2, 4, 6, 8… we appreciate haitus kaiyote!
Multi-Dimensional, Polyrhythmic Gangster Shit from the Melbourne based neo-soul stars.
The Melbourne four-piece Haitus Kaiyote defy description. They manage to channel Miles Davis, Erykah Badu. Prince and Stevie Wonder all in one sitting, pushing the boundaries of structure and rhythm with casual aplomb. Having already been nominated for a Grammy and been the recipient of a tweet from the almighty Prince, we catch up with the Aussie aural adventurists to find out what makes them tick…
2 places Haitus Kaiyote love to play
Cape Town South Africa.
"We played the Jazz Festival there with Erykah Badu and Lalah Hathaway. It was so beautiful. Thanks to the Internet, we already have fans there, so we saw a lot of familiar faces as soon as we landed. The cool thing that we've noticed about our music is that it attracts people from all ages and races. It's amazing that music can speak beyond race.
La Foa, New Caledonia.
"It's part of a bunch of Islands north of Australia. It's all white sand beaches, swimming with turtles and coconuts and avocados. It's really beautiful. It's a tribal community, so you have to be invited to go to there and you have to bring tobacco and fabric, the chief is there to greet you when you arrive. We did a show for the locals and they were just silent the whole time. They hadn't heard music like ours before! We were staying at a family's house and at 3am, this guy rocked up with all these cowrie shells that he'd collected from the ocean, and gave them to us. A very random gig but totally magical.
4 Things That Link Haitus Kaiyote
"That connects us all very strongly. As soon as we leave Melbourne, which has the best coffee, we just bitch about how rubbish it is everywhere else."
"We all love David Attenborough. We wish he were our grandfather. We wrote a song called Breathing Underwater on our new album, which is a tribute to Stevie Wonder, and there's a lyric about a Jericho Rose, which is a resurrection plant, a type of cactus, which can survive for over a hundred years. If it rains, then it blossoms in minutes. We found out about that on the Africa series. David Attenborough. Whatta guy."
"We're all from different places but we have a ring that when you put them together we conjure Captain Planet. But we're not supposed to tell anyone that. We hide them in a ditch. Or in a majestic volcano. That may or may not be fabricated."
Blank Tape Records, Melbourne
"There was a house/ studio that we all worked in/ lived in for a while. We made a lot of noise there."
6 Things That Influenced Haitus Kaiyote's new album, Choose Your Weapon.
"He's a Japanese director who made an anime called Laputa: Castle In The Sky. We named one of our songs on the new record after that film." (Nai)
Early electronic music
"Specifically music from the 50s and 60s, before there was such things as synthesizers and they were figuring out all of these different components. Like, The BBC Radiophonic Orchestra, Tom Dissevelt and Kid Baltan… There's a wealth of really crazy stuff out there. We just love synthesizers, but that era especially is interesting because of the tones and the colours they manage to get out. People try and create that stuff today, but they were making the freshest sounds back then. They were like scientists." (Simon)
"She wore these big glasses, and was like an amazing old English lady who ended up living with lots of cats and synthesisers. She made her own machine called the Oramics machine, which was crazy ahead of its time. You'd draw a wav form onto a Perspex plate, like a shape, and she'd feed it into this machine and it would read it and generate images. Now you can do that with your iPhone, but in the fifties and sixties, that's pretty incredible." (Paul)
"We have three different animals on the album. One is Charlie Parker, who's a parakeet. There's a bit of him talking and singing. We had a jam with an owl, out the front of the studio. I locked into a polyrhythm with it. It's called Making Friends With Studio Owl, it's an interlude. And then there's Benny The Cat. He's just a miserable animal. He just cries like a pathetic child all the time, but we got him meowing through a vocoder, which sounds… really weird. Lena the Dog was on there but she was barking at inappropriate moments so we had to edit her out in the end. She's our muse though." (Nai)
Dilla Joints by the Roots
"They took all that space in Dilla's drum recordings and played with how everything sits around everything else. It really shocked me when I first heard it. It's really dry, open, almost simple, but to me it sounds like the true sounds of the instruments and it's placed beautifully." (Perrin)
"He's this awesome, exotic composer who did a lot of stuff for film. He's not Hawaiian, but he tried to capture that magical Hawaiian feel, that exotica. From a vocal standpoint, some of the vocal arrangements are super magical and dreamy and weird. Like Disney but in space. It's really cinematic music. The engineering and mixing on those records are incredible too; so ahead of their time." (Paul)
8 things you should know about Haitus Kaiyote
They love their backing vocalists
"We have three backing vocalists in Melbourne who are our fam, who add a whole other crazy, powerful element to our live show. We get to play in Australia with them, but it's rare we get the money to tour with them. The ambition when we play is to blow people's minds and they really help with that."
Simon used to handfeed sharks
"I worked in an aquarium so I'd be in there with the turtles and stingrays. I'd be in the tank wearing waders and I'd have a microphone and do a talk and feed them. It sounds more dangerous than it is, although the turtles were slow and inaccurate, so you'd be feeding them ox heart and they'd grab your finger rather than the ox heart. It was a bit painful, but the other guys were cool.
Nai hand-reared a crow.
"The tattoo on my face was my first tattoo. It was a scratch that she gave me, waking me up to feed her. When I released her back into the wild when she could look after herself, the next day I went and got the tattoo done. That was a beautiful time in my life. I'm an orphan so looking after wildlife is a massive part of my internal growth of loving something and letting it go and then looking after something else."
They describe their new album as… large.
"It's hard to summarise, but it's cinematic and it's visual. It's like a selection of weird little movies that are all about different things. It took us forever to record - 14, 15 months maybe, on and off."
They found the Grammys both crazy and traumatic.
"We were nominated this year for Best R&B Performance. We were the first Australians to have been nominated for that category. The whole experience was crazy. We played at the pre-telecast thing and met Pharrell on the Red Carpet and he was really humble and beautiful and told us he appreciated our music. We were hanging out with Madlib the night before so it was weird getting appreciation from, like, the king of the Hip Hop Underground and then getting amazing vibes from, well, the king of the world!
If they could work with anyone in the world, it would be Hayao Miyazaki.
"Or Gregory Colbert who made Ashes And Snow. It's an amazing visual experience about the relationship between people and animals. It's shot in Sepia, no CGI and Laurence Fishburne is reciting poetry throughout. It's pretty incredible.
If all goes wrong, they could set up a lookalike agency.
Simon looks Guy Pearce. "And, I'm told, Mark Wahlberg." Paul gets "Action Bronson and Zach Galifianakis" and Nai "Rooney Mara."
They make music because it's the best drug in the world.
"It feeds our soul. It's amazing to perform, it's the ultimate. There's nothing like really enjoying yourself onstage and looking out and seeing someone enjoying it as much as you are. You never get tired of that feeling."
Choose your Weapon is out 4 May
Text Hattie Collins