I Am Karate, the Swedish electro-pop duo based in Stockholm, featuring Erika Soldh Ahlström and Marta Pettersson, are known for their “contemporary sound of indie electro pop including dream pop, R&B and hip-hop.” The duo most recently released its newest EP, In a Thin Air, featuring Bitter, Lock, and All Good. I Am Karate reached over 500,000 streams on Spotify and received a nomination for Best Unsigned In GAFFA.
www.theartofla.com spoke to Erika and Marta via email about how the duo formed, clicking musically, sharing musical influences, collaborating on songs and their lyrical and the meaning of their interesting name I Am Karate and the symbolism behind it and more.
You both met up at a library and did a gig together?
ERIKA: Yeah! It was kind of spontaneous actually, Marta had gotten a gig and didn’t want to do it herself and asked me if I wanted to try and do something together. The minute we started to play we knew we had to start a band together.
How did you both know you would click musically?
MARTA: We didn’t, haha. No, but seriously, we weren’t even hanging out before we started the band, we were just classmates and then we started to play and became really good friends.
Do you both share a lot similar musical influences?
ERIKA: Yes and no. We’ve both always loved pop music, but before I Am Karate we wrote different types of music. I’ve had a more kind of a radio friendly pop solo project and Marta wrote more kind of indie pop-rock music. That’s probably one of the reasons this is working so well, because we can complement each other because of our different influences, not just musically. We’re kind of different in general which I think is a good thing, opposites attract you know.
What is your process in collaborating on songs?
MARTA: It’s different from time to time but we always finish writing a song together, including producing it. Most of the time one of us has just a small piece of an idea, maybe a melody or some lyrics, and shows it to the other one. Then we write a song based on that, just playing and trying to go with our instinct, see what first comes to our minds.
What inspires your lyrics when you write songs?
ERIKA: The inspiration for our lyrics always comes from self-experience in some way but it doesn’t have to be a particular event or something that has actually happened, it can be just a strong feeling or a thought that feels real.
What does I Am Karate mean? Are you both fans of marshal arts?
MARTA: Karate means empty hand. You come in peace and use no weapons, but you can defend yourself if necessary. So I Am Karate kind of means that you’re friendly and peaceful but if you hit me I will defend myself, you know? Haha!
Did you both come from musical families? What did you both listen to growing up?
ERIKA: We always had a lot of different music playing in the house, Beach Boys, Queen, Lauryn Hill, Swedish folk music and I listened to a lot of commercial radio. My dad is a doctor and my mom is a pediatric nurse but they’re both music lovers for sure and they really encouraged me to start practicing music at a young age.
MARTA: Yeah, they are really supportive! Always sharing everything on Facebook and cheering on!
Are you both self-produced?
ERIKA: Yes! We produce all our music ourselves.
Would you welcome working with outside producers? Who is on your wish list and why?
MARTA: Yeah, that would be great! We’d really love to work with Lido who produced Astrid S amazing song Hyde. We also absolutely love Grimes, so working with her would be coolest ever.
Are you both into fashion? What influences your style?
ERIKA: We like coming up with ideas for stage outfits and creating mood boards and things like that! Lately, we’ve been really inspired by combining Japanese art with more urban stuff.
MARTA: And Nørrebro!
What instruments do you play? How did you come to choose to play that?
MARTA: We both mostly play keyboard but I’ve played saxophone since I was a kid. Not so much anymore though, but I’m planning on starting to practice again!
What is the music scene like in Sweden?
ERIKA: It’s great! There’s a lot of amazing writers, producers, and artists all coming from Scandinavia and that is really inspiring and makes you wanna work harder.
Will you both tour?
MARTA: Yeah we hope so in the nearest future, but right now we’re focusing on writing and producing new music.
What’s next for I Am Karate?
ERIKA: Besides releasing the EP 8th of July, we’re working on some new material and in August we’re releasing a new single and video.