Karnivool guitarist Mark ‘Hoss’ Hosking is a laid back character, which is a fairly good reflection on the band as a whole. You don’t spend two decades at the height of Australian music without a good sense of humour, and Karnivool have indeed spent a great deal of time at the zenith of Australian rock music, with their work across four albums bordering on seminal.
Now, in anticipation of the release of their fourth LP, Karnivool are once again ready to do what they do best; a national tour to road test their new material. Many of the tour dates sold out in quick time, with the band then adding more dates – which was always the plan according to Hosking. “At the same time you never know and the reason you release [show dates] like that is because you want a back-up plan in case the dates don’t sell,” he reveals.
Despite everything going to plan, Hoss and the band are still constantly surprised by the response of the Australian public after all these years. “I was definitely surprised. I’m very happy with the way that sold. It’s really humbling to know that even during what is a quiet period for us; before we release an album, we can be doing numbers of that kind. It shows us that people are still hungry for us and hungry for the music so that’s awesome.”
Even before Karnivool have announced a release date for their forthcoming LP they’ve already got plans to be back on the road at the end if the year, supporting US alternative metal outfit Deftones. “There’s always a deep seated love of touring”, laughs Hoss. “Touring is the reward for us. We back our live show and we really feel like we’ve got it right over the years. For us, touring is a chance for us to let our hair down and have some fun – touring with some really cool bands makes that all worthwhile. The writing period and the time off the road is where we do the hard work; and when that’s prepped and ready then we can just go out and present it to the world.”
Touring with Deftones will also be the first time that Karnivool have supported another touring act in over a decade. How did Deftones get so lucky? Hoss chuckles again; “Well we’re big fans of Deftones that’s for sure. We’ve done shows with them overseas before – we’ve done festivals over here in Australia before, so we do know the guys.” For Hosking, it’s about mutual respect for a great band that has put out influential music over the years. “Deftones are one of those seminal bands for us that really helped us create who we wanted to be – their sound back then was awesome.
“Around The Fur is just beautiful, and inspiring as far as music goes. And to get the opportunity to play with them – it’s such a strange thing with these internationals on tour; you get so many offers to play to support internationals when they come to Australia. But people still say ‘congratulations on getting the support’ and for us we do get offered a lot of these. So it’s more saying yes because we have a respect for Deftones and because it’s too good an offer to say no to. We love the band, we love the music – we always said we wanted to play with great bands and we’re really looking forward to it.”
For a band that tours so frequently as Karnivool; a tour becomes a vital tool for providing feedback on new tracks as well as giving the band an indication on when audiences are ready for new music. “For us, we’ve always said we’re going to be that band that plays new material live – we’ve told people that this is only 75% of what this song will become,” says Hosking. “Touring it live and playing it live gives us a real feel for what people like or dislike in it – and as much as we’ve said we don’t care what people think of us, at the same time it is great to get feedback from a live perspective. It’s where we like to get a gage on how that’s going to feel and how that’s going to work for the album.”
Not only do Karnivool aim to play unheard live music, but these upcoming shows may even change the entire sound of their forthcoming record. “That’s the reason why we do it for songs at this point in their genesis. You feed off emotion and the general buzz of people listening to it, and you get feedback from crew – everything around you that has heard that song will give you some kind of feedback on it. Generally we let it all fly past us without letting it touch us but occasionally you get a comment that really resonates with you and the rest of the band – so it gets fed into the song.”
Apart from the utilitarian purpose of road-testing, Hoss simply enjoys shocking an audience with new material that they’re not expecting. “There’s something really pleasurable about taking something that no one’s heard before to a live audience,” he says earnestly. “You so often get people mouthing the words of each song back to you, that if you slightly ad-lib or go off the tangent they look at you funny like ‘this isn’t the song we know’. With new material they can’t do that so you get a chance to be a little bit spontaneous and a little bit free with it so that’s fantastic.”
So after touring throughout last year, and this next tour – surely we can expect that the band’s new album will be about by the end of the year? “I don’t think so, we’re basically just finishing writing now – and recording will take up the rest of this year,” Hosking reveals. “We’re not a band that doesn’t do anything quickly. We do want to get it right as well – all these things take time, and especially for us they take a lot of time. So the plan is probably next year release, pending some miracle in the studio where we get it all down in one take.”
Perhaps Karnivool and Aussie music fans alike are wondering why exactly it is that it takes Karnivool so long to record and release each record. Four records in 20-odd years isn’t as infrequent as say; The Avalanches… but it’s far off the amount of music that bands like King Gizzard have been able to manufacture in an intensely short period of time. Even Hoss himself isn’t sure why it’s such a lengthy process. “That’s something we always analyse ourselves when it comes to writing. We always say the next album isn’t going to take four years – and yet absolutely to a tee every album has taken four years,” he laughs.
“It’s something we’ve tried to make faster and we’ve tried to speed up the process. It just seems to always fall back to that formula, I think four years is a good thing; it’s two years touring, six months taking some time off, then a year and a half of recording, writing and processing. So it seems to work for us, and we get yelled at to be quick – but we seem to fall back to four years every time. I don’t know if that’s a good or a bad thing. It is what it is.”
“It’s a very dysfunctional process,” replies Hoss when asked whether it has anything to do with the band being perfectionists. “All the songs come from such various sources; whether it’s from a band jam or someone’s individual idea. Or something that someone takes and then we rebuild it. So it’s always different but there are always dot points in there that you can rely on, now coming into the fourth cycle.
“The best thing for me is that you always hit a critical mass a some point in time – that happened to us about six months ago, where you can stop and realised that this is no longer a collection of songs. That’s when it starts to get exciting, because up to that point all you’re really doing is throwing riffs, throwing lyrics, throwing song ideas into a big pot and stirring. Once that point happens you’re given a real chance to re-set and that’s when the real work starts.”
So it would seem that Karnivool have gotten their songwriting process down to a fine, if slightly random artform. But what about their live shows? For a band that brings so much energy to every performance surely some things have changed over the last two decades? “We’ve obviously grown up a bit and everyone’s got different priorities in their lives, you can only do the one thing for so long before you want other things in your life; that’s only natural progress of being human,” ponders Hosking.
“We definitely go just as hard through each show,” he insists. “But everyone’s got other projects now, and thankfully Karnivool has been that band that’s always said that everyone needs to do other things, but when we come back together we need your attention for this period of time. When we go we still go very hard, and the down time’s a little different. I think the recovery time is a little longer these days. It’s not quite as easy as it used to be to recover in two hours, nowadays we need at least a day after a show.”
Karnivool hit the road this June, grab all the dates and deets below!
Pre-Animation Tour Dates
Tickets on sale now.
Wednesday, 15th June
ANU Bar, Canberra
Thursday, 16th June
Bar On The Hill, Newcastle
Friday, 17th June
Saturday, 18th June – SOLD OUT
Manning Bar, Sydney
Wednesday, 22nd June
The Spotted Cow, Toowoomba
Thursday, 23rd June SOLD OUT
The Triffid, Brisbane
Saturday, 25th June
Wednesday, 29th June
The Wool Exchange, Geelong
Thursday, 30th June – SOLD OUT
The Croxton Bandroom, Thornbury
Friday, 1st July – SOLD OUT
The Croxton Bandroom, Thornbury
Saturday, 2nd July
Hobart University, Hobart