Formed in the late 90’s in Perth, Australia, prog rock phenomenons Karnivool saw the US release of their critically acclaimed sophomore album, Sound Awake, earlier this year. After a string of dates in the spring following their inaugural SXSW appearance, the band have returned to states for a headlining run; a continuation of the band’s highly successful New Day Tour.

Nearly a week into the tour, frontman Ian Kenny checked in with LA Music Blog to discuss the band’s musical progression, their new deal with Sony, and what the future holds for Western Australia’s most important modern band.

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There’s been an obvious change in the musical direction from Themata to Sound Awake. Going into the songwriting process, was there a conscious effort to develop more of an ambient sound?

Not necessarily more of an ambient sound, but definitely a change in what the band is or was. We didn’t want to repeat the same steps twice, we like to challenge ourselves musically and keep things creative, so it was all about just making something new to us and something new for the listener.

In terms of songwriting, Sound Awake was a more collaborative effort than its predecessor. How was the music affected by this?

I think it was affected drastically. I mean, myself and Drew were probably the biggest hands in Themata, and then with Sound Awake, everyone was kind of chipping in more because we had gotten a lot more comfortable as a band. We had been playing as we are, in that lineup, and things just fell into a groove. I think the fact that everyone was sort of throwing in their creative ideas, it had a massive difference in the sound of the band.

Considering the musical progression, what prompted you to once again go with producer Forrester Savell, and what did he bring to the table this time around?

Well, I guess we didn’t really know what sort of producer we wanted to go with in the earlier stages of the record. Then as we sort of got to the tail end of it, the tail end of the songs anyway, and what the record was shaping up to be, we just went with Forrester. It was an obvious, and again, a pretty organic choice for us. We know what he’s about, and he knows what we’re about, and he also strives for different things–different sounds, different production, as well. So we share the same interests in that respect.

We had a really good work ethic with that cat. Forrester is an amazing engineer, he’s also a really great producer as well. He throws in his twenty cents when it comes to production and possibly some song ideas and whatnot, and he’s pretty passionate like we are. He’s prepared to put the gloves on, so to speak, when it comes down to butting heads and creative decisions, purely because everyone is searching for the best outcome for the songs. But he’s great, in a nutshell, and we really enjoy working with him.

51ltYWmKhtLIt took awhile before this record saw the light of day. Was there a specific holdup, or were you just letting the music develop more naturally?

This time, we gave the music and we gave the band the space it needed. We wrote music, we wrote parts and pieces, and we let them sit in the studio while we continued touring or continued on with our lives or whatever. And then we’d come back and review them in a completely different mind, and we sort of found out that that was the best way to work with our decision-making on songs. Ultimately, it led us to the result of what Sound Awake is.

It’s an interesting way to approach songwriting. It’s not the most efficient way to do things, to be honest. But it really gave us an outcome that we’re all very happy with. We’re very, very into Sound Awake; we’re very proud of it. I bloody love that record.

Again, I don’t know if the listener can pick up, but it’s a very demanding record to play, so the songwriting on that one just took time to make it what it is.

Themata ends with “Change, Pt. 1” and Sound Awake ends with “Change.” Besides the titles, what’s the connection between these two songs?

We kind of wrote “Change, Pt. 1” as a bit of a teaser, and I guess we always toyed with the idea of its continuation opening our second record. But you know, what once we got into writing the record, it just didn’t make sense to open with that on Sound Awake.

But we did want to continue the sistership between those two songs, you know, the two parts. It just made sense to carry on that piece of music at the end, and it kind of spawned from an idea of having two pieces of separate records that we could connect together and do live. That was the basic idea behind that.

How did the US deal with Sony come about?

Fairly organically. We have kind of been saying “no” to labels for the last several years in Australia. We were an independent force there, and still are, actually. It came about where I guess we had gotten to a certain point in Australia, and things were a certain level–we had built the band up to where it is. And Sony came along and started some conversations with us.

The thing that made us say “yes” is that they were prepared to sort of take off where the band was at, and understand that the band had built itself up to a certain platform, and they had some work to do.

And it’s good, you know. They help us out overseas. They represent the band overseas, and push the record over here [in the US], so it’s good to have a record company like Sony over here backing for you. In Australia, it’s not so much needed, we kind of have our own sort of thing there, but you really need people to step in and use their machines, so to speak, and help you out.

I guess we’re signed by SIN [Sony Independent Network] or RED, which is under the Sony umbrella, and they back us. They really do dig the band, so it’s a good thing.

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You’ve been established in Australia for quite some time now, but America is a completely different playing field. Do you enjoy the challenge of breaking into a new market? And how important is it for you to develop a following out here?

It depends what you want. I think for anybody that wants to be a rockstar, and roll around in their riches, I think you have to crack the American market; it’s the biggest market on the planet. I don’t know if that’s for us. We enjoy the challenge, and we enjoy the new space we find ourselves in when we come to this county. We enjoy having to find ourselves as a base level, a roots level, again, and earning show after show after show.

I’m not saying that we’re not hungry, at all. We are hungry–I think that when you lose that hunger, I think you should maybe look at what you’re doing.

It’s a big place, it’s a huge market. We are not a pop band, we are not that accessible, but we are thoroughly in love with what we do and we’re having a good time doing it. And time and time again, we see that people give a shit about our band, so we’re going to continue working on it.

You’ve garnered a reputation as an incredible live band, although much of your music seems as though it’d be difficult to recreate in a live setting. Has this at all been the case?

No, not really. We’ve kind of got our live show down, and it’s testament to the players in the band. I’d be quite embarassed if they were sitting with me in the room right now, but they’re not, thankfully. But these guys can play. Steve is a freak of a drummer, and both Drew and Hoss are both really outstanding guitarists. And then Jon Stockman, he plays bass and piano and everything. They’re just freaks, those guys. They’re just so good!

And the band, we pride ourselves on the live show truly because we enjoy performances. It’s how we express ourselves on a daily basis if we’re lucky. And we’re at our most vulnerable, as a unit and as individuals, on the stage. It’s not like we can hide out there.

We just enjoy it. I think if you enjoy something, and you bloody love it, you’re going to be good at it.

And what about your stage setup? I know in Australia, you have a pretty intricate rig, but for your tour out here, will we be seeing a more scaled down version?

Oh yeah, things are quite different in that respect. In Australia, we tend to roll with a pretty big production, purely because we’ve got the luxury to do that there. Here, it’s very basic. It’s a skeleton crew: it’s the five of us in the band, our mixer, and a tour manager. Sometimes, if we’re lucky, we’ll get an extra crew member, but it doesn’t happen very often.

So we roll with in-house production. We don’t have the budget for such, to be honest, to roll with a big production. It just doesn’t make sense.

It’s still cool though, it’s refreshing in a sense that you kind of strip things back, and it allows us to really focus on what the band is and what its doing.

You’ve been relentlessly touring the world in support of Sound Awake. What does the rest of the year look like for you guys, and are there already plans for the next album?

Absolutely. We get back to Australia at the end of September, or mid-September, I think. And then we’re going to start some writing. We’ve got a studio in Perth, in our city. We’re going to start some writing there, and continue that into the new year.

We’ve also got some overseas touring. We’ve got to do Europe in December, and then head back to Australia. That’s kind of when the Australian summer festivals kick off, it’s a couple of months of festivals there, and that’s kind of it. We’ll probably come back to the states, I’d say sometime next year, early next year.

But I guess our main focus is to hack into the new record. We’re itching to get into the studio and start writing!

The band will be performing at The Troubadour in West Hollywood on September 13th.

For more information on Karnivool, check out:

www.karnivool.com.au