“I’m like, ‘Right, I can hear it, I don’t know what it is. What the fuck am I supposed to sing to that?!’”
(Pic by Kane Hibberd)
Perth-based alterna-prog maestros Karnivool are a true enigma. Wrapped in a puzzle. Inside a conundrum. It may be difficult to believe, but this band formed way, way back in the late ‘90s, and now, a quarter of a century later, they have but three albums to their name (for the numerically challenged, that is one album every 8.3 years on average), and as we sit here, they are almost a decade out from their last one, 2013’s mystifying and aptly named Asymmetry.
But based on those three albums, as well as the electrifying live show they’ve been taking around the nation and the world for the best part of two decades, they have built a huge, enraptured and fascinated worldwide following, a loyal and committed audience that hangs off their every note, no matter how sporadic the release of those notes is.
Impossibly, so perplexing is the band’s career and music, even the band’s very frontman and co-founder Ian Kenny has a little difficulty wrapping his head around it all at times.
“With Karnivool, you just kind of strap in and hold on!” Kenny only half-jokes. “It’s just such a fuckin’ twisted, unpredictable beast, it twists and turns on you and it pulls you in all sorts of directions, like the music itself does. So it’s a fun ride, and I don’t really think anyone has any real handle on it half the time!”
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Relative to the other high-profile band that he fronts, the far more pop rock oriented Birds Of Tokyo, the contrast is stark, both in a managerial and musical sense. “I think with Birds, I just find the overall operation a bit easier to see. It’s just a bit clearer in my head when I go into those spaces, and with the music too. If I’m being honest, it just comes down to having a better understanding of the rock and pop world, in its intent.
“But when you get to the levels and the layers of Karnivool, sometimes it’s pretty fuckin’ gnarly man, where it takes your brain. Half the time I don’t even understand it, when I’m presented with pieces of music, and it’s in this crazy fucked-up time signature, and I’m like, ‘Right, I can hear it, I don’t know what it is. What the fuck am I supposed to sing to that?!’ Of course, I always find it, you’ve just got to sit with it and work with it, but it always just takes some time to find what I’m searching for.”
Long-waiting fans had their prayers answered at the end of last year, with the band releasing its first new recorded music in almost ten years. Very late in 2021, the band unceremoniously dropped a brand new track called All It Takes, to coincide with the build-up to their headline appearance at the Monolith Festival, which is happening across the country this month, and also features the likes of Cog, Plini, sleepmakeswaves and Reliqa.
In typical fashion, their latest tune is a dark, propulsive and unsettling head-spinner that takes a few listens to fully appreciate.
“There’s a lot of layers to this piece of music,” Kenny explains, “and it’s a pretty aggressive piece of music in its weight. It’s got this super heavy rolling stomp that’s anchored in the [main] riff, and it just doesn’t give up. Even the space and drops for the chorus, the synth-drop, is just so, so heavy. It doesn’t really let up, and that’s the intention of the song.
“That’s become the whole mantra for us, we’re acutely aware that our processes, they take a hell of a lot of time to get right, and they cost a lot as well, for the people involved. This is why it’s taken a long time to get to where we are, so long between drinks. Sometimes we just hit these walls and these creative doubts and we have to literally pull the fuckin’ band apart and try and get at it. And of course, once you do that, you’ve got to rebuild, so it’s just a complex approach to us releasing what we consider good stuff for this band.”
This of course leads to the question that sits on the lips of many a progressive music fan in Australia and around the world; does a new single mean a new album is finally getting close to release? “There’ll be more new music coming,” he confirms. “I can’t say when, or if there’s a timeline. I would love to say there’s a record to come. We’ve got one sitting there on the shelf, it’s just a matter of actually getting it together and making it tangible.
“We have to control what we can, so I think it’ll just be one thing at a time for the moment.”
THURSDAY 11 AUGUST - HINDLEY STREET MUSIC HALL, ADELAIDE
SATURDAY 13 AUGUST - EATONS HILL OUTDOORS, BRISBANE
SATURDAY 20 AUGUST - BELLA VISTA FARM, SYDNEY
SATURDAY 27 AUGUST - PICA MELBOURNE
SATURDAY 17TH SEPTEMBER - RED HILL AUDITORIUM PERTH
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