INTERVIEW: BBC Radio's Abbie McCarthy & Good Karma Club | SXSW 2019
Abbie McCarthy is one of the UK’s top tastemakers in grassroots music, with a particular love of live bands fuelling the creation of her own platform ‘Good Karma Club.’ As the presenter of BBC Introducing Kent (Sea Girls, Indoor Pets, Alice Chater, and Apre are some of the local Kent bands she’s championed, to name a few), she also presents on Radio 1 and Channel 4. So understandably, it’s a big deal for an artist to be invited to be a part of the Good Karma Club.
The platform is supported by Firestone, which enabled McCarthy to curate monthly nights at Sebright Arms, making Good Karma Club a huge presence in London’s emerging artist community. Abbie also took the platform across to the US for this year’s SXSW (The Snuts, Pip Blom, Laura Misch, Dylan Cartlidge, Bad Sounds, Sports Team), as well as curating a support tour in collaboration with Marsicans across the UK this month. We caught up with Abbie to hear the ins and outs of her innovative platform and all-around championing of new music:
Take us through how Good Karma Club began…
I wanted to start a gig night for ages, one that was a platform for new bands and could also be a bit of a community for music fans, so I eventually started Good Karma Club back in January 2016 and we’ve had a lot of fun since then! We’ve had so many amazing acts play and some are now playing much bigger rooms, so there’s been a lot of ‘we saw them with only 100 other people’ moments, which are always so special.
Can you name an artist who Good Karma Club spotlighted once at a live event who has really taken off and how GKC perhaps contributed its piece to their journey?
There’s been so many now! When The Amazons played for us, that was a moment! Pale Waves felt special too, it was their first headline show in London. Bad Sounds played our third ever night too and got everyone in the room dancing, that was amazing! Tom Grennan played our first ever Good Karma Club festival stage and he’s an artist I think is going to be around for a long long time. Sea Girls played our last GKC tour and are quickly becoming everyone’s new favourite band. I can’t wait to see the levels they reach. More recently we’ve had brilliant acts on like Glowie, Lauran Hibberd and BLOXX. Let’s see where this year takes us…
What inspired you to create another branch of new music showcasing outside of the radio and TV platforms you already do? What does GKC add?
Good Karma Club is an extra way for me to champion new music I love but in a live setting. It’s always ace taking the night on tour around the UK as I get to visit new places, awesome independent venues & meet more fellow music fans.
Though they all have a theme of new music, do you have to separate Good Karma Club from your work with the BBC, Channel 4 & more, or does it all feed in to one another?
I’m always on the hunt for new music so they all work really well in conjunction with each other.
For this year’s Good Karma Club tour with Marsicans headlining (Concentus cover artist in September 2018), how did you programme the all the support acts city to city with this?
I made a big list of dream support acts and was really lucky that both main supports wanted to get involved! Childcare & LUCIA are two of my favourite live acts around right now and I can’t wait for people to see them on this tour. I then wanted the opener in each city to be a local band so I could get a bit of an idea of each individual music scene around the UK and I’m very pleased with who we’ve got on board. Marsicans were an obvious choice for headliner because, quite simply, they’re brilliant! Their indie pop songs are all big sing-a-long anthems and they manage to create such a party atmosphere when they play live, so it’s going to be so fun rolling that huge party around the UK.
You took Good Karma Club to SXSW – what made you want to take it across the pond and how did you curate that line up?
With SXSW being the biggest new music festival in the world it made sense to have a Good Karma Club stage over there as new music is very much our focus. It was my first time going and it was incredible, everyone that goes is so receptive to new stuff. I wanted our showcase to show off a couple of awesome acts that had previously played Good Karma Club in London and killed it (Bad Sounds & The Snuts) and then the other artists are all known for being brilliant live so I had to have them as part of the proceedings!
What was the SXSW experience like? How did you see crowds reacting differently (or similarly) to UK crowds to these British bands?
SXSW is a bit mad! It’s totally all-consuming and a bit overwhelming at first, every where you look there’s music! It’s a truly brilliant festival though because you get to see so many really new acts from all around the world. I’d definitely recommend going. The crowds there are so warm and friendly & seemed to really enjoy the British acts, which was incredible to see.
Make sure to head down to the next Good Karma Club showcase in London on 25th April with Arran George, RVBY, Jafaris, Declan J Donovan headlining! Entrance is FREE! Register HERE.
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