Latest album: Asymmetry (Cymatic/Sony)

If there was any doubt, the instant debut of latest album Asymmetry at #1 on the ARIA chart confirms Karnivool as one of Australia’s most popular rock bands. The most ambitious and intricate album of their career does not seem to have dampened their popularity one jot as they rack up one sold out show after another on their current tour. Loud fired off some questions to the band during this week and guitarist Mark ‘Hoss’ Hosking answered:

First of all congratulations on Asymmetry topping the charts. That’s a huge achievement for an independent band. Given that most people probably hadn’t even heard it, were you surprised? How did you react to the news?
We had a fair idea the album would do well in its first few weeks; we had a solid fan base from the previous two albums and have been watching it grow steadily over the last couple of years around touring and promotion for the coming album. We certainly didn’t expect to do over 15,000 units in the first week in Australia, that was a surprise and a pleasant one. And going gold soon after is an amazing result for an independent band like us, now we just need to keep the momentum going and see if we can’t find a few new fans out there.

Do you see it as some sort of validation of what you do in any way? What are your thoughts on the band accomplishing that kind of milestone? Do you even consider that a milestone?
It is a strange thing for us. We certainly do not write to sell records. It sounds funny saying that, I guess a part of you has to take it as a business. But as our management would happily tell you, our business model is a little self destructive. We have and always will write for ourselves first, the albums take as long as they needed to be written and recorded, and we know this is hurting ourselves financially but the goals we have set ourselves for music need to be met, and unfortunately for the type of music we are and what we want to do with music, this takes time.

The initial impressions from a lot of fans and critics alike was that Asymmetry takes a few listens to get into. I’ll admit that I felt exactly that way myself. Can you appreciate that reaction and was it something that the band intended?
We have often talked about the albums that move us. A lot of them have been albums that you keep going back to and feeling like your finding something new every time you listen to them. We’ve tried to incorporate that into our music. There’s also a certain amount of f$*#@ you to the mainstream in the type of music we write, and that as a bracketing factor I think meant that when writing this album we were certainly consciously moving away from the sort of hooks, or ‘instantly catchy’ melodies that perhaps have been in our earlier works. Not that we dislike those types of songs, just that we felt a need to explore something new and try something different. I love some of the criticism we are getting about Asymmetry, I think that is perhaps more rewarding sometimes than the praise. Maybe I’m a self-masochist!! ha ha

Can you explain the overall concept of the album? At first it seems almost abstract, but then it reveals itself into two quite asymmetrical halves.

Asymmetry IS the concept of the album. In a general sense. It didn’t start that way, but with every new piece or section we felt this stereophonic shift away from a central musicality. On lots of different levels, emotionally, musically, lyrically… all this got us thinking and talking… about what works with asymmetry and what could possibly make it more aesthetic or more pleasing than symmetry, and relating that back to each song or piece. It was a nice broad theme, but they’re generally the ones we like.

One of our reviewers was at the Sydney show and he got the impression that the crowd seemed not to really know how to react to the new material. What impression of the audience did you get from the stage? How has the tour been going overall?
That is usually true for our new songs, was certainly the way with Sound Awake. I think we have an element of our crowd who are quite critical… they want to know what we’re doing before they let themselves become a part of it, I think that’s quite cool. Sound Awake’s first tour was a lot like that, then as we came back people let themselves go, I guess it all comes with familiarity. I think we’re a bit the same on stage with the new songs, like working with a new piece of equipment or lesson. The tour has been amazing, crowds have been so warm and the rooms are big and fun!

I did an interview with Stewart from Dead Letter Circus last week and we discussed the term “progressive rock” and the idea that it’s almost become a catch-all for any band that’s a little different. He nominated Karnivool as one band that actually epitomises the description. What are your thoughts on that, and of progressive rock overall?

We have become comfortable with the prog rock description. We didn’t used to be, but you cannot deny the new album is pretty prog in at least large parts. It’s funny for us because as individuals none of us are really big prog fans. We love Floyd and I used to really like King Crimson, but these days we have shifted entirely on that front. I think thoughtful or complex music IS classed as prog these days… I’m now cool with that 🙂

Quite a few foreign bands name-drop Karnivool when I talk to them. How are things looking for the band in other parts of the world and what future plans do you have for world dominance?
Really good. We hit European festivals at the start of the year and the response was fantastic. After the Oz tour we head back there to play more shows and they are selling really well. Hitting new territories and doing big shows in crazy places like Budapest and Czech Republic were thousands of people are coming to shows and singing along, yeah it’s a bit nuts. Lots of emails and internet chats from amazing places we still need to get back to including America…the world is a big place!!! Wish we had more time!!

Musically speaking, is there an avenue you would like Karnivool to explore that you haven’t yet? Is there something that has inspired you that might turn up on an album in the future?
There’s always rocks unturned, and we’re a band that always say they’re never going to do the same thing twice so we will continue to explore our influences and musical directions as individuals and collectively as a band. It’s amazing how new this all feels to us, enjoying the fact that there’s a youth there still when we get together in a studio or jam room, so yeah I’m looking forward to hearing where it goes myself, but as to where that will be? Only time will tell.

Thanks for your time! Is there anything you’d like to say to our readers in general?
Only a very large thank you to the patient people who didn’t send us hate mail for taking four years between albums! ha.. and a massive thank you for supporting Asymmetry and Australian music in general. See you at a show!