Australian band Hiatus Kaiyote were in London this week to promote next week’s show at club XOYO. I headed to Tamesis, a docked boat right on the Thames river to meet with them. Tamesis was the perfect setting to interview Hiatus Kaiyote. It was small, intimate with one side of the boat decorated with urban artwork and a chandelier made from clear, empty glass jars and a large tin fish. As the band stood around the bar sipping on beer, lead vocalist Nai Palm walked up to me and greeted me as if we were old friends. She complimented me on my earrings and I swooned over hers (which were huge, bright yellow, wooden bananas). Nai Palm played a short acoustic set on the deck, with the murky river immediately behind her and London’s trademark red buses passed by via the main road beside the docked boat. Passersby stood still and watched, transfixed as Nai’s mellow vocals and acoustic guitar filled the street despite the blitz of noisy traffic whizzing by. When the set was over, Nai then posed for a few snaps with the rest of the band before heading back inside for their interview with me. The band, (which consists of vocalist Nai Palm, drummer Perrin Moss, bassist Paul Bender and Simon Mavin on keys) appeared to be extremely chilled out for a group who have been praised publicly by the likes of Erykah Badu, ?uestLove and Q-Tip and did not seem put off by my humble Dictaphone ( a plus in my book)
Most frequently classified as being of the “future soul” genre, to try and fit them into any category would be doing the band a disservice. Rather than strive to create a specific sound, Hiatus Kaiyote just strive to create. Their influences range from soul to jazz, to rock, to hip hop to electronic and just about every other musical element there is… and far beyond it as they explained in great depth during this extremely light-hearted interview. They are a delectable new addition to the musical terrain and are sure to dominate the music scene with their unregimented approach to their craft. We can all look forward to release of their debut album Tawk Tomahawk which is due to be released July 16.
Earmilk: How are you finding London?
Nai Palm: Um. We haven’t really seen too much. I kind of explored Brick Lane yesterday.
PM: Bought some records, so that was cool.
NP: Yeah. I got this amazing like, Moroccan, 1960’s record.
Paul Bender: I bought some Pierre Henry musique concrete from the 1950’s.
NP: We haven’t really seen a lot of it but it’ll be cool to do some shows and stuff. Apparently this guy hit me up online. He’s been drawing us all and he’s doing this graffiti piece and some street art at the venue that we’re playing at. So, that’ll be awesome .
EM: How does it feel now you’ve got your US tour?
Perrin Moss: Very good.
NP: We’re doing a show with D’Angelo and Erykah Badu, so yeah. We’re excited about that.
EM: Are you huge Erykah Badu fans?
NP: D’Angelo as well.
EM: You’ve had some really huge co-signs from them. What did it feel like when Erykah Badu spoke about how amazing you guys are?
PB: I kind of thought I was gonna vomit. Well, the first thing like that was ?uestlove. And I was just like… “Whaaat?”
NP: I was in the US representing us all and so the ?uestlove thing dropped and it was kinda like, really overwhelming being at the forefront of seeing the response we have in the US because none of us had been there before and so it was like, amazing. People singing along and the Erykah Badu thing dropped in the midst of all that so it was just like, crazy. She’s a really beautiful human being. It’s really humbling to know that people that you respect so massively musically approve of what we’re doing.
EM: Who are some of your other musical influences?
PB: Um. Aphex Twin. ‘Cause he is just like one of the most significant artists of our time. Just completely revolutionized electronic music. Pushing it to new boundaries. He’s just an incredible artist. He’s got this amazing body of work that just covers so much ground. From the beautiful to the very ugly and obscure and intense.
NP: I’d have to say Oumou Sangare. She’s a singer from Mali and I’ve been listening to her since I was 15. Maybe just after I started writing songs. I love her vocal tone and scales and pretty much anything from Mali. It’s like, the arrangements are so detailed and raw in how they’re captured but there’s this really warm, earthy flavour to it. So it’s rich but it’s warm at the same time. All the use of polyrhythms are very influenced by just listening to that.
