Sunday Sessions 5 - George Kakas
By: Emma Corcoran
It's difficult to narrow down and pinpoint exactly what George Kakas does in regard to music because, well, he does just about anything and everything. From working as the Social Rep of the Music Society and playing trombone for the orchestra to performing at Music is Love Live Lounge events and singing/beatboxing for The Other Guys as one of their newest members, George can't seem to get enough of the music scene here in St Andrews. And as if he could possibly fit anything else on his plate, George also recently formed the band Milk & Honey with a group of friends, playing guitar and singing as one of the lead soloists. His undeniable passion for music simply knows no bounds. In his words, 'Music’s just always been there.' We're excited to see where it takes him.
An Interview with George Kakas:
ST.ART: Can you just tell me a little bit about what first sparked your interest in music, when you started singing?
GK: So I’m from Cyprus - I was at a nice little private school there, very small, so music and music videos were really not made available to us. My grandma’s very into military bands, just military generally, so she got me into this brass band thing, and I was taught how to play trombone. So I guess I started off with that. Then the school band came along and they needed a bassist, and the bass is much bigger than the guitar is, so they needed a ten year-old kid tall enough to reach the end. So alright, ‘George is quite tall, he’s got long arms, alright, cool’, so I took up bass then as well. Then I just kept going, kept picking up different instruments. I had a piano at home, so I started messing around with that, and then the guitar. My dad plays guitar, so he’s got like ten guitars in the house, so again, just picked them up and started playing as well. I just sort of developed this circle of musicality around me - I was always just doing it.
Singing-wise, I never did any singing; I was always instruments. The singing aspect of me is St Andrews, it’s fully inspired here, which is why I was actually quite fortunate to get into The Other Guys because I don’t have any sort of technical training or anything like that. So yeah, that would be the start of my musicality. Music’s just always been there.
ST.ART: So you have a lot of different influences then, through music - all these different instruments.
GK: So you know like modern R&B and hip hop music, it’s very computer-orientated; it’s all sort of samples and loops and auto-tune. I feel slightly against that because that’s been my whole life, developing a talent for all these different instruments. When someone comes along and pays someone else to auto-tune their voice, do a little computing, they become pop stars. In other words, imagine you’re a swimmer and there’s another swimmer, and you’re in an Olympic arena, and another swimmer’s got see-through flip flops on, and he wins. That’s how I sort of feel.
ST.ART: Do you ever write your own music?
GK: Yeah, I’ve written quite a few things, but I don’t really share them much. I haven’t shared them yet. I’ve got a couple recordings and whatnot, but I haven’t gotten to that level of feeling like I can let that side of myself out just yet. I mean, I can do covers and stuff like that, and I’m happy doing that, because if people think the lyrics are stupid, then they’re not my lyrics, bro – not my fault [laughs].
They’re just a lot of judgement, really, especially in a town like this; it’s so small, and word gets around. Music is Love is a very nice culture of music, and I wouldn’t want to poison that with my potentially terrible lyrics.
ST.ART: With The Other Guys, do you all collaborate with coming up with the arrangements? How does that work?
GK: There is a Musical Director, and then there is a Co-Director as well, both students. Everyone is a student. They’re the charge, more or less, but they’re not really in charge. It’s very democratic, so we all have a say in how the song should be arranged. We all have a say, but they’re the two that you want to sort of impress at the next rehearsal.
ST.ART: Do you have a favourite arrangement that you’ve performed with The Other Guys?
GK: It’d have to be ‘Run to You’. Do you know the group The Pentatonix? They released a single called ‘Run to You’ – absolutely amazing, oh my god, that song. We do a cover of that. Last week, we sang in the Glasgow Cathedral, and the acoustics in there are so vast and echoing and whatnot; there’s so full. Singing that song was so… you felt it bounce back into you, you know? I don’t know, that’s very abstract, but it was really nice. That would be my favourite arrangement, I would say.
ST.ART: Do you have a most memorable performance, either with The Other Guys or something else?
GK: I represented Cyprus at Eurovision a couple times. I was very young; I had just turned sixteen, which is the legal age of actually entering - there’s like a junior one as well. I remember that was probably the best two weeks of my life because I got to skip school with a reason, like my Headmaster was like, ‘Okay George, off you go. Sorry guys, I’m taking George to go to this Eurovision show’ kinda thing, you know what I mean? I guess going on that stage of that kind of calibre for the first time and hearing all those people screaming and having all that attention which you’re not used to, coming from Cyprus especially, this tiny island in the middle of nowhere - it was like, ‘Yeah, this is what I’m doing. This is what I want to do.’
ST.ART: Were you performing with a group?
GK: Yeah, we had a little wee band.
ST.ART: What did you sing?
GK: We did this song called ‘Firefly’. I played keyboards in that. That was the first time. Then the second time, I went the next year again, with a different band though, and I was playing guitar in this one. We didn’t get very far with that one, but the first one, we went to Moscow and everything. It was really cool. I think that sort of shaped my ambition in a way, you know? Once I got a taste of it at that young age, I was like, ‘I’m gonna full-throttle one day.’ Not yet, haven’t gotten there yet, though. It was good, feels like a good claim to fame to have [laughs]. That would be it I think: that would be the first most inspiring moment.
But I mean, there have been a few. Living Room gigs are absolutely what I love doing because everyone is just watching you, you know? I like that. I played at Taste a couple months ago, and that was really nice. There were all these candles everywhere, and it’s really nice to have a candlelit ambiance and just a few faces looking straight at you in the eyes, and I feel like that’s what music is for me. It’s sort of an expression of passion or a message, a deep-felt message or something; it’s very passionate, you know? I feel like if people have been looking into your eyes for the past five minutes while you’re singing, then you’ve got it. Somewhere that’s also great to be at as well. It’s all about having balance, I think.
