The most interesting music is often the most diverse. Some bands might be content to pigeonhole themselves in one genre, one style of music but that only really works if they can pull it off well. The true virtue of much music is the ability for it to be created and shaped as artists adopt, assimilate and experiment with different ideas to create something they can truly call their own.
The vocal harmonies of New Zealand band Kora bring a uniquely Pacific feel to their music, but as lead singer and multi-instrumentalist Laughton Kora explains, it’s not easy to attempt to classify their sound.
“I couldn’t even begin to tell you. It doesn’t really matter what genre it is as long as it’s sick, and heavy. We haven’t tried to fuse them together, we just try out an idea and we go ‘oy yeah man, that sounds fat.”
“We’ve got five heads bouncing ideas together and I think that’s what makes the sound of Kora, you got five guys who all like different genres of music but at the same time we know what sounds fat and what sounds heavy and we just pick that out.”
It’s that kind of fluidity, that free-form thinking that has seen the guys try some pretty ballsy moves on stage.
“What we used to do was come up with a riff before we started playing. Never even rehearsed it before and we’d just get on stage and do it. If the audience moved to it, we’d go’ oh yeah it works’, and if it didn’t we’d go through and change things add new parts and stuff and try it again. An audience is a great way to sort of reference if something is working or not.”
Their traditional reggae influences flow through notably sometimes, while other times they scream more of a modern rock sound fused with spacey samples and a harsher, experimental edge. On stage, they have an eclectic mix of instruments and musicians.
“We got, a synth, a keyboard and MPC sample, drums, two guitars and bass and our drummer has sampling stuff as well, and yeah five vocals. There are so many instruments in certain songs we just swap. Just mix it around a bit and make it entertaining for ourselves you know.”
Two of the four related members of the band, Laughton and brother Brad began playing together in the early 1990s in a band called Aunty Beatrice.
“It was my dads fault, we didn’t really have a choice you know. He’d just crack the whip. We started playing pubs when we were really young you know, hiding behind the speakers and stuff, those were the real young days.”
It wasn’t until 2001 that Laughton began collaborating with the ‘token white guy’ in the band, Dan McGruer. By the next year, remaining brothers Francis and Stu were recruited to form the band proper but Laughton credits his performing origins as a strong influence on the bands sound.
“My dad was a real driving force about that, the way he saw it he didn’t want to limit us by just playing one genre. And growing up, getting work playing we had to play in a bunch of different venues. So you’d have to play at weddings, you’d have to play at pubs and every different venue had a different genre.”
The boys have had a pretty successful touring schedule as of late, travelling as far afield as the U.K., although the first time around they had some trouble getting the locals to attend.
“The last trip we did our goal was to play to as many English people, people not from New Zealand as possible. It’s really easy to go over there and just play to a bunch of Kiwis. You know in London 80 – 90 percent of the audiences is from New Zealand. You know you don’t want to travel all that way and not play to English people.”
“But this trip was really good, we played to like crowds that were 80-85 percent English. And they’d never seen us before so that was a really good reason for us to go back in November and do the same thing all through Europe again.”
Their eclectic sound seems to have taken off with their newly found European fans.
“It’s been a really good response over there. The sound is so versatile you know, there’s something in it for a whole bunch of different people you know, people can just pick and choose what they like best.”
“I think it was the show itself that really blew a lot of people away. And these were people who’d never seen us before and by the end of the show they were sold.”
Their debut album shot straight to the top of the New Zealand charts upon its release in October last year, and the boys show no signs of slowing down.
“We’re going over to Bali on Monday for a little surf trip over there and then we’re coming over to see you guys [in Australia].”
AUSTRALIAN DATES September / October 2008
Thursday 25th September
Friday 26th September
Saturday 27th September
Sunday 28th September
Hotel Great Northern – Byron Bay, NSW
with Roger That
Tickets $25 + bf from the venue (02) 6685 6454, ABC shop Ballina, Music Bizarre Lismore & http://www.theatlasagency.com
Doors open 8.30pm
Thursday 30th October
Fire Inside The Wire – Wollongong, NSW
with Blue King Brown, Kora, Free Agent Crew + special guests Sudanese Lost Boys Association of Australia. Tickets $16 + bf students & staff, $20 + bf for general public from Unicentre, Redback Music & http://www.bigtix.com
Doors open 7.30pm
Friday 31st October
Stone Fest – Canberra, ACT
University of Canberra
With Grinspoon, Dandy Warhols, The Grates, Regurgitator, The Drones, Blue King Brown + many more For ticketing and all other info go to http://www.stonefest.com.au