In a short span of two years, Australian band Hiatus Kaiyote has undergone something reminiscent of a global takeover, releasing debut EP/LP Tawk Tomahawk that earned them said worldwide acclaim and recognition from the likes of Questlove, Erykah Badu and Giles Peterson. The four-piece band pulls influences from every artist/genre from under the sun — J Dilla to Iggy and the Stooges to Oumou Sangare — that somehow emanates a familiar sound to our American ears, but you’d be at fault to try to slap a genre label onto the group.
Their self-proclaimed “genre” — multi-dimensional polyrhythmic gangster shit — is probably the closest you’re going to get to categorizing their music. But to put it more into perspective for you, imagine an aboriginal world music sound, throw in electronica riffs produced by Q-Tip, then slather on some Yukimi Nagano that just came from rehearsing with D’Angelo. Does that make sense? No? Yeah, it wasn’t supposed to.
To get a better idea of what the band’s about, we managed to catch up with the band for a very brief — and we mean brief — chat last week at their show at the Skirball. We chopped it up with singer/songwriter Nai Palm and the boys about Australia and why it’s so awesome, dope visuals, and how stupid genres are.
LA CANVAS: How’s life? Excited to be back in LA?
Perrin Moss: Yeah, it’s our 3rd time back in LA and it’s great to catch up with the local family — we have met some amazing artists and friends here.
Paul Bender: Yeah, we’ve made some amazing connections with people here. This time we met a homeless wizard with elaborate face tattoos who did his own leatherwork.
LAC: What’s different between playing in Australia and playing in the US?
PM: I think one of the clear differences is the number of people in every city supporting music in every genre. For us, also the type of music we all listen to and has inspired us — a lot of it has come from the states, so the history and education is here, which I guess is why people can hear the influence in our music.
PB: Australia is a giant landmass with a handful of cities separated by large distances, so touring is an entirely different experience. It’s like flying across the entirety of Europe to play 5 shows and then you’re done. So it’s kind of a bitch like that — not that we don’t care about more regional areas, but it’s hard enough finding enough people to support left-field or progressive music within the big cities. US audiences tend to be a bit more vocal; whenever we flip the groove real crazy on a track, the crowd is like “WOOOOOOOO”, whereas in Australia you’ll just hear one really enthusiastic guy scream “AWWWW FUCK YEAAAAAAAHHHH”. I love that guy.
LAC: You guys are coming out at a time when Australia is exploding into the music scene. We’re curious, why do you think that is? Why now?
Simon Mavin: Australia has an awesome world class scene of its own, especially in Melbourne. Melbourne is kinda the musical hub of Australia. I mean for Hiatus, Bender is from Tasmania, Perrin is from the blue mountains, I’m from Melbourne and Nai is from country Victoria. I think the internet has played a big part in international recognition — we got a lot of love from places all around the globe just by putting our record on Bandcamp. (Other than that) I’m not sure why Australia is exploding… maybe its something in the water?
PB: It’s because a lot of people there are super talented.
LAC: What creative process occurs when you guys are writing music?
Nai Palm: The beauty of this project is that there is no set form or method to our creativity; the common denominator in the process though, is trust — trust in the fact that what ever each member brings forth creatively will be nurtured and celebrated, or at least be given the time of day and worth the exploration. It’s very democratic allowing us all to be as connected and involved as possible, which results in the longevity of our emotional intention and less about who gets a solo.
LAC: You talk about how not only sonic pieces can be influential, but also visual can inspire music. What are some visual inspirations that went into “Tomahawk”?
NP: The opening track “Mobius Streak” is largely inspired by the artwork of M.C. Escher. He uses a lot of mathematical optical illusions in his works — namely the Mobius Strip, which is evident in his piece, “House of Stairs.” I used illusions as a lyrical theme, a myriad of metaphors through out the song, it was also a large inspiration behind the sonic layers of texture.
LAC: What direction do you want your music to take in the future?
SM: Thats not really something that we are thinking about, I mean we haven’t really had a musical direction…just play stuff that we think sounds cool!
PB: I know I personally want to do more with other instrumentalists in the future, like percussionists, strings, horns, different interesting sounds from around the world. More of an orchestrated thing for certain shows and recordings…and I think as we go on the scope will only get wider, hopefully to the point where people think of us as something other than a “soul band, or “future soul” or whatever. Like Bjork has no genre anymore, her genre is “Bjork.” We want to make something that makes people forget those classifications and draw them into the intuitive abstract vortex where music becomes transcendent, instead of this thing you try to figure out or classify. That’s the plan anyway. Or maybe we’ll try to do an Electroclash revival, get asymmetrical haircuts and do songs about fashion while playing keytars and shit.
LAC: Who are you listening to right now?
PB: Teebs, The Stepkids, Kirkis, Gris Gris, Silent Jay
NP: Emily King, Fka Twigs, Oumou Sangare, Iggy Pop and the Stooges, Alice Coltrane, Kirkis, Yaw, Skip James and currently revisiting D’Angelo for the billionth time but i give myself a rest from it so it can be kinda new again.
LAC: Favorite remix off of “Tawk Takeout”?
PB: Mine is Clever Austin’s remix of Boom Child. Clever Austin is Perrin, BTW. And he is very clever, isn’t he?
LAC: What are five things you need with you at all times while you’re on tour?
NP: The elements: water, fire, earth, etc. White sage, Palo Santo, nurturingly totemic trinkets for sanity and ritual, bling.
Check out the band’s recent KCRW performance below: