The Karma Police
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The Karma Police

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Holy shit!” exclaimed a girl wearing a large amount of black eyeliner, her Abercrombie-clad boyfriend in tow as she dragged him towards the bathroom, “You’d think he was actually Thom Yorke!”

The Karma Police, a local Radiohead tribute band, had just taken the stage at Broadway Joe’s on Main Street. They launched head first into their set with “15 Step” off of Radiohead’s most recent project In Rainbows. The crowd diverted their attention away from the crumbling pool tables to watch the rhythmic jerking and swaying of Jason Clark as he gently caressed the microphone, emulating one of modern rock’s most esteemed frontmen.

The crowd remained captivated by Clark’s performance as he gently yelped out the last lines of “15 Step” in the falsetto that Thom Yorke made fashionable in Radiohead’s 1992 hit “Creep.” “I’ve seen Radiohead live,” said Kirsten Kaufman, an Albany, New York native who made the five-hour journey to Buffalo for the show, “and these guys are so close to the real thing, it’s ridiculous.”

The Karma Police, named after one of Radiohead’s biggest hits, got together in 2005, and each member of the band has a Radiohead alter ego. Jason Clark is the singer, and therefore Thom Yorke; Kyle Peck is the guitarist and keyboardist making him Ed O’Brien; Steve Matthews rocks the bass like Colin Greenwood; Jeremy Franklin is another guitarist and puts together all the electronic loops just like Radiohead’s Johnny Greenwood; and Joe Stocker plays the drums a la Phil Selway.

All the members are Western New York natives, hailing from Lewiston, about 30 minutes north of Buffalo. Clark is even a 2001 University at Buffalo alumni. They all met in the Buffalo area, though Clark calls himself the “point of reference” in the group. Clark and Peck went to high school together, and Clark has played in bands with every other member except Stocker, the drummer, who replaced their old drummer six months ago.

The guys have stayed local, too, renting a studio in Niagara Falls to practice twice a week. They mostly tour the Northeast, playing shows all over New York, Vermont, Pennsylvania, and Ohio. The Karma Police occasionally venture outside the U.S. borders to play in Toronto, Mexico, and maybe even Puerto Rico in the fall. The band also hopes to go overseas to London or Japan. “Radiohead has a huge following in Japan so it’d be fun to play there,” Clark explained.

The Karma Police played their first show at the Brickyard Pub, in Lewiston, in 2005. Their very first show was standing room only, as upwards of 300 people packed the bar that night. “I remember looking up in the beginning of singing ‘Planet Telex’ and all I could see were people from right in front of me, packed shoulder to shoulder all the way to the front door,” Clark said. “Having a wall of people that close to you and around you is totally fun, but still can be a bit intimidating at times.”

Their shows grew from there, and since, they’ve played Niagara University, Hobart and William Smith, and soon will play Rochester University and Binghamton. They often book BB King’s in New York City, a venue that holds roughly 1,000 people. “It’s probably one of the nicest venues you can play from not being Radiohead yourself,” said Clark. “They treat you really well…they even have a masseuse backstage.”

The Karma Police came together in 2005. “We all loved Radiohead, especially after Hail to the Thief came out,” Clark said. “One day we were just hanging around, and I decided we should get together, have some fun, and play some Radiohead songs.” His idea was a hit with the group. “It just sounded so good,” he recalled, “they were like, ‘Let’s give it a shot! Let’s play out!’ and it just grew from there.”

They even have groupies. “There have been some serious Radiohead fans who are really into the band and come to every show, just watching your every move, stealing set lists,” Clark said. “I once stumbled upon a blog that detailed a three show tour we did of Albany, NY to NYC. I was referred to as ‘Fake Thom.’”

One local super-fan is much adored by the band: “Her name is Andrea and we are her number one fan. The reason I say that is because without people like Andrea, the Buffalo music scene would be even worse off than it has become over the years. She spreads the word about our shows and usually brings out 10 to 20 people to each show. Plus, she’s always at the shows dancing, hanging out, and brings an energy to the crowd around her. Now that’s a groupie any band would live and die for,” Clark explained excitedly.

Clark first heard of Radiohead when they played at EdgeFest in 1993. “This band came on called Radiohead. I had no idea who they were but they blew me away and it’s been a love affair ever since,” he said.

Clark and the rest of the band believe that Radiohead are leading trendsetters. “They do what they want,” said Clark, “they don’t answer to anyone else.” Radiohead released their latest album (In Rainbows) on their website last fall with an unusual “pay what you want” deal. It became one of the best selling albums of 2007, and now other established bands like Nine Inch Nails are following suit. “Kid A broke a whole new genre of music,” Clark explained, “‘Paranoid Android’ off OK Computer is like modern opera in a six-minute song, and the way the promoted their new album was simply brilliant,” he said. “They totally broke away from the record label.”

