Birmingham unsigned band Karkosa ready to rock Korea
It must be a strange feeling to have requests to play for screaming fans in Seoul when your average man down the road in Sparkhill may not have heard of you.
But that is the situation facing Birmingham-based Karkosa, who have used the internet to their advantage and started to crack the big time. But instead of South Yardley yearning for their music, it's South Korea.
But they want success here too. Brothers Michael, 19, on rhythm guitar and vocals and drummer Jack Warnock, 15, join 19-year-old keyboardist Will Clews, 18-year-old Tom Rushton on lead guitar and Ryan Trott, 16, on bass, to form Karkosa.
The Warnocks and Trott are Sutton Coldfield lads, while Rushton represents Longbridge and Clews Solihull. They have been doing a lot recently to grow the Karkosa brand locally, and were recognised for their efforts in this year's Birmingham Music Awards.
They were up for best alternative/indie act and just missed out - the prize going to one of the first bands ever to feature on this Unsigned page, Penkridge's Sugarthief. But that wasn't a problem, and the gracious Michael Warnock was full of praise for the victors.
"They've done well and I'm a big fan of them," he said. "I'm yet to see them live but I've seen footage and they look great. I've got to go soon.
"We were just happy to be nominated and weren't expecting to win. To be honest I was happy they won because if one band deserved to it was them.
"The experience was great, it was a really cool gathering. There were a lot of well-known local bands like the Duran Duran boys and UB40. It was nice to be able to meet some of the other great rising bands like RISCAS and Sugarthief.
"I hope they carry on and we get invited back."
And Michael said the local music scene is one that has embraced them and works like a family. Rather than be competitive and show animosity, they have embraced each other's styles and material.
"Once you work your way up it's much more open," he adds. "Everyone knows each other and the more bands you know obviously the more contacts you have. It's a great little community."
As we spoke to Michael he had just been on Switch Radio talking about Karkosa's music and he has also been involved with other local mediums like Raw Sound TV.
"We had a great time and it was fun to be on the radio. Host Tim Senna knows loads of bands too so it was great to meet him."
They've been looking nationally too. Recently the band took part in the Hot Vox New Blood competition that seeks a fledgling act good enough to perform at the Isle Of Wight Festival later this month. Out of an initial 5,000 applicants they made it down to the final eight. Again, near but yet so far.
"The whole aim was to win the first round," Michael admits, again showing humility. "The grand final was held at London's O2 Islington and it was an incredible venue, we felt like a legit. band on-stage.
"At first I didn't think we'd win but in the end it was so tight the placings and number of votes between each band. Our Korean fans really pushed us. We'd go to bed a few hundred votes behind then of course they would be getting up so we'd wake up out in front.
"We felt really, really privileged. We've got a great fanbase who really care about us and love our music. We just have to say thanks to the guys out there.
"We'd gigged in London before at the Dublin Castle in Camden and that was phenomenal so it was great to go back and play for Londoners again."
So how did five teenagers from Birmingham even get on the radar of a nation known to fanatically back something it falls in love with?
"We've got a system on Instagram," Michael laughs. "We follow a lot of people who are influencers and send them a direct message asking them for an opinion on our work. We picked one Korean girl and she absolutely loved it and spread it. I was sat in Costa and watched our followers go from 500 to 1,000 in minutes. It was incredible.
"We definitely have more Korean fans than Brummie. It's a really unique situation that not many others can say they've achieved.
"Our Spotify listens in the UK have been rising and that's nice to be there and seeing that. But when the South Koreans got Apple Music [in 2016] it exploded. I am really glad they can listen."
And while they might have just missed out on the IoW Fest, they do have one to look forward to. Based on their Insta-nt success, they have been invited over to play Zandari Festa in Seoul in October, which showcases some of the best talent the country has to offer.
"I never knew of it or it didn't occur to me," admits Michael. "But it's phenomenal. We could retire and say 'at least we did that'. It's a whole other culture, and the crowd funding support we've received has been great."
But don't worry Karkosa fans, retirement isn't on the cards just yet. The band have a new single, Red Hoodie, that will be available through their music channels come August. And Michael also teased another treat.
"There's potentially a record but let's get the single done first," he said. "It's also down to money and we have the Zandari trip to fund.
"It's not what I expected so soon. Who would have thought we'd conquer South Korea before the UK?"
For more on Karkosa, follow them on Facebook and Twitter, both @officialkarkosa, or visit www.karkosa.co.uk
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