Light years ahead
Kora have become something of a regular on the summer festival circuit and to get in shape for it this year, they got an early taste at the New Zealand Natural Festival in Perth in early December.
Bass guitarist and singer Fran Kora says it was a great event, sharing the stage with musicians such as Shapeshifter, Ladi6, P Money and Trinity Roots.
"I'm still recovering, bro," he says.
"We were over in Perth so there was a bit of heavy travelling and a bit of a big-arse party after it as well. It was choice."
Back home in Auckland, where most of the band now lives, Kora says the reaction to their new album Light Years has been good and while it has more of an electronic touch than their self-titled debut in 2007, it's also translated well to the live stage.
"Yeah it does. Most of our live shows have about 80 per cent of the new stuff so, yeah, it's different, but it all works out. It's just the overall journey of the album, the studio album is different to the live. You don't want them to be exactly the same."
Playing live also means they can pump up the volume.
"Live shows allow you to push the PA system really hard, which you can't do in the studio," he says.
He says the process of recording their new album was an at-times-arduous one over many months.
"We started pretty late, bro, it was only really the last eight months that we really knuckled down. Before that we just carried on with life really, doing heaps of live shows, but there was definitely a lot of hours and a few square eyes looking at that screen, turn this up, turn that down, put this effect here, sort of thing."
But the result was worth it.
"Yeah, it just sounds like the boys. It has more of our personalities, we knew what we were after this time around. The first album we were really green plus everything was done at home, you know."
It's been described as alien funk, confusing some people, but it doesn't take much of a listen to see where they're coming from.
Fans will get the chance to see for themselves over summer, when Kora play at CoroGold at Whitianga on New Year's Eve and a string of other gigs around the summer hotspots over the holidays, including in their hometown of Whakatane on December 23.
"It's the worst over there, you always get those phone calls from people you haven't heard from in years," he says.
"I turn the phone off. I can only stay there a week and I have to get out. It's good but it's hard to leave after a while and you get a bit comfortable and then I think I've got to get out of here."
That will include trips to Europe and the US next year, which he's looking forward to.
"We're trying to push the album as far as it can go," he says.
"We were pretty underground on the last album, except on the live shows. This time round we're trying to promote it properly."
He says there's been interest from major record labels, which can turn into a double-edged sword.
"It's a scary thing going with a record label, you're bound to the conditions and the boys aren't really condition-bound fellas. It's a good thing because it can help you a lot and do it faster than doing it independently so if you're going to have a decent crack at it, you might as well give it a good shot, and if it doesn't work out, well . . ."
It's not just labels showing an interest in the band, he says, with overseas audiences also growing.
Even those not familiar with the band make it pretty clear they're enjoying it.
"Yeah, the boys have been doing it for long enough to know when the crowd's on board," he says.
"If it translates overseas for people we haven't played to before, something's going right. If it's not, well, that was a stink show. The set list changes depending on who the audience is."
For a band which has only relatively recently gained mainstream acceptance, Kora have been around a remarkably long time. They first came to prominence in the early 1990s as Aunty Beatrice, which won the 1991 Rockquest schools music competition.
"Brad was 13 years old or something, I was still at intermediate," he says. "It was a long time ago but still feels like yesterday."
The four Kora brothers - Laughton, Stuart, Francis and Brad - were joined by Dan McGruer and became Kora, releasing their debut EP in 2004 and their first album three years later.
Now with their new album, Kora seem on the verge of something pretty special.
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