Amongst the musical discoveries I’ve made this year, I created a special bond with a particular one; from Melbourne, Australia comes Hiatus Kaiyote. A neo-soul quartet freshly started in 2011, but brought to music something new and futuristic. Founded by bassist Paul Bender, singer -and a special kind of- guitarist Nai Palm, quickly joined by Perrin Moss (drums) and Simon Mavin (keyboard).
Most of the members were solo performers, Nai Palm for example used to compose complex songs on her own without much knowledge of music theory, making it hard for her to put a band together. Luckily, Bender discovered her talent in one of her gigs, he was so impressed by the performance that he had to propose the idea of a band. Nai Palm wasn’t convinced enough and refused at first, and it was until a year later that they met again by chance and that time, the course of music history took a little turn.
There’s no ressource on what the idea behind their name means; Hiatus means ‘a break or interruption in the continuity of a work’, Kaiyote sounds like coyote… but that’s just me. And « Multi-Dimensional, Polyrhythmic Gangster Shit » is funnily the band’s way of describing their work, it’s just a random phrase they came up with on a road trip, yet it is so strangely fitting.
A huge part of the inspiration I got from this band’s music comes from Nai Palm and the way she transmits her messages, and you will soon know why, maybe you’ll become hooked too. (Just kidding there’s no `maybe`)
Time to bias you, plug-in your earphones or boost up your speakers, and listen as you read through the rest.
Arose a Rose
Before I talk about the musical aspect of the band, I want to introduce you to Nai Palm, who -for me- is Hiatus Kaiyote‘s emblem. Her liberty of self-expression is one of her strongest characteristics, and she adds a very philosophical pinch to her music.
« To be completely honest, the roots of most creative expression is birthed through pain. It’s usually from the need to process something fucked up or unbalanced within myself. Working it out and then sharing it with people so that they might gain perspective for themselves, or something astoundingly beautiful that shakes me to my core and I need to connect to it through creation. There’s no set formula. Inspiration is intangible and elusive. »
In a recent interview1, Nai Palm discusses her creative process and what helps her trigger it; a chunk of peruvian Palo Santo wood that she occasionally sets ablaze with a lighter, Charlie -her parrot and good friend-, and a very interestingly looking Buran mask from Indonesia. Mysticism and bohemian behaviour give a unique aura to her person, emphasised on with the bizarre outfits, exotic earrings, and a badass hairstyle.
Nai Palm’s vocal game is on point, she has so much control over her voice, yet is so adventurous with it and isn’t content with only singing lyrics, humming and oscillating from alto to soprano never sounded better. She gracefully slaps her orange jazz guitar to make the cleanest sounds, creativity and energy make up the core of her playstyle, so much groove that the music often falls between hip-hop/funk/jazz. If there is one word I could describe this artist with, it would be: Ballsy.
Nai Palm definitely stands out in today’s music scene as a singer, songwriter, and performer. She’s the blossoming rose that will mark the name « Hiatus Kaiyote » on music’s history.
Tawk Tomahawk (2012)
The first album recorded by the band was a big success, they fused jazz, hip-hop, and more musical flavours under the « neo soul » genre, and they did it in a pretty amazing way. In 2013 they were nominated for a grammy award as Best R&B Performance for their song « Nakamarra » performed with American rapper Q-Tip, but had lost to yet another promising band; Snarky Puppy (which I’ll surely write about in the near future) recording « Something »2 with Lalah Hathaway.
The album is composed of 10 songs, although the playstyle differs from one to another, that « Hiatus Kaiyote » stamp is strongly present through the whole album. Keyboards come out huge in the band’s musical process; Simon Mavin does a great job of setting the mood for the songs and gives the rest of the band room to freestyle, with adaptation to the core idea of their music of course. The percussions in almost every song are complex and inherit their time signatures from jazz and latino.
I found this album kind of « experimental » and that’s what I like about it the most, a four-piece of music fanatics gathering together, not afraid to try new things out and make the world puke rainbows.
After the grammy nomination, they were invited to take part of a series called ‘Chronicles’3 made by Red Bull Music Academy & Boiler Room, it’s an artist-curated series of documentaries and events that tell the stories of Australia’s most innovative artists. They acquired a lot of renown and their name quickly got widespread, they knew how to capture attention and set a path for themselves.
Choose Your Weapon (2015)
Although Tawk Tomahawk was a well received album and had some great jams, it leaves you with a feeling that the music wasn’t fully developped; most songs are under two minutes and there’s a lot of experimenting done, but what this meant is that HK were only readying themselves and the public for what is to come.
In May 2015, they returned with something more musically mature when they produced and released their second studio album intitled « Choose Your Weapon » independantly through their record label « Flying Buddha« . It comprises 18 songs and lasts for almost 70 minutes, which is double the duration of their first album. Nai Palm describes « Choose Your Weapon » as an extension to the debut, with more she also stated she and the band had no intention to make a one genre body of work, but rather style and format the album like a mixtape by throwing in some interludes.
« Choose Your Weapon » doesn’t shy away from going all the way and really grinding out some impressive rhythms and unique sounds. Nai Palm stepped up her poetry and wrote lyrics touching upon themes of supernatural topics, technological subjects and death. In addition to writing all of the album’s songs, she was the designer of its artwork. Overall, more dedication and authenticity were shown by Hiatus Kaiyote in this album, and they certainly made the public thirsty for more.
« Choose Your Weapon » is a call to -intellectual- arms, urging the listener to get hold of their own world and be true to their own expression, to select the good vibes that flow with one’s own, and to explore what triggers emotion in oneself.