While you may know her from smiling ear-to-ear, grooving on stage with Marco Benevento, Karina Rykman is one of the most dynamic bass players to grace the stage today in her own right. With a burgeoning solo career on the horizon and a slew of virtual and in-person gigs throughout the pandemic, the bassist picked as one of Live For Live Music‘s breakout artists of 2019 won’t let anything slow her down. L4LM got to talk to Rykman about how she has been keeping busy during these wild times.
Live For Live Music: 2020 has been very challenging for musicians. At the beginning of the year, you—and many other musicians—had so many plans to tour. You always look on the bright side of things, and I know you have had an opportunity to stream through social media and a number of socially-distant shows. What are some positive moments you’ve had in the past few months?
Karina Rykman: It’s certainly been an adjustment for everyone, but of course very much so for touring musicians who had grown accustomed to the rollercoaster of life on and off the road. I was very lucky this summer and did about 12 private, tiny backyard gigs around the Northeast—just purely from fans reaching out and asking “what would it take for your band to set up and play on my deck for 90 minutes?” and then we’d take it from there! Had some amazing, very safe, very fun experiences playing with my band in that format. That has since dried up cause it’s too cold these days, but I look back on the 2nd half of the summer and I’m so grateful that I got to play the way I did.
Live For Live Music: Let’s talk about bass players. Who were your influences when you got started and now? Who are some players that people may not know about that they should?
Karina Rykman: When I first started I was really into Geezer Butler, Cliff Burton, Bootsy [Collins], Geddy Lee, Les Claypool, [John Paul Jones], etc, etc. Recently I’ve dug more into James Jamerson, Larry Graham, Carol Kaye, and Thundercat of course. I love the guy from Royal Blood —Mike Kerr. I think he should be a household name. His tone and his attack/articulation are just ridiculous. And he’s a great model for fuzz playing, as that’s something I do a lot of.
Live For Live Music: Going into 2021, where do you see the live music industry moving forward with shows so everyone feels safe and is able to enjoy shows?
Karina Rykman: That’s the million-dollar question these days, isn’t it? I mean I think the pod shows and the drive-ins are awesome, and if there’s any industry that’s able to get creative when the going gets tough, it’s ours. I’m hopeful, though certainly cautiously, that things will get better and we will slowly but surely be able to increase capacity and get closer and closer to what a show used to look and feel like.
Live For Live Music: Eighth grade is when you first picked up an acoustic guitar. What are the top three moments thus far in your bright career?
Karina Rykman: Oh man, that’s tough! In no particular order, number one has to be my first weekend run with Marco—April 2016. I couldn’t even believe it. I still can’t. The last show of that run was at Music Hall Of Williamsburg and I had my parents and all my friends there in the green room just celebrating like crazy after the gig. So memorable, so special. And that really jump-started everything for me. Number two slot would probably go to my band opening for Khruangbin at The Capitol Theatre—one of my favorite bands right now on a stage I’ve dreamed of playing. So cool. And yes, you guessed it, number three is the 4.5 minutes that I jammed with Phish at soundcheck at MSG. I got to play with my favorite band at the world’s most famous arena. Like, what? Just completely surreal, an actual dream come true—I’ve had that exact dream before many, many times—and something that gives me goosebumps every time I realize that it actually happened.
Live For Live Music: The list of musicians you’ve shared the stage with is a mile long. If the opportunity presents itself, who else would you like to share the stage with?
Karina Rykman: Damn, the list is endless! How crazy can I get here with this question? Beck is my idol. I’d absolutely spontaneously combust if I got to play a second of music with the guy in any capacity. Nine Inch Nails would be a dream. I’d want to sit in on “You Know What You Are?” and go fucking crazy with the strobes. I’m allowed to think big here right? Like bucket list sh*t? Ha! Ween. Always Ween. LCD Soundsystem. I’d want Snoop Dogg to call me up to play the “Lodi Dodi” bassline on the Doggystyle 30th anniversary tour. How’s that?
Live For Live Music: Is there any advice you give to musicians that are looking to break into the scene? What they should focus on to make sure they stay the course?
Karina Rykman: I’m kinda a bad person to give advice, as I’ve done quite literally everything in my own f*cked up way my entire life, just with lots of tenacity and obsession and focus and true love for music. It’s my work, my play, my relief, the vehicle through which I socialize…it’s my whole world and everything orbits around it. If you feel that way about anything, I believe you can make a life out of it. Love it until it drowns you in it, and then love it some more. Make friends with people who feel the same way—find your people through your passion. Make things with those people. And be kind to everyone, even when they look at you funny and tell you the merch booth is over there when you load into a club and you’re actually the bass player.