Posted July 31, 2013 by Jeff in Tunes

Hiatus Kaiyote: It’s all very eclectic

An Australian band that doesn’t fit neatly into any one musical category, Hiatus Kaiyote counts a wide-ranging array of fellow musicians among its fans. Everyone from The Roots drummer Questlove to London DJ Gilles Peterson has touted the group. The group’s mix of jazz, hip-hop and techno holds up nicely on its debut, Tawk Tomahawk. Bassist Paul Bender recently called us to talk just before the band took the stage to perform on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno.

The album doesn’t sound like it’s a collection of samples and beats. Is it mostly live instrumentation?
There’s a combination. I have a laptop on stage. [Keyboardist]  Simon [Mavin] plays synth and everything. In the studio, we’re trying to move more toward organic stuff and the analog thing. I’ve been getting into really early electronic music. I found some amazing shit from the mid to late ’50s, a couple of dudes from the Dutch scene who worked for Philips company. They made some amazing music. Electronic music can sound more like a lost artifact rather than something shiny and clean. We’re all big fans of the grit.

Talk about how the band first formed in 2011.
I met [singer] Nai [Palm] about a year before the band became a band. I saw her solo gig and was blown away. She was putting herself out there as a performer and Perrin [Moss] the drummer met her at the same time. After that, I was determined that I would help her put a band together. I had been in Melbourne for a few years and knew a bunch of great players. It’s easier if you get good dudes in the first place. I don’t like kicking people out of bands. The line-up just fell together in this interesting way.

What’s the music scene like in Melbourne?
It’s interesting. It’s really vibrant. It’s better than Sydney. When poker machines came to Australia in the ‘80s, pubs in Sydney installed them. Now it’s more of a struggle to find good venues there.

What kind of music did you grow up listening to?
I grew up listening to Hendrix, Cream and Jethro Tull. Then, my brother got me into metal; that was the first music I played. Perrin’s parents are really into Cuban music and music from West Africa. He was raised on that. Nai was brought up on that, too. Her mom was a dancer and choreographer. She also listened to a lot of Stevie Wonder. Simon has played piano since the age of four. His background is classical. It’s all very eclectic.

Your music has been called “future soul.” Talk about that.
Ah, you know, I’m personally not interested the genre thing. I know it makes sense to some people. If you make techno, it fits into a larger culture like DJ culture and people creating something that’s similar and a communal thing. For us, it’s all open for us to grab things from. Soul is a big part of it. The hip-hop element is part of why it’s eclectic as well. That’s a big part of hip-hop. Even though there are styles of beats, you can pull samples from Lynyrd Skynyrd or some Brazilian thing or a Gregorian chant and turn it into a bit fat driving beat. We want to create those sounds live. We fall into electronic music but without falling into the usual things.

We fall into electronic music but without falling into the usual things.

Talk about the song “Nakamarra,” which you sing with Q-Tip. How did that collaboration come about?
That was made through the guy who runs Flying Buddah, which is part of Sony. He had that connection to Q-Tip and he thought it would be awesome to put out an alternate version of that song. We thought it was just too common of a thing to do. Then, he was like “How about doing it with Q-Tip?” Because we respect that guy so much and “Nakamarra” is an important song to us and comes from a pure place, it was hard for us to envision doing that. But Q-Tip has an intelligent and positive vibe with an understanding of subjects. He has integrity as an MC. He was one of the only people we would trust. It was a trip.

I’ve read you’re at work on your next album. How’s that coming?
We’ve got a whole bunch of material written and enough to do another two records but at the moment, we’re touring like crazy. We built a new studio in Melbourne and for us, the biggest challenge is figuring out how we want to record things. We want to do it ourselves and we’ve begun. There’s a bunch of songs we’ve been playing since the beginning that we still haven’t even recorded.

Select 2013 Tour Dates  

Thurs., July 25

Fri., July 26

Sat., July 27

Sun., July 28

Wed., July 31

Thurs., Aug. 1

Sat., Aug. 3

Sun., Aug. 4

Tues., Aug. 6

Sat., Aug. 10

Sun., Aug. 11

Mon., Aug. 12

Wed., Aug. 14

Thurs., Aug. 15

Sat., Aug. 17

Las Vegas, NV – The Cosmopolitan

Las Vegas, NV- The Cosmopolitan

Las Vegas, NV – The Cosmopolitan

San Francisco, CA – The Independent

Los Angeles, CA – Bootleg Theatre

Chicago, IL – Subterranean

Columbia, MD – Merriweather Post Pavilion

Detroit, MI – Chene Park Amphitheatre

Cleveland, OH – Cambridge Room

Philadelphia, PA – Trocadero

New York, NY – Central Park Summerstage

Brooklyn, NY – Knitting Factory

Atlanta, GA – Vinyl

Raleigh, NC – The Pour House

Miami, FL – Blackbird Ordinary


Jeff started writing about rock ’n’ roll some 20 years ago when he stood in the pouring rain to hitch hike his way to see R.E.M. on their Life’s Rich Pageant tour. Since that time, he's written for various daily newspapers, alt-weeklies, magazines and websites. Feel free to comment on his posts or suggest music, film and art to him at [email protected].