Kult Country talks musical manifestos and his spiritual home of Manchester.


After the record light disappears, after the drinks have been drunk and the bared soul is barren, Yousif Al-Karaghouli, the conceptual father figure in Kult Country, has one more thing to say. “You know, I’m doing this to understand myself. I don’t want to understand the music, the minute I do is the minute I die.”

Drop it from the heavens, so the saying goes. A signature of belonging from an assemblage of young Manchester bands so piously entwined it’s like they’re brothers, first there was Money, and then came Great Waves and now we breathe in Yousif’s Kult Country. “It really is us and them,” he says. “Someone coined the term ‘Spiritual Romantics’ for all three bands and I thought yeah, I can handle that.”

A tight-knit brethren, these lost boys collided at Manchester University in a musical and mystical sense.  “I met Dave from Great Waves in the queue,” says Yousif. “It was meant to be, as just 3 hours separated us at birth, everything just fell from there.”

If Money are the modern day prophet poets and Great Waves peddle expressive tones and textures, Kult Country find a place called home somewhere in-between. Their soaring spectral songs build and resonate and an air of mystery surrounds every trickle of emotion that Yousif pours forth, his towering vocals echoing through all blessed bones that hear them. And as an intoxicating blend of neo-psych clashes with the repetition of techno and the ambience of drone, you arise renewed in the most unexpected of places.

It’s Yousif whose hands guide the band. On stage we might see 6, 7 sometimes 8, but Kult Country have a cult leader. “Ideology wise, if you like to see it that way, the band comes from me,” Yousif nods. “It’s a strange band in that it has had lots of incarnations, people come and go. It’s a long history and I’m the only survivor. I suppose I am the leader but other people write songs too. Everybody has so many creative outputs before they come to Kult.”

Although no David Icke, Yousif makes sure the band all live by one philosophy; one walk of life, which is happily put forward as Kult Country’s manifesto. “All Is As All Is In Our Time,” he announces in genuinely hushed undertones. Yousif really believes that his art carries meaning and it’s almost breath-taking to witness his dedication to his crusade. But what are the record-buying public going to make of all this? “Nothing is set, nothing is certain and nothing is known,” Yousif tells me. “We can’t change anything. Some people in these great bands don’t seem to want anything; we will be making music anyway. I mean what are we doing here? It makes no sense to me as a civilisation; you can only change your own life; too many people think you can change the world, but shit, if John Lennon couldn’t do it you certainly can’t.”

So is that all the manifesto is, Let It Be?

“Yeah you can’t change the world but you can change yourself. I got it straight from Jon of the Dead Skeletons who has been such a big influence on me – he’s been my guru. He told me to reign in my passion and channel it to the right places and he gave me that manifesto.”

An honest beauty pervades Kult Country’s body of work, much like the energy surrounding the new North, a Manchester reborn. “Yeah it’s the antithesis of the old scene, alright. After so many years in Manchester it definitely seems to make great music for some reason. It has a profound effect on people that live there. It is a tough, tough, bad place sometimes, but it’s made me a better person.”

The story could have been so different. If it wasn’t for a Sways Records French soiree attended by Yousif, Money and of course Great Waves, Kult Country may never have flourished into what we see today. “Sways saved me,” he says. “I was living in Dalston after university and we were in France partying, and they said I should move to Manchester right now. They told me an emerging artistic wave was happening and they needed me, they could feel the energy in the air so I packed my bags and moved.”

It’s Sways who are central to this exhilarating influx of talent – sometimes a label, sometimes a movement, they call themselves ‘cultural regenerators’. “I used to live around here,” Yousif exclaims, arms aloft into the air of east London, “but it’s soulless! It feels so pointless spending a lot of time as humans going about our everyday life, yet it feels right in Manchester. You should have been there at the start, some of those wild nights at the Bunker (Sways home from home) where people got naked and everything just happened.”

Much later, on a London stage, some of that wildness is realised. A feral performance full of vicious unpredictability, Kult Country come alive. “I like doing stuff with a rawness of expression,” Yousif had said earlier. “When it becomes tame I don’t like it. I get off on the fact a show might go wrong, whether the crowd descends into chaos or we go off course. Some of the best shows end in a bloodbath or madness on stage. You don’t have to abide by everyday rules and why should we?”

Kult Country are still on a journey of discovery, and this conversation marks Yousif’s/the band’s first ever interview. Already he doesn’t want to do anymore. “Some of the tracks are about too much,” he says. “If I start breaking songs down I get too emotional and I won’t talk about them like this. I just want to leave society but at the same time I want the band to work. We are back to civilisation again. If this is the pinnacle, if this is us high flying and doing well, to me it doesn’t feel like that. I wouldn’t be able to handle it psychologically if I was forced into a job; I see it that way too, being forced.”

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