Written by K.C. Maloney of Adult Karate
Growing up, I was a weird kid. On any given day during elementary school you could usually find me zoning out during class, dreamy with the anticipation of coming home later that day and being able to listen to whatever album I happened to be obsessed with. I remember inviting a classmate over to my house to hang out after school. My idea of fun was sitting in front of my small stereo and listening to music. I remember him telling me this, my favorite activity, was “boring”. I mean, he was probably right. We were 8 years old and we probably should have been outside riding bikes around or at least playing with toys or whatever. My toy situation was lacking at best. Whenever birthdays or Christmas came around, my requests were usually things like “a gift certificate to Poo-bah record shop” or “a cassette of INXS – Dekadance (a hard to find Australia-only release of remixes from The Swing album)”. Once, in 5th grade, I asked for a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle action figure for Christmas. All the kids at school had them and I wanted to get in on the craze. Once I had it in my hands, I immediately regretted my decision. I could have had a rare VHS chronicling The Police’s 1982 world tour, but instead I had this dumb piece of green plastic that does nothing. I never made that mistake again.
My first visceral reaction to art and music happened when I was about 3 years old. It’s an event that changed the course of my life and cemented my passions. My older sister had rented the 1980 movie Xanadu starring Olivia Newton-John, Gene Kelly and Michael Beck. If you haven’t seen it, I’ll save you the full synopsis. Basically, it’s a poorly written musical about a Greek muse in a mural coming to life and helping a roller skating painter realize his dream of opening a confused disco-fusion nightclub. Box office gold!! It was critically panned and barely broke even, budget-wise. But I was 3 years old and I fucking LOVED it. Electric Light Orchestra provided the soundtrack for half of the movie and those songs blew my goddamned 3-year-old mind. Jeff Lynne’s glossy pop production and penchant for 3-part harmonies spoke to my soul. Obviously, I was far too young to understand that this film and the soundtrack were not considered “cool”. For the next several months I would beg my mom to let me rent Xanadu every weekend. She caved several times, probably in an attempt to get me to shut up. One of those times, I had taken a marker to the VHS cover. I was trying to trace the Xanadu logo (I was 3, shut up). The video shop refused to accept it back and instead charged my mom for the full price of the tape. I got in trouble, but we also got to keep the VHS which was awesome.
So, my first love in music was most certainly what most people would consider a “guilty pleasure”. From then on, I think I subconsciously made a choice not to let the perception of other people dictate my taste in music. A lot of people will be ashamed of music they listened to in their adolescence, saying things like “I can’t believe I liked this crap!”. I don’t quite get that. A part of me will always like all the music I’ve ever truly enjoyed. Whether it be songs by The Thompson Twins, Ace of Base, Justin Timberlake, Coldplay, Kelly Clarkson, Miley Cyrus… I’m not gonna pretend I don’t like something to seem edgy or hip. Anyway, the classic idea of “cool” is the most overrated idea of all time. One of my favorite singer/songwriters at the moment, the amazing Julia Jacklin, got her start listening to Britney Spears at the age of ten. And now she is making some of the most beautiful alt-country pop to ever come out of Australia. I hope my early adoption of pop music will have the same effect on the songs I write. Don’t get me wrong, there’s a lot of fringe/experimental music I love and listen to as well. I love so much music it’s often overwhelming. But my objective for Adult Karate is to write and perform pop music through my particular, somewhat broken lens. I hope I am lucky enough to continue down that same path for years to come.