It's been a year since we talked to Hiatus Kaiyote, and we knew then that the ethereal band from the down under would continue to make waves. In 2012 they released their debut album Tawk Tomahawk, and today singer/guitarist Nai Palm, bass player Paul Bender, drummer Perrin Moss and keyboardist Simon Mavin are still rocking steady. As they grow in popularity and continue to work on their upcoming album, the group has been traveling the country for the past two weeks on the U.S. leg of their never-ending tour. They're tired, hungry and just finished a lengthy sound check but still joking with each other and happy to be back in the Nation's Capital. We sat down to discuss their tour, their favorite eats, how inherently famous they are and the direction of their music. What followed was a lot of laughs, some peculiar comments about koalas and a lot of excitement about the music of the world.
SoulBounce: It's only been about two years and you've gained a lot of momentum and plenty of fans in the U.S. and across the world for that matter. How do you feel?
Hiatus Kaiyote: Tired, exhausted. [laughs]
Nai Palm: The explosion has been pretty amazing and the fact that we can tour here on a regular basis. And more and more we're hearing there are musical icons that dig what we do so yeah, that's pretty amazing.
Paul Bender: Yeah it's pretty amazing, it's definitely a trip. There's just little things that pop up that make you go whoa. Like the last thing was one of Prince's people emailed us, he wanted us to go play at like Paisley Park or whatever, and unfortunately we couldn't do it because there was no time to but that was amazing that he would want us to do that. I'm kinda glad it didn't happen, it's kinda cool but it's pretty terrifying. We heard some story about someone else in other bands doing that and him just sort of sitting there like pointing to one of the guys in the band and being like "you're not contributing anything, you don't play anymore" and they had to keep playing the set without one of the dudes in the band.
Perrin Moss: God, that would've been so f**ked up. Are you serious that happened?
NP: Yeah, it was like a synth player with like drum pads and he was like you're not necessary in the band, you can sit out for now.
SB: Yeah, if Prince says you suck then...
PM: Yeah, you might as well go home and cry, just get on the plane, even if you don't have to. Just get on there and just fly. Don't say goodbye to anybody.
SB: So speaking of planes, you guys have been traveling a lot.
PB: Yeah, like about two weeks.
NP: And then we've got nearly a month in Europe.
SB: So what do you think makes the American audience different from other audiences?
NP: They're more expressive, like they're more vocal about what they like and you could do like a bass lick and some vocal stuff and people will be like "yeah!" like right there and they say it to you, whereas like you know we play in other places where it's a bit more reserved vocally speaking. Like they get into it equally, but they're just less likely to shout.
PB: Yeah, they don't shout as much.
PM: People will come up to you after the show and talk to you and tell you about what they liked and how it was really cool.
NP: Sometimes you had no idea they were into it, like they're so deadpan just listening you're like "they hate it." But afterwards everyone comes up like "oh my God, that was an amazing live show" and I'm like well thanks for letting us know while we were on.
PB: Yeah because it makes a difference. In Australia people are vocal but not generally en masse. Like kinda like when we played in the states, there will be some little thing we do that's different from the record, like a little flip or a little trick or moment and everyone's like "yeah!" In Australia it's like most of the people will be dancing and there will be one guy like "f**k yeah!" Like this one guy going crazy, and in Europe it's like "hmm hmm" [nods and looks pensive].
NP: [In the US] people are like more obsessed with like getting their photo taken and stuff, there's more of a thing with fame. I guess because there's more famous people here.
PM: It'd be pretty weird if that happened in Melbourne, though.
SB: But you guys are celebrities, you mean the paparazzi don't follow you around?
NP: We were in LA and we had these two paparazzi dudes follow us down the street and take our photo but they had no idea who we were, they're just obsessed with this fame thing. Last time I was in DC I lost my passport, and we had a sold out show in Chicago the next day, the guys had already left because they didn't lose their passport and so I had a later flight and managed to sort it out. So I was at the airport and there was all these school kids and they're like "oh what band are you in?" and they're all lining up to get their photo taken with me. Like never heard my music before but just because I was carrying a guitar they all like wanted to get a photo but I was like "dude, you have no idea who I am!"
PM: Maybe Americans just have that secret sense because we got approached in the street last night and they were like "you're in a band!" We were at an after party last night and the guys didn't even know who we were but they just said "what band are you guys in?" That's all they said and it's like we're too obvious.
