Nai Palm (Hiatus Kaiyote) Q and A
By: Cesar Rodrigues
The enigmatic Nai Palm fronts Melbourne natives Hiatus Kaiyote as well as a bunch of other stuff around town including a solo residency at Bar Open on Sunday in February. She takes out some time to chat with us about all things Hiatus Kaiyote and more…
Photo: Cy Gorman
1. You seemed to come out of nowhere as a singer in Melbourne. I remember seeing you for the first time and thinking ‘why was I not onto this?’. What was happening in your world before Hiatus Kaiyote?
I have been performing as a solo artist since i was about 16/17 years old in the Melbourne music scene. Performing songs that are now Hiatus Kaiyote arrangements. I supported acts like (ME), The Barrons of Tang, Matt Kelly and the Keepers… i was also in a an Aztec Cumbia Dub Band called Nahuatl Sound System.
2. How does living in a city like Melbourne shape what you do as a musician and artist?
Its a thriving city culturally and there is definitely an incredible community of musicians here that are both eclectic and nurturing to work/jam with. i was born here, so i think growing up in an artistically focused city has given me the freedom to express myself from a young age.
3. What is your creative process? What does it usually begin with?
To be completely honest. the roots of most creative expression is birthed through pain. Its 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. Theres no set formula. Inspiration is intangible and elusive.
4. How do things happen when you take material to the band?
It differs. sometimes I come to them with a song and strong arrangement ideas in mind. I let them experiment with it so that they can come to the idea with there own flavours. Then when there comfortable with the natural feel of it, I extend the arrangement ideas and influences. It requires a lot of patience, but its totally worth it and everybody connects to it with there own freedom of creativity instead of me just being like ‘play this, like this’. I would have worked with session musicians if thats what i wanted, but this connection is deeper and more rewarding for everybody involved. In saying that, another approach is we work on something from scratch bouncing ideas off each other from the get go. Sometimes the guys work production pieces for example with the interludes on ‘Tawk Tomahawk’. I will then write to an already produced piece of music.
5. Your voice has a unique yet familiar timbre at the same time. Who are some of the vocalists that have influenced you and what you do?
Bjork, Billie Holiday, Lauren Hill, Oumou Sangare, Stevie Wonder, Michael Jackson (the harmonic chords he produces).
6. You guys have come so far and achieved so much in the short existence of Hiatus Kaiyote yet it only feels like it’s about to explode, what are some of the things you feel helped with the success of the band?
The fact that we haven’t limited our creative expression to be more commercially accessible. To be honest a lot of it has been right time, right place, and the right ears have heard it. The root of all success though is definitely pure intention with your art. you gotta be in it for the right reasons because people feel it if your just doing it for commercial success.
7. You guys have had some social media attention from some big global artists. You happened to hang with a lot of them too. Who and what are they saying?
Was coolin with… The Roots, Jean Grae, Pharoah Monch, Flying Lotus, Taylor McFerrin , D.Prosper , Shafiq Husayn, Miguel Atwood Ferguson, Will I Am………
They all said that they would LOVE!!! to jump out of an aeroplane with me dressed in Gorilla suits sipping on Flaming Bloody Marys!!
8. Congratulations on winning the World Wide Award for breakthrough act. What was that experience like?
It was pretty crazy performing solo in front of thousands of people in a different country all singing along to your songs.The theatre was so stunning as well. I was blown away. Gilles Peterson is a total legend darling man too .Super fun!
9. These days , we don’t even own MP3s anymore, we stream and have fleeting moments before we simply move on. How do you think the digitalisation of music effects what you do as an artist here in Melbourne?
It makes your music more accessible. which i think is great! However… the game has changed and you have to make your income from licensing and touring rather then record sales.
11. What else is in store for HK 2013?
World domination (evil laughs). We are finishing building our home studio, recording an album and touring extensively through the states and europe. There will also be a national tour of Australia as a 7 piece.
12. What can we expect from your solo shows at Bar Open on Sundays in February?
Gritty, soulful renditions of songs i like and striped back Hiatus Kaiyote tunes. I also throw in some new stuff I’m working on.
13. What are some of the local Melbourne bands rocking your world at the moment?
Ainsle Wills, Axolotl, Kirkis, Oscar And Martin, Brous.