Bringing the Bass: An Interview with Karina Rykman

One of the scene’s brightest bass players, New York’s Karina Rykman, talks to Atwood Magazine about her inspirations and influences, her work in Marco Benevento’s band, and how she handled those last years.

For two years the world was a bit difficult to navigate as a touring musician.

It was no different for bassist, Karina Rykman, who took the time to create and evolve her craft during her time at home.

From punk rock to hanging out with some of jam bands’ best-known stars, the energetic bassist’s future is bright. The New York native, who has her own self-titled project — a trio that includes guitarist Adam November and drummer Chris Corsico — as well as her key role with keyboardist Marco Benevento, Rykman stays busy.

We got to catch up with her and talk about her touring debut as well as some of her past and current projects. Rykman will replace 8G Band bassist Syd Butler this week from Tuesday, September 6 through Thursday, September 8 on NBC Late Night with Seth Meyers.

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Karina Rykman © Steph Port


Karina Rykman © Steph Port 4

Atwood Magazine: Over the past two years, a lot has happened. What did you learn about yourself musically and personally during this time?

Karina Rykman: Over the past two years, I’ve learned a lot about myself musically and personally. Even though we were closed for a while, my group remained active throughout the pandemic. We were able to play more than it seemed. We were only three people and we did a few pandemic gigs in the garden, if you will. It was amazing! I learned the hell or the high tides I wanted to play! It was the most important thing for me.

Finally having the time and space to create/write and being able to be off the road for a hot minute, it turned out that having that time and space was extremely important to me. I could write my record and delve into all of this. I’ve learned that I’m a stubborn son of a bitch. I also learned that I was a city kid through and through. I spent the first four months of the pandemic at my friend’s house in a beautiful spot in the Hudson Valley. It was amazing! All my best friends. But as soon as I got back to Manhattan, you had to drag me out kicking and screaming. Just the pavement and the vibration of the city, all that, the taxis, how I can take twenty thousand steps a day without even thinking about it. Everything in the city is my home and my heartbeat.

Your friend gave you a guitar in middle school, and the rest is history. What have you learned over the past fifteen years? How have you evolved and who are some of the players who have helped you the most?“]

Karina Rykman: I learned everything and nothing at the same time, which is the best thing. Being a lifelong student of music and life, I’m so open to continuing to learn about people, places, and things. All the lessons I’ve learned over the past fifteen years on the road, in college bands, high school bands, Marco Benevento’s band and my band. So many different gigs and bandstands I’ve been to at this point. Each musical experience teaches you something else; you have to absorb everything where you can and be open, to learn so much, but I also have this “courage”, where I’m totally open to learning, but I also really like to do things my way.

When I was younger, I felt like I was more stubborn, in the sense of “don’t tell me how to play”. [laughs] I’ve definitely softened up more recently. Now I’m more of a sponge, which seems funny, because back then I was also a “sponge” – maybe more for records. I would learn a bunch of records by ear, but I didn’t want to learn music theory. I learned from my friends, but I didn’t want to be taught by a square or take music lessons in a more orthodox or normal way than children.

Now that I’ve come to this, still being in the game, I find it rewarding to learn music on a deeper level with people who enjoy it too, and in turn, of course, it has deepened my playing. am still wild and free but feel more composed than ever.

Karina Rykman © Steph Port
Karina Rykman © Steph Port

You have certainly evolved. Going from a hard-headed teenager to where you are now.

Karina Rykman: Sure! I was a punk rock metal kid. I was playing aggressive music and was captivated by rock ‘n roll, ethos and spirit. I’m always! It’s funny to see this kid and who I’ve become.

Can you tell us about the three years you spent in Sound Of Urchin?

Karina Rykman: I played in The sound of sea urchin eighteen to twenty-one years old. I love this band’s music so much. I had some incredibly formative moments on the road with them. I wouldn’t trade a minute. The “road dog” schedule was pretty crazy and I was in college at the time, and finishing high school. We used to do weekends that were like New York, Columbus, Ohio, La Crosse, Wisconsin, Kansas, and then back. It was just intense and crazy. My mother used to worry. I can’t blame her. It was a crazy time.

Karina Rykman © Steph Port
Karina Rykman © Steph Port

In 2016, you received the green light from Marco Benevento. Dave Drewitz is actually the one who recommended you. It was only supposed to last about 72 hours – you were supposed to just fill in, and there you are, six years later! How was this experience for you?

Karina Rykman: It changed my whole life. I’m so grateful for these guys, Marco and Dave. Both are respectfully my musical mentors. Somewhere between my musical fathers and my brothers. This special friendship that we have, and have always had, means the world to me. Without them, I would probably be working in the music business rather than being creative with my music. At the age of twenty-two, he fell into my lap and they put me in the driver’s seat. I worked tirelessly to learn all the music and not let Dave down. Then I had the Marco (Benevento) gig, and I’m so thankful every day for where it took me and for the people and the journey and the ride. It’s a good life.

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