With the abundance of clubs dedicated nights to emo music from the past, it’s kind of like um…you’re aware that new bands in this arena of music exist, right? Bands like Karma Kids whose members came up enamored with an array of emo, pop-punk, and hardcore bands that made Warped Tour a summer tradition for many back in the day. Now, Karma Kids is doing their own thing, fusing what they came up on, and setting their own path for a new generation to fall in love with. We talked to their own Jon Benjamin about their June release, ‘vibes,’ working with Sleeping with Sirens’ Kellin Quinn, and more in this back and forth exchange!
Kendra: Jon and Zaac, you both spent your fair share of time in a variety of bands that fall under the Emo umbrella, but when you came together in 2019 to form Karma Kids and developed this emocore sound – was it each of you bringing one aspect of that to the table? Like one was more emo and the other more hardcore?
Jon Benjamin: Interesting point here. I definitely came from more of an emo and pop-punk background and Zaac, while still for sure into emo, played mostly heavy stuff. It was a fun blend before we took a liking more to the emo side rather than the core side!
Kendra: Jon, can you recall what show it was that you first took note of Sleeping with Sirens’ Kellin Quinn, and did you ever imagine you’d be working together?
Jon Benjamin: The show where I saw an early Sleeping With Sirens was The Pyknic Partery Tour in 2010. My show was at the now-defunct ES Jungle in Indianapolis. I was very involved in the scene at the time and hadn’t heard their name before. No one in my pretty decent-sized circles had either. I had no idea that I’d end up working with him, let alone that they would become such a staple in the music scene!
Kendra: Which, how did y’all connect with Kellin for “Nightmare?”
Jon Benjamin: I sent over a rough version of the track and the next day had the tracks back!
Kendra: Speaking of, “Nightmare” is about having to dig deep inside yourself after sort of losing control of who you are. It hit me as I thought of the past year and how things like suicide rates, depression, and addiction were on the rise due to the pandemic. Were you at all influenced by all of that, or was this 100% personal?
Jon Benjamin: I hadn’t personally made that connection with the song, but I’m glad it’s made that connection to you! I basically wrote it from the perspective of someone rising to power. A lot of the elite and people in powerful positions have a dark cloud over them from the entities that got them there.
Kendra: Was there a lot of time between when you dropped ‘Dystopian Dream’ and when you started working on 2021’s ‘vibes?’
Jon Benjamin: The second part of ‘Dystopian Dream’ originally dropped in April of last year. I believe it was early June that we started working on what was intended to be the next record, ‘Chemical Drugs.’ It was at about 9 or 10 songs by late July when some crazy things happened and ‘vibes’ had started brewing. We decided to stop working on ‘Chemical Drugs,’ form it into an EP, and really start hitting the head on the nail with ‘vibes.’ This is actually the most time I’ve ever put into a record.
Kendra: Looking at just yourself, do you feel like you can pinpoint your growth as a musician between the two?
Jon Benjamin: My writing matured very quickly. It’s like years of progress over half of a year, it’s crazy.
Kendra: Lastly, it’s getting a little easier with the vaccine rollouts, but it’s still kind of hard to have a definite answer when it comes to future plans given the current state of everything, but as far as what you can control when it comes to your career and creativity – what do you have planned in the coming months for yourself?
Jon Benjamin: I’d love to start playing ‘vibes.’ live. These songs were just meant for a performance!