ST.ART: Yeah, I like that kind of environment. It’s like a close-knit community of people in a very intimate space.
GK: Yes, exactly. Intimacy is such a deep thing in music sometimes.
ST.ART: Have you thought about sharing your lyrics?
I think it’s easier to put words on page as opposed to having to sit up front and read them out loud, do you know what I mean? But there’s always a different effect you have when you’re reading something that you’ve written and it’s personal and you can feel that passion and emotion behind the words, as opposed to someone reading it with their own voice in their own head and the way that they think the words sound.
GK: Exactly. Of course, you relate to it differently. I’m sure you’ve gone online and researched lyrics of songs, and if you read them through yourself, it’s true, you get such a different perspective of what that song actually means. You know The Fray? Have you heard their song ‘City Hall’? Well the song itself is so different to what I thought the lyrics would mean. I researched the lyrics one day, and was just like, ‘Wow.’ Just backs you up, basically.
ST.ART: It’s interesting how lyrics touch people in different ways; depending on perspective and personal experience, you relate to songs differently. I think that’s so cool.
GK: Yeah, everything’s subjective. Everything.
ST.ART: And you know the moment when you show someone a song, and you love the song, and then you show it to that person, and they’re like, ‘Ah, yeah, it’s okay.’
GK: It sucks so much.
ST.ART: It’s the worst feeling.
GK: On the contrary, if someone’s like, ‘Dude, oh my god! Play it again, that’s amazing!’ and you’re like, ‘Yeah it is, with pleasure’ – which is why I love road trips; they’ve got to stay in the car, and they’ve got to listen to it, so you’re just playing your music – driver’s rights.
ST.ART: Yeah, I do love road trips.
GK: Before I got my driving license, like the day before my exam, I made about five CDs. It was the day of CDs before AUX and Bluetooth in cars. Best feeling ever.
ST.ART: So what else can you tell me about yourself?
GK: I was in the army for just two years. It’s conscription, so you have to go. A lot of people get out of it; 40-50% of kids get out of it, so it makes it quite voluntary at the end of the day. Even though it’s mandatory, it’s very easy to get out, so if I really couldn’t take anymore, then I would, but I’ve never really been a quitter, so I just sort of pushed through. I like to always take the hardest route as well. It’s a stupid gene that I’ve got, that I like to take the hard route, so I went to Special Forces as well. That was emotionally more of a roller-coaster, for two years.
Going back to music, we weren’t allowed to have any sort of musical thing in the Special Forces because it was a distraction, so now that I’ve come to University, I’ve got all this freedom and I’m back in touch with my music again, and that’s why I’m in as many of the music scenes as I can be. I’m Social Rep for the Music Society as well. The Music Society is more classical stuff, so it’s like the orchestras and the swing bands and all that stuff, they’re all part of the Music Society. So yeah, I try to take part of all of those as well. My life in St Andrews is really 98% music and 2% work, to put it briefly [laughs]. Not gonna lie, it’s a pretty decent life.
ST.ART: What artists do you listen to? Who are you following at the moment?
GK: It sort of depends on what I do. If I’m gonna go do a workout or go for a run or something, I like to get into something like Rage Against the Machine. If I’m studying, I like to have some really boring classical tunes, like classical music, but really boring stuff, stuff that I won’t get into, otherwise I’ll get distracted. If I’m at a party, like Kygo for example – I’ve seen Kygo six times, just in different areas around the world. I love his music. Mumford and Sons – big, big part of my heart there. Again, road trips would be classical rock, like ACDC and all that stuff. It really depends on what I’m into. Have you heard of Philip Phillips? He’s a big influence of mine, I cover him quite a lot.
ST.ART: Do you have a favourite song to cover?
GK: Yeah, two of them, and they’re both Coldplay. One of them is ‘Viva la Vida’, which is a more upbeat one in my repertoire; it gets people bobbing their heads, which is a good sign. Then I have ‘Fix You’, which is one of my favourites. I sort of arrange them in my own way. I’ve got this band, Milk & Honey, which I sort of formed this year, in a very messy way, though. I think next semester I’m going to start organising some scheduled rehearsal times and things like that. There’s a violin, cello, a drummer, an electric guitarist, there’s me with my voice on my guitar and there’s another female singer, so that’s that band. We do a lot of covers, and ‘Fix You’ definitely sounds absolutely… it’s really nice. There’s a Live Lounge through Music is Love, so they do the Live Lounges and they record them, and a couple weeks ago, this band came up, Sunshine Social. We opened up for them, and we played a lot of their stuff. Hopefully it’s all been recorded and it’ll all be somewhere.
ST.ART: How was that, opening for them?
GK: It was good! I was really hoping that it went well because… ah, I don’t know why I didn’t think of this guy before - Matt Corby, he’s an Australian guy, he’s a singer-songwriter, he’s my love at the moment. That night, he was playing in Glasgow, and that was in my diary from last year, I was like, ‘Oh my god, Matt Corby, Glasgow.’ I’ve covered him quite a lot as well. Then Amy Hill got in touch with me and said, ‘Hey, do you want to open this band, Sunshine Social?’ So this was my dilemma: whether I should open for the band or go see the concert in Glasgow. Eventually I just opted to play at here, so I was really hoping that it went well, and I hope it went well. I’ve got to listen to it and see how it went. But it was funny because I was covering his tunes here while he was playing them there.
ST.ART: A little bittersweet I guess.
GK: Yeah, bittersweet - perfect word to describe it.QW