THINKING MAN’S MOSHING MUSIC
KARNIVOOL are Australia’s finest thinking man’s moshing music. These leviathan progsters represent a new Honours class of talent – particularly in Australia – that are taking their craft to new places. With labyrinthine song structures that are embellished with mechanically precise musicianship, Karnivool have surprisingly risen quickly in a largely by-numbers scene.
Bassist, Jon Stockman, was easy to talk to; he ignored the many times I tripped over words, providing answers that were sometimes funny and always considered. He brought up the reason for the sole Australian tour this year almost immediately: “We needed to get out and service the country,” he joked. “But we really want to dedicate this year to our writing and getting as many songs as ready as we can. We’re spending a fair bit of time at the studio at the moment, just trying to get new material for the upcoming album that we plan to release as soon as it’s finished, and, um, we’re sort of just beavering away.”
It’s a slow process, but it’s one that we seem to have a better grip on this time, I think, so hopefully it won’t take as long for that reason.”
Stockman was seemingly very eager to discuss the new album and the genesis of ideas for it; a disguised excitement coloured his tone whenever he talked about Karnivool’s new material.
“The last record that we did was very much about us writing stuff in a room, and getting a sound to come out from that way. It’s a bit early to say at this stage, but the stuff that we have at the moment has come from, um, riffs that have been written while on tour… Like waiting around in rooms before shows, there might be an acoustic in the room, or in our hotel rooms – just recording them on our phones or just writing them down.”
Despite the freakish cohesion and seamless nature of their records, especially Sound Awake, Stockman says the imposition of themes and strict sound concepts on albums can strangle creativity. “We’ve never really gone for a certain sound. The albums are sort of like a snapshot to where we were at that time. You can run the risk of losing the spark and creativity if you think about it too much.
“Jamming with each other is what we did a lot [on Sound Awake]. Also, changing instruments is good – I’ll sometimes play the guitar… just to come at things from a different angle. Someone can come in with a drum part, or a bass part or an electronic thing. Sometimes we’ll have a pre-conceived part or idea that we’ll write and plan to write, and we plan to totally go beyond; to go into places we’ve not gone into before with this one. We have ideas in mind that don’t start from a traditionally musical way – to incorporate samples and stuff...”
Stockman recalled the latest Canberra ANU Bar performance with a good-humoured reaction, despite what he discovered shortly after it: “It was a really intense show. It was quite a seething crowd. At the end of the night, someone took a photo and sent it to me – it was like broken glass and blood on the floor… I don’t know where that came from.
“We’ve always enjoyed playing Canberra, because it’s different to the other places we play. All places we play are different to each other, but [in Canberra] it’s a very appreciative audience for the love of music.
“And we’re finding that going overseas is doing really well. They’ve sort of really taken to us, and that’s really good, because obviously it’s so expensive to be doing it in the first place… It’s started to not be as financially disembowelling as it can be. It was really positive. A lot of the room sizes were smaller, but most of them were sold out or close to; next time we go back over, hopefully we’ll play larger venues. It’s a new and exciting experience, and we love playing anywhere.
“We mostly get a great reaction; people tend to get involved in the energy that we try to put off. But there was a gig in Tampa… There seemed to be a couple of people that didn’t want us to be there… I think we filmed a guy. It was pretty funny, because we haven’t really come across that in a long time; it was a bit of a novelty.”
Stockman says Karnivool will try and take some new material on tour with them. “We’ll hopefully take one or two songs with us. We’ll try to get them in some kind of form that’s playable live; hopefully in their finished form. But if not, it’s just a good forum to road test songs anyway.
“It’s good to see how the songs work in a live format, because it’s more obvious if you play something live if it works or if it doesn’t. Not necessarily just from how the crowd reacts, but also from how we’re playing it.
“More than anything, we’ve got a few more influences and interests, and we’ve been exposed to other music and there’s a lot of important things that have happened in the world since the last time… we’ll hopefully be able to channel those experiences into something that has its own identity away from our other stuff; away from Sound Awake or Themata.”
Karnivool will be bringing their mosh madness to ANU Bar on Wednesday Jun 15. Tickets are through Ticketek, for a lousy $51.45.