Simon Mavin: It's happened at least 10 times where we're just walking down the street and someone's like, "hey, you're in a band."
SB: You just look like you are famous! Speaking of traveling a lot, how do you create when you're on the road and keep your creative juices alive and flowing?
NP: It just happens, it's like not having that outlet really. Not having the time to do it builds it up and when you do have time you're like I'm gonna catch up on this time of not being able to write for so long.
PB: Especially for me on the last tour, it was really long and we had really long drives so you just look forward to shows cause that's what you're there to do. And the rest of the time it's just dead time and it's just going past and you can't do anything with it except watch The Sopranos or play PS3 or look out the window, so it's just like you're there to do the show.
NP: I make a fair bit of stuff though just in like doing vocal warm-ups before a show. I've come up with quite a few melodic ideas just from playing around with vocal warm-ups. So there's that and usually like the only space to do that is in a restroom somewhere and acoustics are really good. So in that sense I won't say I don't have any time to write lyrically, I mean it's easier as a vocalist because I can just my voice and work on lyrics, whereas like the guys, like Perrin would need a whole drum kit.
PM: But I'll just work on production stuff.
NP: He works on production, yeah. It's kind of teetering away when you can but usually you're just so exhausted you're just kind of like reserving energy for shows.
SB: So I know a lot of artists have given you guys the stamp that you're awesome, like Questlove, Prince, I know you had Q-Tip on the "Nakamarra" remix, are you going to work with these people in the near future or is there someone you're hoping to collaborate with?
PB: Probably not in the near future but who knows, in the future.
PM: I think it's kinda cool that that interest is there, but I think like at the moment we're still working on what our thing is. And I guess the way that we feel and think about albums is that we just kinda want to create something that's really immersive and I think in a way collaborations can kind of take away from that because it's a thing you know. It's like someone really familiar on there and they're just kind of a big deal.
NP: This is a collaboration, like our band is already a four-way collaboration so we've already kinda got our hands full with that exploration so it's like why bring someone else in just because they've got a name or because of their skill? I feel like we have so much to explore just with the four of us first. And then you know you're like defined by your collaboration, they're like "oh yeah you're that band that did that thing with that guy" so it's like you're that band and you're doing this. I think the collaborations we've worked instrumentally in anything, say like some exotic percussionist or horn player, they're more textual rather than a feature.
PM: My favorite thing about music that I like is timeless music, I think if you collaborate with people it instantly puts its it in this box and you can kinda go like oh yeah, that was around this year when trap music was really good and you had this mad MC that does this s**t or whatever but then you collaborate with instrumentalists and stuff and yeah it becomes timeless. It doesn't matter when it's from, it's still got the crazy same message.
SB: Are there any other genres you're interested in, I know you have this funky soul going on.
PM: It's all gonna happen.
NP: It's already happening, it's already occurred in our music it's just like the box of genre around our music that people are like yeah you're doing this. But even in the fine details of our arrangements there's influences from everywhere from like Punjabi to like tuareg rhythms and it might not be like the whole sound so you don't recognize it but the details are there already. And I guess we'll extend from that eventually, I love to like -- and I'm sure we all do -- we love to spend some time learning and really immersing ourselves in more traditional techniques from around the world and then incorporating it. Because for now it's just like from listening to it and interpreting it in your own way but it'd be cool to like really solidly explore some different cultural music, like I'd love to learn like ragga singing, like classical Indian scales and stuff.
PM: That kinda stuff just overwhelms me as well as wanting to love to do that kind of stuff. It's like for us to do that kinda stuff you almost have to be born into it or you have a long, long journey ahead of you but you gotta do it.
PB: Yeah and I think we all think about this band in a pretty long term way, and we want to keep writing stuff and we don't really want to limit it to one sound and hopefully our albums will keep sounding different from one another and you know get to the point where I guess the genre and the ideas people have about us will just stop. And I think the album we're working on now definitely has flavors of that. I can already see that the third album will be something really different, you know, we get to keep making stuff that won't just be about that single or about that sound, just being about wherever our heads are at the time.
PM: And I think like having some kinda continuity between albums is good as well, I don't think we're ever going to just jump from one thing to another. Like the next album after this is will be a punk album or something, that'd just be really weird. There might be some time between that, like eventually it might be a punk album.
