Perusing various summer music festivals lineups, I stopped in my tracks once I learned about the Summer Spirit Festival happening this weekend in Maryland. D’Angelo?! Erykah Badu?! Hells yeah. Exploring the opening acts’ discographies as I am geekily prone to do, I immediately sought out Aussie band Hiatus Kaiyote’s “Nakamarra” (peep the Q-Tip assisted version too) and was floored. Neo-Soul, Jazz, Future Soul, Electro R&B, Funk, whatever you want to call it, the point is it’s dope. Getting props from Soulquarians Erykah Badu and Questlove, it’s easy to see why.
Recently making their U.S. TV debut on Jay Leno’s late night show, I e-connected with Hiatus Kaiyote (comprised of lead singer and guitarist Nai Palm, drummer Perrin Moss, bassist Paul Bender and keyboardist Simon Mavin) before their San Francisco show on their North American summer tour. Peep their great answers below to my weird questions, check out their videos and follow them on Facebook and Twitter for more tour info!
1. Can you describe your first musical memory?
Nai: To be honest, aside from a lullaby my mum would sing every night…it would have to be riding around the house probably around the age of 3 on my yellow trike that I had to be physically pried apart from for bed, dinner, bath, whatever was less interesting than hot-rodding about. The theme music for the incessant circling of the house was the sweet sounds of “Boogie on Reggae Woman” by Stevie Wonder. My mum was a MASSIVE Stevie fan. Runs in the blood.
2. If you had the power to put together your dream music festival as a teen, who would have played?
Bender: Well, I’m pretty sure it would have featured both Iron Maiden and Mr Bungle, and would surely have attracted many similarly sexually frustrated acne-ridden young lads aching for some sweaty moshpit catharsis. Maybe there could be a guilty pleasure tent which would play “Breezin” by George Benson on loop while you can rip bongs on a soggy couch.
3. Do you feel like you are living the dream right now? How was it performing on Jay Leno?
Nai: It’s pretty dreamy. Partly because of the lack of sleep but also because its so rare for a band to be at this level of success so early in their careers. I mean aside from one hit wonder pop sensations. It’s been an incredible journey already, we’ve met our musical idols that respect us as artists, we’ve played a ancient Roman Colosseum in the south of France, signed a major record deal and now Jay Leno. All in the space of 2 and a half years of being a band. Jay Leno was a trip. I think around 12 million people watched that episode. He’s a great guy, very down to earth. Ashton Kutcher was on the show too and was super chill. It’s amazing how humble a lot of the famous people I have met truly are.
4. Describe how the music scene in Australia has influenced your sound.
Simon: Everyone in the band comes from different parts of Australia, but met and formed in Melbourne. I have been apart of the Melbourne music scene for the past 10 years and it has been a huge influence on my sound personally. Melbourne is awesome cause I have been able to play soooooo many different styles of music over the years with heaps of great musicians. As for the band, we got together while 3 of us were living in a big old share house that was a hub for a lot of musicians north side of the city. While we recorded Tawk Tomahawk, there was music being played pretty much 24/7 in our makeshift rehearsal studio, I mean I’d get home from a gig at 2:00am and there would either be 10 musos in the lounge room chillin and listening to music, or a bunch of dudes playing real quiet in the rehearsal studio. All of these local musicians that we interact with, watch perform, and perform for have definitely help us find our sound.
5. What’s the craziest fan experience you’ve ever had?
Nai: A woman wrote to me on Facebook from Saudi Arabia to tell me that she has seen friends, family die at the hands of war; that tanks drive down her neighborhood streets and that our music is what gets her through. It transports her to a place where her imagination meets ours. A peace of mind. I cried reading it.
6. How did you connect with Q-Tip for that version of “Nakamarra”?
Simon: The connection came through our A & R rep from Sony Masterworks, Salaam Remi. He came to us with the concept of putting a rapper on Nakamarra, and in the beginning we were a bit hesitant, but when he dropped Q-Tip, we all kinda looked at each other, I think Bender threw up a little, and gave him the thumbs up.
7. Do you feel like the word “genre” is obsolete?
Bender: No. It definitely has a purpose and a lot of people identify with specific genres. However I don’t feel all music can be easily cataloged and pigeon-holed with the use of genre, and more often than not that is what usually happens. There’s the old cliche that talking about music is like dancing about architecture. Sometimes it is useful to represent a style by one or two genres because that’s the extent the artist is trying to go creatively, i.e.throw-back soul, punk, jazz, classic rock, and they are content to simulate those flavors. However there are a lot of artists that are honestly expressing and exploring their creativity beyond genre specific flavors and people still try to apply those tools of cataloging to compress a sense of order and documentation upon them. In doing this they are missing the intention of the artist’s creative freedom. We fall under the latter umbrella. A side note I’d like to add… The genre “world” music is bullshit. Everything thing in the world is technically world music, but mainstream western music has decided to monopolize and isolate music from other countries and give it a condescending genre under the general-assed name “world music. End of rant.
8. How dope will it be to perform at the Summer Spirit Festival with D’Angelo and Erykah Badu?
9. How did you like touring with Thundercat?
Bender: I’ll say this much…Thomas Pridgen is actually Animal from the Muppets. On and off stage, for real.
10. What would someone be surprised to find in your music collection?
Nai: Justin Bieber. Wait for it…… slowed down 400%. His music is sooo polished and compressed that it’s still finely audible even at that level where most recordings would static out. My house mate Hamishi who is an incredible visual artist has his studio below my loft bedroom. He went through a phase of listening to EVERYTHING! slowed down 400% and thusly I was exposed to the phenomenon. Justin Bieber at that speed becomes this glacial, divine Sigor Ros vibe heaven music.
11. If I weren’t a music artist, I’d be doing…
Simon: star jumps in the Himalayas
12. Who would you not want to trade lives with?
Bender: Prince’s personal assistant/manager. Trying to make all his ludicrous demands a reality would be such a fucking headache.
13. What are your plans for the rest of 2013?
Simon: We get home from America late August, then have a bit of time to get into the studio to record some new music, then back on the road to America and Europe for November and home for Christmas! Whoop!