A Q&A with Micky James of the Karma Killers

by Spencer Bateman (Computer Science, Music), published April 21st 2016

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The Karma Killers are part of a long tradition of glammed-up, New York post-punk. After a few dragged-out years as a DIY act, they found a home for their refined pop hooks and new wave sensibilities at Island Records. Tastemakers caught up with frontman Micky James at the Sinclair in Cambridge to talk chipped teeth, classic guitars, and the undeniable impact of the Strokes.

Tastemakers Magazine (TMM): A Rickenbacker is an interesting guitar for a punk band.

Micky James (MJ): It’s actually my dad’s guitar. He is a big Beatles fan, [and] that was the first band I ever listened to. I was eight and right when I got into The Beatles he bought that guitar. Later on in life he just gave it to me as a gift.

When we started out, sound guys would always talk about how cool that guitar is. I thought I was the only frontman with that guitar. Then I saw Tame Impala and The Vaccines also have one, and I realized I wasn’t as cool as I thought.

TMM: You’ve got roots in New Jersey, right?

MJ: Yes, we live there but the band started in New York City. We crossed the pond to start the band. The scene isn’t what it once was, but we have some influences from Jersey, like Blondie and the Misfits. And of course, we always get the My Chemical Romance comparison.

TMM: Were you influenced by New York music as well?

MJ: The punk scene, obviously. The New York Dolls, Talking Heads. And even the Strokes – how can you not? They are one of my favorite bands. I feel like these bands from New York always try to deny that they are influenced by the Strokes and it’s like, “Bro, I know you love the Strokes.” They started a whole wave and they are the shit.

TMM: How was your Warped Tour experience?

MJ: It was really amazing because it was our first real tour. It kicked our ass and showed us what it’s like to be a real band on the road. It’s not even about performance – it’s about surviving. But we learned so much and that’s how we started to build a fan base.

TMM: What was the worst gig you ever played?

MJ: We did a label showcase in LA and I chipped my tooth and there was no one there but the label. I ruined my tooth and it was just the label there, so that was probably my worst experience playing a show.

TMM: Best experiences playing a show?

MJ: We played the Bowery Ballroom [in New York] and it was sold out. That was kind of a goal for our band and we got to it. We also got to play after Incubus at SXSW which was fucking weird. Those two were our probably our pinnacle shows as a band.

TMM: So what can we expect from the upcoming album?

MJ: There is no release date as of yet. We are still writing it and working on it. Whenever we’re off tour, we start working on songs and then we get booked to tour [again]. So there are so many songs that are just scrambled or demos, but we are trying to get a single out soon.

TMM: How will it sound different from the EPs?

MJ: It might sound like Madonna [laughs]. It definitely is going to be a little different. But it will sound like songs that were on the EP, like “Domino” and “My Killer Queen.”

TMM: Do you have any advice for other up-and-coming musicians?

MJ: Just keep going. I have been doing this since I was 10. If it’s your passion and you believe in it and you believe in yourself, that’s the most important [part]. Fuck reality and the norm – just do what you feel is right. Then work really hard and tour and be original and be charismatic and be something different.

TMM: Well Mickey, it was fun hanging out. Thanks for taking the time.

MJ: Yeah, it was great. We’ll have an album out soon, but for now we have an EP out called Strange Therapy and a single out called “Domino,” so make sure you pick it up. We’ll be back in LA playing the Fonda Theater soon.

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