Like many of my fellow humanities students, I’m always on the lookout for underground, independent artists whose songs we can add to our ever-growing collection of elaborately titled playlists. Some of us turn to internet reviews, to Spotify recommendations, to our friends, or, for the truly authentic musicophile, to half-scratched-off band stickers left in seedy club bathrooms. However, the one place you may not expect to find your new favorite songwriter is three seats to the left in your 9 am lecture. C’est Karma is a 20-year-old Luxemburgish electronic-pop artist who also happens to study Literary and Cultural Analysis at the UVA.
At a small bar next to campus we met up for an interview. After the obligatory Amsterdamer ice breakers, complaining about faulty bikes and even more faulty weather, I turned on my recorder to ask Karma about her interests, her career, and of course her music.
How did it all begin?
It all began when my brother turned eight, and I didn’t really have a present for him, so I wrote a song and sang it for him in the kitchen. That’s when I realized that it was actually kind of easy to write songs and so I just started to. Everything that happened after was quite random.
I was sixteen at the time. Afterward, through friends, I managed to play some shows in Luxemburg, and pretty quickly things went pretty crazy, I found a management team and a booking team, so things kind of developed pretty quickly.
I’m assuming there was a love for music long before this?
Of course, neither of my parents are musicians but they both share a deep love for music, my dad used to be in the punk scene in the 90’, my mom was into hip-hop and all kinds of other things. There was always music in the car, in the house, that I was invited to enjoy, so I could never dismiss music as a passion.
And how much formal training went into your music alongside passion, and how much of it consisted of just figuring things out as you went along?
There was barely any formal training. I did go to music school as a kid, but I can hardly remember anything; I can read some sheet music but I don’t use it in my artistic process. Of course, it can be very useful, and if you want to get to a certain level you need to be classically trained or have some sort of musical education, but for me, it’s working out fine without it, for now.
Which artist would you say has had the biggest impact on your music?
One artist that I think has always had an important influence on me is Bjork, an Icelandic musician. My mom introduced me to her and she’s stuck with me ever since, I’ve seen her movies and listened to her albums on repeat. And another artist who is a good friend of mine, also a musician from Luxemburg called Bartleby Delicate- Georges Goerens. He helped me get started, helped me write my first songs, and has become one of my best friends.
So did the friendship come first or the music?
The music. I used to be a huge fan of his band when I was fourteen, I was a huge fangirl, I would never have dared to approach him- which is now kind of embarrassing. So when I turned sixteen my parents’ present was singing lessons from him. That’s where the friendship began.
And how did you evolve from lessons to live performances?
My first time playing at an event was at the opening of a sustainable fashion shop, where we played together. After that, I was the opener for them at Fur Elise in Luxemburg, which was a bigger venue that I’ve played many many times since. What was most exciting about that show was that in the audience there was a booker for one of the biggest venues in Luxemburg. A week later I got a call asking me to open for a well-known German band, so for my third concert, I played in front of about six thousand, which I think is still the highlight of my career so far, I’ve never played an event that big since.
And has your performance style changed since then?
When I started out it was just me and an acoustic guitar and now it’s me and a bunch of cables and gear, a laptop, a whole super complex set-up, and it’s become more complicated than it used to be.
Now I’m touring for the first time on my own and it keeps being exciting. That’s something I value about the way my career has developed.
To circle back a little, can you tell me about any other indirect, non-musical influences on your music?
The non-answer would be that everything is an influence on me- either consciously or unconsciously everything will make its way into my music. More concrete examples- are feminist theory, and any sort of art or literature I consume, I really like William Carlos Williams who is a poet who has a very strong influence on my writing style. But I think the short answer is basically everything.
You just recently released an album themed entirely around food, why this choice of theme?
The simple answer is because I like food and I like thinking about it, and the other reason is because I like using metaphors in general, and using food as a metaphor for different things sounded like an easy way to make a clear collection of songs.
Finally, any plans for the future?
I’ll be on tour for the rest of the year, which is so exciting. I also have a remix of my last album coming up and I’m working on an album, which is also gonna have a theme, but I’m not going to reveal it yet.
So, if you are the kind of person who strives to discover artists “before they were cool”, then I’m afraid you are too late- C’est Karma is already undeniably cool and has been for a while. If however, you’re looking for something exciting and meaningful, an album both whimsical and profound, or an Amsterdam-based artist at the start of what promises to be a fantastic and complex musical career, then look no further.
Photo credit: Shade Cumini