Since 1993, Clark has only seen Radiohead live one more time, in 2001. “In 2006 I had two tickets on ticketmaster.com, but then 30 seconds later they were gone and the show was sold out,” Clark said.

This ticket debacle in 2006 is just one of the reasons the guys are more than content being a tribute band. “We’re all huge fans,” said Clark, “We want to reach out to all the fans of Radiohead and connect with them because either you can’t get tickets, or they’re too expensive. Plus, it’s fun.” Clark is also involved in a solo project and says that a tribute band is a great way to open doors. “It’s a good way to network,” he explained. “You get fans, and from that you can create an original project.”

The main premise The Karma Police play by is to be as true to the band as possible. Clark often pours over YouTube videos of Radiohead shows to, as he put it, “get Thom Yorke’s spasms down.” They are even trying to get involved in Greenpeace and the Big Ask. “Radiohead tries to help the environment, so we’re trying to also,” said Clark.

Perhaps their biggest Radiohead achievement is in their performance of “Idioteque.” To put “Idioteque” together, Radiohead member Johnny Greenwood took the first piece of electronic music and looped it throughout the song. Karma Police member Jeremy Franklin recreated these same loops for the band, giving them a really authentic Radiohead sound. “He’s our looping master,” said Clark with a sense of pride. “We try to be as authentic as possible, especially with equipment.”

The Karma Police are local boys on a mission. They’d love to expand their audience, and not only hope to play at UB, but to play large festivals, too. All the band members have day jobs. Clark is a graphic designer, Peck is a customer service representative at a CD manufacturing company, and Matthews manages a bar in Lewiston. “Channeling Radiohead takes a lot of time, it’s full time,” said Clark, but the bills have to get paid somehow. “Our friends and family are really supportive, too,” he added.

As with any up and coming band, life at the bottom isn’t very glamorous, although the group is lucky to even be able to tour, something few smaller bands are able to do.

Clark recounted a show they played in Albany a few weeks ago. “We didn’t make enough money to spend on a hotel, so I ended up sleeping in the floor of the guitar player’s girlfriend’s house.”

“It was rough,” he admitted, “but you have to sacrifice to do what you want to do.”


By Caitlin Tremblay - Generation - University at Buffalo Magazine


I downloaded Radiohead’s In Rainbows on October 10, paying $10 for it. It’s an immediately likable album, but at this point we’re just getting acquainted, still in that cute, early stage of feeling each other out and getting used to each other’s quirks. I can say with certainty that our relationship will continue through the rest of 2008. After that, we’ll see.
In Rainbows was available in the U.S. only as a download until Jan. 1, when it came out as a regular CD. As of this writing, it is the No. 1 album on the Billboard 200 chart. Prior to its sales success, it got mostly raves from critics, named the best album of 2007 by The New York Times, NPR, New York magazine, and Mojo. It was also the favorite in the year-end Billboard Critics Choice list.
Eventually there will come a day when Radiohead puts out an album that doesn’t create much excitement. It’ll have three or four decent songs on it, and I’ll tell myself, “They’ve still got it, this is great,” but I’ll stop playing it after a dozen listens. I dread that album, the one that sounds fine at first, only to reveal some fatal flaw, and I’m glad In Rainbows isn’t it.
As it did on its last three albums—Kid A, Amnesiac, and Hail to the Thief—Radiohead continues to nail the nervous mood of the times we live in. There used to be a late-night cable-access show in Manhattan that showed horrible Sept. 11 videotape footage set to music from those three albums, and that’s all it was—Radiohead and twin-towers wreckage. I couldn’t take my eyes off that show. It was perfect.
Adding to the latest big Radiohead moment is the enduring strength of The Eraser, the 2006 solo album by the band’s lead singer, Thom Yorke. The Eraser was made mainly on his laptop, and after listening to it the first few times, I was like, “Pffft, what is this crap?” But it grew on me, and I still play it. Now the sweaty music critics of my mind hold daily debates on whether or not The Eraser is better than In Rainbows.
Apparently I needed to talk with someone about all this, a musical priest, or a trained professional who would understand, and that’s when I came upon Jason Clark. Jason knows more about Radiohead than any critic or superfan. He is a working musician out of Buffalo, New York, a singer, songwriter, and guitarist who fronts a band called The Karma Police, which is a Radiohead “tribute” band that got its name from a song on Radiohead’s OK Computer album.
The Karma Police played roughly 50 shows last year, with each one an attempt at recreating a typical Radiohead concert. From the Radiohead covers I listened to on the band’s MySpace page, it sounds to me like The Karma Police do a good job. It formed in 2005 and will be playing tonight at Red Square in Albany and tomorrow night (January 18) at B.B. King’s in Times Square.
Jason spoke with me after he and his bandmates had gone through a rehearsal. He sounded like a good-natured guy—like a character out of a Tom Perrotta novel.

