On The Records: Karina Utomo

The first time I heard about Karina Utomo on 2007, she was the frontwoman of Australian post-hardcore band, Young & Restless. Thanks to her powerful vocal and stage charm, the band was hyped as one of the Aussie’s most potential band after releasing their debut album. Unfortunately, this Canberra-based band announced their breakup on their Myspace page on 17 August 2009 a few weeks after the release of their new single, which left the fans with the same vague feeling when you heard that your favorite tv shows are cancelled for the next season. I always know, it’s not gonna be the end for Karina’s talent, and she prove it right when she post a video of her new band called High Tension on her Facebook page. After listen and watch the video, I know, it’s gonna be something great.

Hi Karina, how are you? what are you doing before answering this email?

Hi Alex, I am really well thanks, hope you too! I just finished band practice as we have our first show with High Tension in a couple of weeks. So far we almost have enough songs to play an entire set… haha!

 I’m not quite aware about the disbandment of Young & Restless, would you mind to share a tidbits?

It was sad that we had to end the band when we did. Lots of reasons accumulated and pushed it to end…. I won’t go into specific details as that’s not important. The important thing was that we had an amazing time and didn’t expect to have all the opportunities that we did with the band.

 What are you doing during that time?

It was definitely a good opportunity to breathe and spend more time doing the things I wish I had time to do. I also got to focus a little bit more on my work for a few years, I always worked throughout Y&R, so suddenly just having to focus on one thing was refreshing and felt like a bit of a holiday! I also explored collaborating with friends on different kinds of music; I pursued dark industrial EBM type music with a good friend who is very talented but only went as far as demos. I think during this time I discovered that (as cliché as this may sound) my heart lay in (very) heavy music.

 What it feels like to start it all over again with your new band?

It’s like having a new crush! Also, lots of scheming and planning to how we want to do things, which is part of the fun.

 So, what sparked you to form High Tension?

Ash (the guitarist) and I had been writing music since we were in SMP, we have grown up together pursuing different bands (Y&R and now High Tension). The beauty with Ash is he knows exactly what I like in terms of riffs, and can easily translate my ideas for guitar riffs and make it better. It makes the process of songwriting more organic, we are not over-thinking what we are doing, it’s more direct. We stayed close friends when he left Y&R and kept writing music. The hardest part was finding like minded members who wanted to be in a heavy band, had the time and a degree of commitment. It is kind of a big ask when you think about it, you sink in your energy, time and money for the love of it. You have to really, really love it.

We pretty much found that with Matt Weston (our bass player who is also in one of my favourite bands The Nation Blue). Matt is pretty much a dream person to have in your band! It helps that we like the same kind of bands, have a similar aesthetic to what we wanted to create.

Damian Coward, our drummer, is a bit of a hero to me as well. He used to run a record label called Building Records and pretty much played in my favourite bands, or toured my favourite bands or put out records of my favourite bands. He was an important aspect to this kind of music in Australia and an amazing curator. He has lots of stories up his sleeve so we have to make sure he’s not telling them when he’s setting up his drum kit haha. For me, it’s the perfect line up and we’re a good team!

Do you ask Nugie (her younger brother, who was the drummer of Young & Restless)  again to join this band too?

I would have loved for Nugie to be in the band. He was an important part of Y&R, especially being my brother, it meant that he could be very honest and open with his opinion; and this was invaluable to me. I couldn’t ask Nugie to be in High Tension as he lives in a different city to us, and would defeat the purpose of pursuing a band at our leisure (Matt, Ash and I are pretty much neighbours, and Damian lives 15 minutes away), we need ease to practice, come together etc, and having a drummer in a different city is logistically impossible at this stage.

What’s the story behind the band’s name?

Matt came up with the name and we all spent quite a long time coming up with something that was not already taken. We wanted a name that translated well with the music.

What’s the main differences between High Tension and your earlier bands? Do you have specific aim/influences for this band?

High Tension is a lot more direct. We don’t have specific influences in terms of bands so much… it’s more about creating a feeling for the audience. It’s sleazy and pushes you right up against a wall, we want to get into people’s personal space and create a good kind of discomfort.

 How is the recording process for your upcoming release?

The songwriting was really organic. We wrote everything in the rehearsal room, or started with riffs that we played around with over pizza. We asked Tom Larkin who recorded the Young & Restless album as he is just the perfect person to work with and he brings out the best in you, so it was a no-brainer to work with him again.

What’s the next plan for High Tension?

Keeping it brutal and fun.


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