Riff Raff Candy Hearts BoyMeetsWorld Ho99o9 Major League Motion City Soundtrack (06/19-06/21) While She Sleeps Hands Like Houses Le Castle Vania Have Mercy Our Last Night ChrisB PVRIS Alvarez Kings Moose Blood New Beat Fund Jule Vera Seaway This Wild Life The Dirty Nil Born Cages The Wonder Years Icon For Hire Baby Baby Matchbook Romance (06/19-07/11) The Relapse Symphony (06/19-07/12) Black Boots M4Sonic As It Is Night Riots Transit Beautiful Bodies Splitbreed Handguns Kosha Dillz Alive Like Me Family Force 5 Lee Corey Oswald Trophy Eyes ‘Acoustic Basement Stage‘: Aaron West and The Roaring Twenties American Opera Brian Marquis Buttons Grey Gordon Koji Meghann Wright Onward, etc. PVRIS (dates TBD) SayWeCanFly Speak Low If You Speak Love (07/09-07/14) Transit ‘Comedy Tent‘: Grant Cotter Beth Stelling (06/19-06/26) Chase Bernstein (06/27-07/12) Dave Ross (07/01-07/12) Eli Olsberg Eric Schwartz (07/26-08/08) Sammy Obeid (06/19-06/28) Sandy Danto (07/26-08/08)
A recent advertisement from the August 7th Portland, OR stop of the 2015 Vans Warped Tourhinted a few more possible artists who have yet to be announced. Those artists in question include:
Attila Memphis May Fire Miss May I Never Shout Never Pierce The Veil We Came As Romans Beartooth Senses Fail Drama Club False Puppet Julie Vera Knuckle Puck Svetlanas
Prior to this leak, the newest additions include: Silverstein Mallory Knox Man Overboard Citizen Carousel Kings (07/14-08/08)
Artists announced to date for the festival include: Asking Alexandria Black Veil Brides Blessthefall Hundredth I Killed The Prom Queen ’68 Sirens And Sailors (07/14-08/08) Slaves (07-14-08/08) The Amity Affliction Neck Deep Palisades Fit For A King Crossfaith Rotting Out Escape The Fate Being As An Ocean Emarosa (06/19-07/12) New Years Day Set It Off Kenneths MC Lars The Karma Killers Mod Sun Bebe Rexha PUP (07/01-07/29) Youth In Revolt Juliet Sims Koo Koo Kanga Roo Metro Station Night Argent (06/20-06/28, 08/01-08/08) Riff Raff Candy Hearts BoyMeetsWorld Ho99o9 Major League Motion City Soundtrack (06/19-06/21) While She Sleeps Hands Like Houses Le Castle Vania Have Mercy Our Last Night ChrisB PVRIS Alvarez Kings Moose Blood New Beat Fund Jule Vera Seaway This Wild Life The Dirty Nil Born Cages The Wonder Years Icon For Hire Baby Baby Matchbook Romance (06/19-07/11) The Relapse Symphony (06/19-07/12) Black Boots M4Sonic As It Is Night Riots Transit Beautiful Bodies Splitbreed Handguns Kosha Dillz Alive Like Me Family Force 5 Lee Corey Oswald Trophy Eyes ‘Acoustic Basement Stage‘: Aaron West and The Roaring Twenties American Opera Brian Marquis Buttons Grey Gordon Koji Meghann Wright Onward, etc. PVRIS (dates TBD) SayWeCanFly Speak Low If You Speak Love (07/09-07/14) Transit