Australia’s Hiatus Kaiyote seem like they could serve as the soundtrack to pretty much anything — they blend what sounds like the score of a futuristic western with the daily grind of urban life. The band went on their first-ever U.S. tour last month, playing SXSW showcases, Manhattan’s Le Poisson Rouge, and a guest performance during Questlove’s weekly DJ set at the Brooklyn Bowl.
Hiatus Kaiyote formed in mid-2011, when the four founding members – Nai Palm, Perrin Moss, Paul Bender, and Simon Mavin — began playing together after working on separate projects. The group hails from Melbourne — a city with an explosive music scene in a country with a small industry. “Even ’doing well’ means rent is still a bitch to pay, so you might as well just make the music you want to make, not change what you do to ‘get noticed’,’” bassist Paul Bender said.
“Future Soul” is the enigmatic genre claimed by Hiatus Kaiyote, but their sound is an amalgamation of wide-ranging influences, from Oumou Sangaré to Iggy And The Stooges with a smattering of J Dilla and D’Angelo somewhere in between. But despite numerous potential labels, Hiatus Kaiyote sound determinedly unfamiliar.
Exemplifying this unconventional sound is the debut combined EP/LP Tawk Tomahawk, that the band released independently last spring. The first track “Mobius Streak” is a song about optical illusions, which makes a lot of sense — it’s hard to tell where one arrangement starts and the next begins. The rippling track is laden with gorgeous stuttering guitar motifs that, along with electronic instrumentation, move it along in perfect synthesis.
23-year-old Nai Palm has a throaty voice that coats Tawk Tomahawk’s deceptively mellow noise in just-barely-there sweet longing. In tracks like “Lace Skull” her low notes hit unbelievable bottom before steadily growing wildly impassioned. Nai Palm is Hiatus Kaiyote’s primary lyricist, and she constructs most of the song structures and melodies before collaborating alongside the rest of the band.
Although Tawk Tomahawk is available for download, Hiatus Kaiyote hope to officially release the EP through a label, “so that people can actually buy a physical copy even if they’re not at our gigs, which is pretty handy,” said Bender. The band is currently working on a second album to be released sometime next year, and it will likely feature “Untitled #7,” a track about, “a sexually ambiguous dolphin called Tonay who is on his way across the ocean to meet his estranged Dad and confront him about the Christmas that tore them apart,” according to Bender. On paper, “Untitled #7″ sounds nothing short of ridiculous. But maybe the concept behind every Hiatus Kaiyote song starts with a ludicrous backstory, one that becomes hard to question once it’s all wrapped-up in the band’s kaleidoscopic packaging.