Bass guitarist and songwriter Karina Rykman is playing at the Upstairs on Nov. 30th. Rykman is most well known as the bassist for Marco Benevento but has enjoyed a successful solo career as well. Her first single “Plants” has garnered more than 1 million streams on Spotify.
As Rykman prepares to release an album in 2023, she is touring the Northeast with Ithaca as her first stop. In preparation for her show, she sat down with the Ithaca Times to discuss her upcoming tour and album as well as her songwriting process and her unconventional journey to becoming a bass guitarist.
Ithaca Times: So you grew up in Manhattan. I read in a recent interview that you stayed with a friend in the Hudson Valley during the pandemic. Have you ever been to Ithaca before?
Karina Rykman: I have! I’ve only ever been there playing in Marco Benevento’s band, which is a gig I've done for the last six years. We've had many great shows at the Haunt and also at the Rongo, both places that I know no longer exist. But this will be my first time coming through with my band and I cannot wait to soak it all in. I’m excited to see the new place.
IT: You’ve filled in as a bassist for a lot of bands whether it be Marco Benevento or more recently with Seth Meyers 8G band. How do you approach a gig where you’re subbing in versus when you’re the frontwoman?
KR: When it's somebody else's music and you have to go step in, your mindset goes to ‘How do I best serve this song?’ With my band, it is really rather refreshing to be able to call all the shots and steer the ship myself, which means that if I want to run around the stage, like a complete lunatic animal like I do, I will do that. It's really a mindset shift where you can just be like, Oh, I can do whatever I want. This is my show, baby. Let's go.
IT I know you originally started by playing guitar, but what inspired you to pick up the bass?
KR: I started first on guitar when I was 12 and throughout high school I basically played both guitar and bass in whatever bands or projects called for. It wasn’t until the Marco Benevento gig that I basically decided. “Yo, this is no joke, Karina, you’re a bass player.”
IT: That’s fascinating to me that Marco Benevento calling you up and asking you play bass in his band is the main reason you are a bassist. That’s definitely not a conventional path.
KR: Nothing about it has been a conventional path for me. I’ve done this the most f****ed up and strange way that anyone’s ever done. I had no expectations that I would ever be a professional musician in any regard. I was just obsessed with music and kept playing and kept getting gigs, but I never expected it to go where it’s gone. Lo and behold, the universe has a way.
IT: What's the driving source of inspiration with your music?
KR: I want to make fun, exciting, bombastic music that you don’t have to be on 12 tabs of acid to enjoy. I like psychedelic music. I like heavy music. I like dance music. And I feel like my tunes sort of encompass all of that. I just want my shows to be places where people come together, dance, let go of all inhibitions and just have a moment of serenity through bass bombs and whimsical exploration. I need to create that space for myself too.
IT: Your most recent song “Arbitrary” came out in 2021, I hear you also have a debut record in the works, any updates on that front?
KR:You can definitely expect to hear a lot of unreleased stuff at the show in Ithaca, and all throughout the tour as well. As for the record, it's done. And I can't say too much more about it, but it will be out next year. All I can say is to get this out into the universe after waiting for so long is going to be the most cathartic, incredible moment in my life.
IT: You’re a top-tier bassist regardless of gender, but in general, bass guitar is a very male-dominated sphere. Is that ever difficult for you, or do you find the community to be pretty open and welcoming?
KR: I’ve had my fair share of bullshit, but I love to prove motherf****ers wrong, When I encounter any sort of wackness … I've been known to confront people in a coy way. But for the most part, I would definitely say everyone that I've encountered, for the most part has been super welcoming, respectful and cool, as they should be.”
Many women come up to me at shows and tell me that being myself, so unequivocally, has emboldened them to be themselves, unequivocally. And that's worth everything to me. I didn’t set out to be that guy, but if I am, that's incredible. I just hope everybody feels understood and emboldened to be themselves in this lifetime.
Rykman will be playing the Upstairs on 106 S. Cayuga St, 8:00-11:30 pm on Wednesday Nov. 30.