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In the Garage: Broken Suns of Karma

Columbia band mixes genres

April 18, 2013 | 12:00 a.m. CST

Faint sounds of music escape the basement of a small suburban home. Inside, Chris Ford loudly counts down into his microphone. James Barnes prepares to wail on his guitar. Benjamin James unleashes on his drum set.

Broken Suns of Karma

Where: The Bridge
When: Saturday, April 20, 8 p.m.
Cost: $5-8
Call: 442-9645

This is band practice for Broken Suns of Karma, a trio that’s been playing in the Columbia music scene for the past year.

Barnes’ small basement is typical at first glance, with wood paneling, an antique fireplace and a minibar. Tonight, however, it transforms into the band’s practice space. Cords snake in all directions across the floor, guitars and cases are mounted near the fireplace, and amps are situated on either side.

Ford stands at the microphone with his bass slung over his shoulder. He’s ready. The bandmates banter about what they should play. They agree on the funky dance beat “Leaving Now” and the heavier “All You People,” among others. The songs feature a consistent drumbeat, orderly arrangements of lyrics and short instrumental interludes. Ford describes their sound as funk metal blues.

Drummer Benjamin James and the other members of Broken Suns of Karma record everything in their practice space. Photograph by Jessica Salmond

James’ drum set sits in the middle of the room, and Barnes stands by his guitar amp to the left. Together they play a few tracks from their 16-song repertoire and explain between songs how they improvise. Starting with a melody, Ford will throw out lyrics until they find something that fits. Still, their practices are purposeful. “Sometimes we’ll be sitting around goofing off, and the song will just come out,” James says. “There’s no formula.”

Brian Craig, the frontman of local band Don’t Mind Dying, appreciates the band’s sound and stage presence, which include smoke machines. “They always have these props that are awesome and a really thick sound that I love,” Craig says. “They sound like a 50-piece band, and it’s only three guys.”

Broken Suns of Karma loves the opportunities Columbia provides. “You can play a whole original set; the Columbia scene allows that,” Ford says. “It’s hard
to leave.”

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