SB: When is the next album coming out?
PB: Like next year I guess.
SB: Are you going to do an Australian release first?
NP: No our label is U.S. based, we're on Flying Buddah, which is Salaam Remi's label so it'll definitely coincide with a U.S. release.
SB: What's inspiring you right now, at this moment, on this couch, in this room? What's keeping you going?
HK: [laughs] Right now?
SM: I just met an artist outside when I went out for a cigarette, and then someone else walked by and I met him, and then someone else walked by and I was like hey, so it was pretty cool.
PB: Yeah, Simon's a part of the scene now.
SM: I'm based out of DC now. I just moved here.
NP: The thought of eating Ethiopian food very soon is definitely what's inspiring me.
PM: I can't wait, last time we had Ethiopian food, which was actually my first time believe it or not, which is really weird but it was here.
NP: I'm all up in the Ethiopian food. There are some really good spots in Melbourne.
At this point in the interview we talk about our favorite foods and we hear Ethiopian, Indian, Spanish-Moroccan, Jamaican, Lebanese, Afghani curries, pizza and salmon, kangaroo and then Simon reveals that you can eat koala.
SM: Koala, yeah...
SB: Really, aren't they protected?
PB: They're protected, but not from Simon!
SM: There's a thing in Australia, a phrase that's like if you can catch it, you can eat it!
SB: Nice, I have yet to visit so I'll catch something when I go!
SB: Oh boy, so what do you guys have planned after this leg of the tour?
SM: We're gonna go to Amsterdam and then it'll be three weeks around Europe.
SB: What do you have planned after the tour ends? When does the tour end officially?
SM: Our manager said 2014, but we'll see I guess.
NP: But we get a month off in December.
SB: So in December you get a break, you won't be working at all?
NP: The first week we won't be but we're playing New Years so we'll be back around the 20th for Falls Festival, and The Roots are playing too! It's like by the beach.
PB: Would love to hang out with The Roots if they're there.
SB: Since we're talking about Australia, what would you like American music fans to know about the Australian music scene?
PM: It's good!
NP: It's really eclectic and thriving.
SB: Who are you guys listening to?
PB: I'm really digging The Stepkids, I've been digging them for a while and Teebs, a producer from LA.
NP: He's on Brainfeeder.
PB: Prefuse 73 called him the "Erik Satie of the SP-303" sampler. Which is like a really accurate description so it's like really dreamy bass and like luscious and sort of fluffy.
NP: I listen to Ooru Singari a lot; she's kind of my staple, like sanity. There's an artist called Yaw he's amazing, kind of like a present Sam Cooke I guess. FKA Twigs, she's from the UK, she's gorgeous.
PB: Yeah, I was listening to a lot of her last night, she's intense.
PM: I'm listening to a whole bunch of African stuff at the moment. I spent about 280 bucks just on like West African music the other day. Like Sali Sidibe is one that I've listened to the past six to eight months obsessively, just a whole bunch of stuff and the records that I bought are a whole bunch of names I just guessed. I like doing that in record stores. I just don't like listening to it because if I listen to it, I'll listen to one track and be like I don't like that track, I like this track. And then I don't know if it's worth 40 bucks getting the whole record, it always is but you just kind of at that moment think about it too much so I just get them and hope that they're good.
SB: So since the website is SoulBounce.com, my last question to everyone is what makes your soul bounce?
PB: I don't know...actually I don't know if I should answer that, the first thing that popped in my head was really explicit.
SB: I'm curious now, what is it?
PB: I can't tell you...just sweet, sweet love.
SB: Okay I got you, we're gonna move on.
PM: Friendship, love family, all that stuff. Bubble wrap.
NP: I'm gonna say listening to Tilahun Gessesse at the beach, love going to the beach when it's really stormy and the weather is like intense, just that sense of like wild nature with really beautiful music and a mouth full of pop rocks.
SM: Seeing little kids like dancing really good, that's pretty dope.
SM: Getting a really positive interaction with a stranger when you're walking down the street, it's pretty nice. Good coffee.
NP: Foxes on a trampoline! There's a YouTube clip of foxes on a trampoline, they find a trampoline and then they work out they can jump and they're jumping!