Do you make a living from The Karma Police?
Oh my God, I wish! We all have day jobs. It takes a while to get your reputation built and to finally get a real established booking agency to help you. There’s other bands out there, like there’s a Sublime tribute band called Bad Fish, and that’s what they do full time, and they make hundreds of thousands of dollars a year.
What do you do for your day job?
I’m a graphic designer for a sports memorabilia company.
Are all the guys in the band from Buffalo?
Yes. We’re all been friends for years, and one night we were all hanging out, and I think “There, There” came on, and we were like, “You know what? We should get together and we should try doing something.”
Do you know if Radiohead knows about you?
You know what? I don’t know. I don’t even know what they would think if they had heard of us. I hope that they would appreciate that we’re promoting them. I feel more like we’re doing a promotion thing. It’s not really about the money. We all love Radiohead’s music, and the thing is, too, when we started doing it, it’s like supply and demand. It’s so hard to see them, and they haven’t really toured in the past five or six years, except for that little tour they did in 2006. I tried to get tickets to that and it sold out in 30 seconds. I couldn’t get a ticket!
How do these new In Rainbows songs feel to you? I was thinking that, after the last three albums, they’re retreating, and it’s a friendlier, more melodic album.
You know what? That’s a good read of what that album is. But they did it in reverse. They played a lot of these songs live, and with the Internet you get to hear anything you want, so it was interesting hearing them play the bare essence of these songs, and now we have the studio versions. It’s very melodic, and Thom Yorke’s voice on this album is just outstanding. He really did a great job, and it’s got like an R&B feel. I love singing it. The guitar player in the band, his name is Jeremy, he’s just a wizard with a program called Fruity Loops. He totally recreated the exact loops to the songs, so we’re able to do the electronic music they do.
Is there a split among the Radiohead fans? Some fans like from Kid A onward, and others like the earlier stuff. Do you think that’s true?
Yes. I have definitely come across that. It’s not so much a fan is like, “I just want to hear the old stuff,” but there are definitely those people who say, “Oh, would you guys play ‘Anyone Can Play Guitar’?” Or they want to hear “The Bends.” So we try to play something from each album.
Which do you prefer?
I love all of it, really. Some of the older songs are more rocking, but the newer songs are more layered. We’ve been working on “Pyramid Song.” Very orchestrated, and we want to make sure we get it right.
I was impressed when I listened to the songs on MySpace. Do you keep them in the same keys?
Yes.
Thom Yorke, it’s as if he has a really strong falsetto, but sometimes his voice sounds high in his chest. It’s not like a Mick Jagger falsetto. He can also sing high without sounding like a heavy metal singer.
It’s definitely an ethereal kind of falsetto, like Jeff Buckley. How he does it is almost indescribable. Some of it’s falsetto and sometimes it’s like a whiny way of singing. You’re not really giving it everything you got—it’s not truly falsetto. He’s got such a great voice.
If he was the one pulling the band more in the electronic direction, maybe he got that out of his system on The Eraser, which left Radiohead free to be more the way they used to be…
I think you might be right. I love The Eraser, and we’ve been thinking about playing a song or two off of it, like “Cymbal Rush” or “Black Swan.” I would really like to sit down with my laptop and try to play that album, because it’s all electronic.
I think I might like it more than In Rainbows.
I think I like In Rainbows more, because the band helps out with the writing of it. The Eraser is great. It’s electronic, yet it’s raw, and it’s almost like he had all these ideas in his head that he just had to go out. But I think if those songs had been touched by all of Radiohead, who knows what they could have turned out to be?
Do you play “Creep”?
“Creep,” it’s so hard, because we don’t want to play it sometimes, but it’s a song that always goes over well. Everybody knows that song. So we usually do throw it in.
You’ve become like Radiohead. You don’t want to play the hit.
Yeah, you could say that. [Laughs.]
Are there enough Radiohead fans in Albany to fill a place?
We’re gonna find that out. This’ll be our first time in Albany.
Is the B.B. King’s show sold out?
No. Usually what happens with that show is, it’s 100 pre-sell, and then everybody just comes to the show. So it’s more like a door showing. We get around 550 to 700 people.
I saw Radiohead at Madison Square Garden in 2003, and it was shocking to me, because these songs seem so weird and private, and you think no one else knows them—and then there’s a sing-along with 19,000 people.
You know what? Those are some of the best moments. The first time we ever played B.B. King’s was in June of 2006, and we were playing “Paranoid Android,” and I was playing the acoustic part, and I had my eyes closed, and it gets to the breakdown, and I could hear everybody singing along. I opened my eyes, and people were holding up candles from the tables, and it was just like the most amazing thing you would ever see.
It’s strange to have a whole lot of people singing along to those lyrics. It’s not like singing along to a more sentimental thing. They’re songs about isolation.
Misery loves company. There’s a lot of people out there who get what Thom Yorke is saying.
Do you have your own songs? Have you had to put them aside?
I had been working on a solo album, and it’s definitely gotten pushed back. And trying to write new stuff, it’s hard not to do it so it doesn’t sound like Radiohead. I try to separate myself from it, but it’s difficult.
It worked for Coldplay.
That’s true.
Do you feel a mind-meld with Thom Yorke?
Yeah. Not that I’m even trying, but I notice that I start doing the way he moves his head when he sings. I don’t want to do it, but I think it actually helps with the performance, because you’re synched in to exactly how he does his songs.
When I saw him at the Garden, he was very still and then he had a bodily freakout of motion. Do you do that, too?
I try, I definitely try. But I think he’s, what, like 5-foot-7, and I'm 6-foot-3, so it maybe doesn’t come off as well for a 6-foot-3 guy.
You might scare people.
My fiancée always gets a laugh out of it. I do a little practice at home, and she laughs.
Do you get people throwing themselves at you?
That’s not really the way it is. A lot of people are so hardcore about Radiohead. They’re like, “A tribute to Radiohead? That’s gotta suck!” They automatically dismiss us, but we’ve shocked a lot of people.
Do you know if there are other Radiohead tribute bands?
There was one in Boston, but I think they broke up. There’s one in Philadelphia, and I think they’re from different bands and they just do it once in a while.
Do you talk in English accents when you’re rehearsing?
No. I don’t want to take it that far. The Thom Yorke spasm is as far as I’ll go.
_____
To hear The Karma Police, visit their MySpace page. To see Radiohead playing all of In Rainbows live in their own studio, go here. If you’re scared of Radiohead (as I was before I got into it), you probably won’t be after the first song.

