Hiatus Kaiyote finally got around to explaining the origins of their name in a recent interview with Life + Times. The group also discuss their debut LP Tawk Tomahawk and the emphatically meteoric ascent that followed the release in a recent interview with Life + Times. The band of future-soul purveyors also discuss their Aussie origins, musical inspiration and creative plans. Hiatus Kaiyote’s impact in such a short period of time has been nothing short of monumental – a word that could just as easily be applied to their bottomless talent – with Gilles Peterson and ?uestlove amongst the laundry list of musical tastemakers extolling their virtues.
The remix version of their Tawk Tomahawk LP, Tawk Takeout only reiterates the glowing endorsements with a handful of global heavy hitters putting their spin on the tracks; names like Anthony Valadez, Shafiq Husayn, Miles Bonny, Mark De Clive-Lowe and Silent Jay being attached to any project should speak volumes about the content and its creators. As if that weren’t enough, Q-Tip slid onto the group’s smooth soul single “Nakamarra” for the project’s re-release on Salaam Remi‘s Flying Buddha label. It would be a gross miscalculation to say that Hiatus Kaiyote is going anywhere but up, given the evidence. Take a look at how the band define themselves and what they had to say about where they’re headed next.
Life+Times: What does the name Hiatus Kaiyote mean?
Nai Palm: Well basically, “Kaiyote” is not a word. It’s a made up word, but it kind of sounds like peyote and coyote – it’s a word that involved the listeners creativity as to how they perceive it. So it reminds you of things but it’s nothing specific. When I looked it up on online it was like a bird appreciation society around the world, so for me that was a great omen, because I’m a bird lady. A hiatus is essentially a pause, it’s a moment in time. So, to me, a hiatus is taking a pause in your life to take in your surroundings, have a full panoramic view of your experiences and absorbing, and “kaiyote” is expressing them in a way involves the listeners creativity. It’s a duality with out music, as well. We don’t like to spell it out because if you can vaguely portray something, then it’s more likely that a broader variety of people can relate to it because they can find their own way in.
L+T: You just recently re-released the album and included a remix featuring Q-Tip.
NP: Yeah, we just put it online originally and it’s kind of blown up like wildfire. Badu picked it up, ?uestlove picked it up, Animal Collective, Jesse Johnson, etc. So, we’d kind of gotten the world’s attention but we weren’t signed to anybody and didn’t have any distribution deals. You couldn’t get a physical copy of anything. Through a really beautiful sequence of fate, we found Salaam Remi – or he found us – and he’s been working as an A&R for Sony, and they’ve given him the opportunity to start up his own label which is Flying Buddha. We always wanted to get our music out there, but the bottom line is that we continue to have our creative freedom and be able to record it the way [want]. People respond to our music because we’re doing what we’re doing, not because we’re working in a fancy studio or with certain producers. We want to do it ourselves. That was important to us and Salaam is such a tastemaker and skillful producer, I think he really resonated with that and was really supportive of our vision. We’re the first band to be signed to his new label and as a result of that, it’s been distributed around the world, we’re with the CAA Agency. The Q-Tip collaboration came because he’s known Salaam for years. He brought it to him and I wrote Q-Tip an email about the origins of the song because Nakamarra is an indigenous skin name and there’s a lot indigenous Australian cultural references in there. It’s cool to have a high guy on there dropping a verse, but I really wanted them to be informed about the history of it because it’s pretty sacred to us. So, when I emailed Q-Tip his interest peaked which is an incredible sign. He’s iconic, and we’re all big Tribe fans, so it was pretty amazing that we were able to come together. It was a trip recording my harmonies with such a legendary voice. Because we’ve already released Tawk Tomahawk online, [including the Q-Tip remix] was kind of to give an extra incentive to people that might already have the record.
L+T: Your music has been described as “future-soul”. Not to put you in a box, but describe the sound that you have.
NP: To be honest, future-soul is another box really. But it’s helpful, otherwise people have no idea, so it’s does help to have some kind of genre ties to what you’re doing. Some people with music they’re trying to depict a certain genre, that’s what they’re about – like trying to portray something that’s throwback, that’s already occurred. For us, it’s more about exploring each other’s creativity. There’s a lot of influences in there. We all listen to a vast variety of different music, my mom was a dancer and contemporary choreographer, so from a really young age I was exposed to flamenco and predominantly soul. That’s how I can sing, growing up listening to Aretha Franklin, Stevie [Wonder] and stuff. That’s definitely heavily engrained in the tone for me vocally, but there’s a lot of other influences. Even beyond musical genres, you could be inspired by sounds in documentaries or a visual piece that stimulates something in your mind and you try to portray what you see visually sonically. It’s pretty broad with us because it’s a band, we’re a team, it’s four people who all have a very eclectic taste in music coming together. There’s definitely soul elements. Future-soul came across because it’s futuristic in a sense that we don’t really know what we’re doing. We’re not trying to achieve or portray anything, it’s more of an exploration, so I guess that’s where the future element comes into it. We’ve also had multidimensional, polyrhythmic gangster shit as a genre. You can call it whatever, but at the core it’s eclectic and without confinement.