Simon Mavin: Um. Since we’re in the UK, Boards Of Canada. They just released a record recently .
PM: I agree with the Mali influence but I’d have to say J Dilla for sure because of the obvious. His ideas and the way he can make you feel. There’s so much soul in the production and I don’t think that anyone has been able to do that or capture that since the way he does it.
NP: And his drums, ‘cause Pez was a producer before he was a drummer so his approach is very inspired by the way J Dilla has captured drums.
PM: It’s funny because even before I knew that all my favourite artists were produced by Dilla, ATCQ, Pharcyde, all my favourite tracks in hip hop… I went and researched and saw they were by Dilla. So he’s definitely my favourite.
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EM: How do you feel about all of the recent Dilla releases?
PM: I still think they’re awesome. I just wonder what he’d be doing now if he were still around. I think he’d be doing completely different [stuff]
NP: It’s really amazing. That whole concept of re-releasing. You really realise how immortalising music is. Of course the older stuff is classic, ‘cause it’s vintage Dilla. With any artist, there’s growing pains when you hear something new from an artist that you’re so familiar with. It’s really special that music can do that. That is can speak past someone’s actual lifespan. I think that’s really amazing.
EM: What is FutureSoul?
PB: It doesn’t matter what it is. Genre is irrelevant.
NP: Genre is irrelevant. It is what it is and you can try and put a case around it.
EM: Would you say you were a bit of everything?
NP: Well, you just heard our influences aren't necessarily of the same vein so...
PB: And influences from a part of a song from like, a genre that you might not listen to at all. That genre might not be like, a whole influence. I don’t listen to lots of rock music but I definitely get inspired by some Jon Bon and some drum tones as well. It’s from everywhere.
NP: And nature documentaries as well. It’s funny because everybody assumes that with music your influences are sonic but I feel like art is so molecularly similar whether it’s visual or sonic or dance or whatever. I feel like that work harmoniously together. Especially with writing, for me personally and with Perrin’s production experience of seeing how the stems look. For me, the art of Mc Escher. It could be a visual thing that inspires a sonic reaction of trying to interpret how I see something visually as well.
SM: Yeah. We’re actually getting ready to introduce a painter to our band.
EM: Oh wow.
ALL: *shakes their heads*
EM: Ok! *Laughs*
NP to SM: You’re not painting. We've discussed this! You’re the keys player.
PB: Simon’s also really into puppets.
EM: Is that true?
SM: Uh… No.
NP: You can quote that – “Simon hates puppets”. So yeah, future-soul is just kind of a way of vaguely … there’s a massive soul influence and the future of anything is just what has come and adapting it and reinterpreting it into something else. We also like “Wonder Core”. I really like it. Bender came up with that. It’s like “core” as in like intense and it’s like “intense wonder”.
PB: Yeah. If you kinda want an idea of what I wanna achieve in music and my thing that I brought to the band and where the name Wonder Core comes from, you should go on YouTube and search for “Double Rainbow”. Yeah. That video explains a lot.
SM: It’s a really difficult thing in today’s generation because the way the world’s become, with this online community, there’s no countries anymore. It’s the kinda same with music. It’s all there online. It’s very difficult to just hone in on one specific genre. If you have the ability to open yourself to all these genres and take them all in.
NP: Well, some people do that. Like, some people are like “Ok. I wanna be a rock band” or I wanna be a punk band or I wanna do this. That’s not the approach with us. For some people genre makes sense.
SM: It’s a difficult thing to convey. But we’re getting better at it though.
PM: It only takes us about half an hour to answer that question.
EM: You must get this question all the time. I don’t know if you’re sick of answering the question yet but how did you guys meet? How did the group form? How did you come up with your name?
PB: Um. We all met on an online dating site. It was a weird thing as I thought I was actually talking to her but I was talking to Simon and Simon thought he was talking to Perrin but he was actually talking to Nai. We’re actually making a romantic comedy about it. Our manager’s actually writing a screenplay for it now and it’s probably going to be out in about two years.