- Jim Windolf - Vanity Fair


FITTER, HAPPIER, MORE PRODUCTIVE, et cetera. You already know them all by heart; now hear's your chance to hear all of Radiohead's Modern-art-rock classics in the intimate confines of Red Square - And not just on the jukebox! Billed as the "Ultimate Tribute to Radiohead", Buffalo's Karma Police have taken it upon themselves to learn and perform every song in the Raidohead catalog. Which is a lot of songs - anyone with a fleeting interest in Radiohead should know that the band turns out as many B-sides as album tracks; these guys know every one of them. And, we might add, they do a pretty convincing job, even if the singer sounds to be taking the Thom Yorke impression a tad seriously. (funny thing, innit?) In any event, we're just happy this isn't a string quartet. - Metroland-Albany, NY Alternative Newsweekly Paper


For everyone old enough to have the lyrics to "High And Dry" memorized, or for all the kids "hip" enough who worship "Kid A", "Amnesiac", and ever-spastic Thom Yorke, there's a show coming that should pop up on the radar.
The Karma Police - a group named for a featured track off the 1997 album "OK Computer" by U.K.'s kings of ambient pop - bring their tribute to Radiohead to The Brickyard Pub. The band seeks to capture the wildly unique and widespread sounds from across Radiohead's catalog. Karma Police goes all the way up to the new and critically aclaimed "In Rainbows" and all the way back to "Pablo Honey" and "The Bends"(the earliest songs even Radiohead itself doesn't play live anymore.)
The K-Police are also known to kick som rarely heard B-sides into their set, so expect to hear material a lot deeper than "Fake Plastic Trees" or "Creep". - Aaron Besecker - Gazette Night and Day - Buffalo, NY


Discography

The Karma Police cover every album from Radiohead's catalog -
Pablo Honey, The Bends, OK Computer, Kid A, Amnesiac, Hail To The Thief and the new, critically acclaimed, IN_RAINBOWS - plus a full list of B-sides and rare live covers. You can hear some of their versions of Radiohead's best songs at www.myspace.com/tkpmusic or view video at: www.youtube.com/tkpmusic

Photos

Bio

Based out of Buffalo, NY. , The Karma Police come from divergent musical backgrounds and together mesh into a painstakingly perfect rendition of one of the best british alt- rock bands of our time, RADIOHEAD. Their sound is flawlessly crafted down to every note, squeal, bleep and haunting melody RADIOHEAD creates. The Karma Police back up their sonic genius with an energetic and captivating live performance that must be seen to be believed. Currently playing venues all over the Eastern USA from NYC to Pittsburgh and Cleveland fans flock to get their fix of RADIOHEAD. TKP is looking to expand their touring radius to wherever fans want them through a strong grassroots fan base and rock solid musicianship. Book them and you WILL get your money's worth....see what the buzz is about.