When I first heard this group’s music at the beginning of 2015 and I remember thinking, ‘That’s it, this a slice of the future’. I still think that when I listen to it. You could almost call it generic music, in the sense that it seems to effortlessly combine so many music genres into one flowing exciting soundscape, without that sense of nostalgia that so much music made today emulates. And it sounds distinct, the lyrics and song themes as well as melodically, rhythmically and spiritually-speaking , you can hear their vision of the now, and it is not based in the past.
I have tried to pinpoint how they achieve this. Is it an attitude? Is it their skill in assimilating what they have been influenced by, and making something new of it? Their music is worldly without being ‘world music’, exciting without being excitable, it is experimental without being naive. Creatively-speaking Hiatus Kaiyote are indeed brave. It has been interstingto see their popularity rise over the months; the tours, the songs, the collaborations. When they finally visited Barcelona in early July I was thrilled to get an interview with the group’s drummer. We were led, post-soundcheck, down various darkened backstage tunnels of Luz de Gas, to sit on a few steps where we could talk; a laid back and informal setting – perfect for the interview with Perrin Moss who was humble and sincere, as were his responses.
What are your first musical memories?
My first musical memories are probably as a toddler in the car with my parents, travelling, taking in music in that way. When I was around 8 or 9 I starting playing hand percussion, I was exposed to a lot of percussive music at home.
Last time you heard a track that really moved you and whose was it?
Oh wow, I have just the track in mind, I can’t think of the name of it or the artist though! But I remember it! It’s a sega song, sega is an African genre, it’s like a 6/8 style and this track was really awesome, like an old school blues standard over this great rhythm – that’s the song but I can’t think of the name.
Where did you come across it? How do you come across new music in general?
I just use an mp3 player when I’m on the road, and I surf on Youtube I guess too, but often I’ll the more concise stuff I usually source from a record or someone tells me about it. But I always end up going really deep very quickly, doing research on the net, wikipedia, and doing small digs on Youtube, mainly for inspiration. Seeing artists, for example a kid on the street and they’re playing the drums gives me inspiration, so I kind of use that while I’m travelling around. When I’m at home I can play records more and make music, I also take back a lot of music from around the world on vinyl.
When you say home, you’re all still based in Australia?
Yes in Melbourne.
Wha is the band’s creative process? Do you all get involved in the production?
Yeah, we all get involved, it depends on the moment. Sometimes we jam together and something comes from that, sometimes we share what we’ve done individually and vibe on it. But yeah, we’re all pretty involved in the process. I wish sometimes I could be a drummer who practices 12 hours a day but I like to do a bit of everything so that becomes really hard.
What would you say that live performance most requires of you as a musician?
Focus and be as good as you can be during each performance. It’s really about connecting with the rest of the band, feeling where they’re taking the music, and feeling the crowd as well.
The word spirit in ‘We Be Spirits’ refers to the way spirits are considered in some parts of the world; beings we are connected to and influenced by but who are not necessarily part of the physical realm. What does the word evoke in you and how do you relate to it?
Yeah, I’d say the same. It’s a feeling, like an energy, it’s not quite here but at the same time it’s here. Something all around, a feeling for sure.
How do you view Africa from a musical point of view?
I definitely want to go there, and to travel around. I love African music, as a drummer it is very inspiring. My parents listened to a lot of world music and I always heard African music, but I definitely need to get there one day.
You recently collaborated with Robert Glasper on his album dedicated to Miles Davies – is or was Miles someone part of your musical database?
That was great. I’d always listened to Kind Of Blue and Sketches of Spain before but not too much more until recently. The other guys in the band passed me a lot of his stuff and of other jazz musicians so now I listen to a lot more of jazz in general.
What are the most memorable moments this year so far?
[Laughs] One moment especially was great but I can’t go into that really. But travelling and getting to play so much has been amazing in general.
Do you have any plans you can tell us about?
We’re looking forward to 6 months off at the end of the year, we’ve been fighting for that quite hard and so we’re all looking forward to that. I’m sure we’ll rest for like a week or two and then we’ll be pulled back into the studio or something, so yeah, a break but a productive break.
The concert was impressive, full of powerful and rapidly-changing sounds, and commended by the audience, who happily sang along with Nai Palm as the lyrics soulfully boomed out of her small frame. Mainly covering tracks from their second album Choose Your Weapon the show often felt like a wonderfully-woven collection of sound bites of drum and bass, soul, r&b, indie, hip hop, Indian, and Pagan music, though sounding at once other-worldly. The band displayed an admirable level of cohesion, especially seeing (or hearing) their complexity of style. Nai Palm’s voice and guitar majestically led the band through this live soundscape, Perrin Moss on drums alongside Paul Bender’s bass made an eclectic, deep rhythm section, whilst Simon Mavin had many moments of glory on the keys. The background singers; Jace, Loreli, and Jay Jay, proved their subtle yet refined strength track after track, and especially delighted with their solo phrasing whilst being introduced to the crowd.
Highlights for me were the performances of the sublime ‘Breathing Underwater’, a dreamy yet upbeat mature track performed and received with pure love, and also one of their most popular songs from their first album Tawk Tomahawk, ‘Nakamarra’, which also saw a version featuring rapper Q-Tip. The level of audience participation resembled something you might expect with a group that have been around for decades, it was truly touching. The band worked a hard set, and when the concert finished I was left feeling re-energised if not slightly numb from the task of having assimilated such a volume of new sonic information. Let’s hope that the timeout Perrin speaks about will see them outdoing themselves further.
Photo: Juanmi Sansinenea