NP: We’re also doing a soundtrack for it so…
PB: It’s gonna be a musical. It’s gonna be a big flashy affair.
NP: And the name came to me in a fortune cookie.
EM: You formed in 2011 and you’ve already got a deal. Did you expect it all to come so quickly and what made you decide to sign with Sony?
NP: It’s not so much Sony. It’s Flying Buddah. The thing about everything is that everything’s happened really organically and it spread like wildfire. We’re not trying to get rich and famous . It wasn’t like “Hey. This label’s really cool. Let’s try and sign with them”. It came up and as long as we’re allowed our creative freedom, that was vital to us.
PM: That’s the main thing.
NP: This particular deal means that we can do that and still continue doing what we were already doing. It just means we’ve got some financial backing and promotion so that more people can hear it. It wasn’t necessarily about who it’s with but more about whether we have the capacity to really explore and do what we wanna do artistically. It happened really organically and it seemed to fit.
SM: We just wanted to keep on with what we were doing and they presented us that option.
EM: What projects do you have coming up?
PB: Tawk Tomahawk is about to be released. We had it on Bandcamp before and it went everywhere and now we’re going to have that rereleased so people will actually be able to have the physical copy.
NP: There’s an additional interpretation of “Nakamarra” featuring Q-Tip. Which is amazing ‘cause we all love ATCQ. So for people that already have it on Bandcamp, it gives them a different initiative to get it.
SM: It’s gonna be a bonus track on the record.
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PB: We’re also on the next record. We’ve been spending many months moving… We’ve got a new place that we’ve set up as a recording studio. We’ve just started work on the next record.
NP: We definitely wanna stay true to that. Everything was recorded and mixed internally and we’re lucky enough to still keep doing that with what we’re doing so we’ve created our own recoding space so we can natter away at it when we’re home and mix it ourselves.
EM: Are there any states you’re looking forward to seeing in particular on your tour?
PB: Yeah. Chicago.
NP: I love the vibe in Chicago too man! They’re so responsive and interactive and it was so much love. We’re playing a bigger venue this time. It was freeing though. I hate cold weather but the vibe as far as how hard people get into what we’re doing.
SM: San Fran. I’m really excited about San Francisco. I’ve never been there. I’ve heard really good things about there.
NP: I’m excited about the D’Angelo and Erykah Badu show because it’s in like a natural Ampitheater in Maryland. But also Detroit because Dilla’s from there and the whole Soulquarian… To be doing a showcase with D’Angelo and Erykah Badu in the place which is like the birthplace of The Soulquarian movement, to be incorporated into that… I feel like that’s pretty powerful. I’m really excited about Paris because my boy is supporting us and I haven’t seen him in a while.
EM: Your London Show is next week. It’s sold out.
NP: Yeah. They’re doing a street art piece too. It’s gonna be awesome.
EM: What can fans expect when they come to the show?
NP: We’re working on the pyrotechnics but I dunno if it’s gonna come along by the show.
SM: Our show’s really different to our studio stuff because we kind of put the elements that we do in the studio and do more of it. A lot of the shorter tracks that we’ve done on the record will be extended and fleshed out a bit more.
NP: A lot of flips. It keeps it interesting for us and the people listening ‘cause we’re always reworking our ideas and stuff. There’s some new stuff in there as well. It’s more of an opportunity to really see each individual character and how we interact with each other. It’s very much a unit. Just from what I’ve heard from people that have experienced the live show [say] that it’s amazing to just see us interacting as musicians. It’s not like a backing track or set, the same generic thing every time. We just vibe the people that we’re playing to and vibe the space and so it’s different every city you go to. That’s really beautiful. Just tryna enhance our experience.
EM: How would you like to wrap this interview up?
PB: We’re gonna be doing a Boiler Room online set Thursday 11th 3-4pm.
NP: Confetti and sandwiches and baby kittens.