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Australian Guitar x Bluesfest 2022: Hiatus Kaiyote

Hiatus Kaiyote
(Image credit: Press/Supplied)

It’s been a long and bumpy ride to the next edition of the Byron Bay Bluesfest – especially after its attempt in April got nixed a day out from opening, with the site and its stages already built – but lo and behold, Bluesfest is finally (finally!!!) making its return in 2022. 

Taking the form of an exclusive special edition, sporting an all‑Australian lineup, the four-day celebration of all things blues, roots, rock and beyond will take place at its established home of the Byron Events Farm (formerly Tyagarah Tea Tree Farm) across next year's Easter long weekend of Friday April 15th through Monday 18th. 

And although the usual suite of international icons are sitting this one out – y’know, travel bans and all that fun stuff – the lineup couldn’t be more enormous: headliners include Midnight Oil, Paul Kelly, Tash Sultana and Jimmy Barnes, with over 50 of Australia’s biggest and best names set to raise the barn over four epic days.

To get ourselves prepped for what is undoubtedly going to be the most exciting weekend of the year for any Aussie music fan, we’re catching up with handful of the acts we’re beyond keen to see. 

This week, we're going one-on-one with Hiatus Kaiyote!

THE CHEAT SHEET

Okay, so who’s this?
Hiatus Kaiyote are a frisky and funky four-piece from Melbourne doling out transcendental slivers of blue-eyed soul. They have a seal of approval of musical monoliths like Kendrick Lamar, Drake and Beyoncé, all of whom have sampled the band in the ten years since they broke out onto the scene.

What would I know them from?
If you follow the Grammys, you might know them as the first Australian act to be nominated for one of the R&B categories, landing a nom for the Best R&B Performance award with their track “Nakamarra”. They scored a second nom in 2016 for the same award, this time at the hands of “Breathing Underwater”. If neither of those tracks ring a bell, maybe you’ve heard a cut or two from their trip-inducing third album, Mood Valiant, which the band minted back in June.

Why should I see them?
Well, you aren’t allowed to bring drugs into Bluesfest (nor should you be – don’t do drugs, kids), but if you are down to explore a new plane of euphoria – one far beyond the confines of our mere human existence – they’ll happily take you there with a wondrous spate of silky strumming, kaleidoscopic basslines and angelic vocals.

When are they playing?
Hiatus Kaiyote will take Bluesfest punters on two soaring, soulful journeys through sound when they play on the Sunday (October 3rd) and Monday (October 4th). 


So Paul, what are you looking forward to most at Bluesfest 2021? 
To be honest, man, I’m looking forward to actually playing a show again! That hasn’t really been a thing we’ve been able to do for… Well, f***ing ages. Obviously the festival was pushed back, and our Melbourne shows were pushed back, and our Vivid shows got cancelled, and it’s just like, “Oh wow, we’ve set a new record!” We haven’t been able to play anywhere at all, and that’s felt so f***ing weird. So I’m just excited to play a show, y’know? That’s going to be pretty incredible.

Has it just been the one show you’ve played in 2021 so far? 
Yeah, I think that was the Jungle Love festival up in Queensland. And that was great fun! It was heaps of fun. But that’s the only thing that’s managed to slip through the COVID chaos this year.

Did you guys play much of the new record at Jungle Love? 
We played bits of it, but there’s a lot of it we didn’t play at that show just because the record wasn’t out yet. We wanted to keep some parts of it close to our chests, because it’s kind of tricky these days. You can’t really keep secrets about your music anymore – as soon as you play a new song in front of some people, there’s a very good chance someone’s gonna record it on their phone and throw it up on YouTube, and then that’s the first version of it that anyone hears. And the first time you play a song at a gig, it’s not really… Y’know, that’s not the best way to capture or portray its full potential. So it’s really fun to play new material, but these days we have to hold ourselves back a little bit. But any show from now on, we’re definitely going to be playing everything off the new album – which is exciting! 

What are some of the tracks from Mood Valiant that you’re keen to show off? 
I guess it’ll be interesting to see the reaction to all of them – to see what the energy is like all around, y’know? “Red Room” is obviously doing really well, and then it’ll be interesting to play “Stone Or Lavender” because that one is an epic ballad – it’ll be interesting to see how people react to that. I hope people get their lighters out for it. I think “Sparkle Tape Break Up” is going to be a really fun one to play live, too, just to see the energy of that – that’s a real fun one to play, it’s kind of simple but it’s also got a lot of spirit.

Obviously between these two albums, you guys went through a whole lot of living, both as a band and individually. How did you want this record to reflect what Hiatus Kaiyote is as a band in 2021, and personify those six years of growth? 
I guess there wasn’t necessarily a thought process to that. Y’know, we worked on a bunch of music, which invariably was all fused with our own life experiences and whatnot. There’s a bunch of different stuff that we worked on, and as soon as we had the title – which was about halfway through the process – that kind of steered things in a way. We were asking ourselves: “Which things here compliment each other? What has the right balance of energy and complexity and simplicity and emotion, sadness and joy and all that sort of stuff?” 

I don’t think it was necessarily about, like, “How do we want to represent the band?” It was more like, “What do we want this album to be? What do we want this particular body of work to feel like and say? What’s the best selection of things, and the best sequence of those things, to really tell a story and take you on a journey?”

So it’s more an encapsulation of what you were feeling as individuals, rather than what you wanted to project as a unit? 
I mean, it kind of always is – you’re always presenting an amalgamation of your own feelings and ideas. It definitely felt like this particular album was going to present a lot of different feelings and ideas than the other ones, just because of, y’know, time and life and all that sort of stuff. A lot of crazy things happened in-between the records, so it was natural that that would be the case. But we just wanted it to feel like everything belonged together – we wanted to cast a bit more of a broad net, but we also wanted that net to sink. 

Choose Your Weapon was such an epic f***ing smorgasbord of different stuff – which was awesome, and I guess that’s what that album was meant to be – but we were like, “Well, maybe this one doesn’t have to be as everywhere-all-at-once. It can be a tighter story, with a more unified essence.”

Was the way it would translate to the stage something you found crucial in the studio? 
There’s always a bunch of different ways that we approach a track, because every track is its own thing. Sometimes it really does start as a ‘live band’ sort of experience – sometimes that is the genesis, and we’ll workshop it in that sense before we actually record it – but other times it might come from a more experimental angle, or be produced in a different way. 

A lot of tracks will start off as jams or experiments in the studio, just because there’s a particular set of sounds being played that push us in certain directions. There are times where we just go, “Yeah, we’ve played the shit out of this, let’s just go in and record.” And then there are other times where we actually finish producing and mixing a song and we have to go, “Oh f***, now we have to figure out how to play this!”

Who are you excited to catch at Bluesfest 2022? Take a peek at the lineup below, then start getting your schedules ready!

BYRON BAY BLUESFEST 2022 – LINEUP

  • Midnight Oil
  • Paul Kelly
  • Jimmy Barnes
  • Fat Freddy’s Drop
  • John Butler
  • Xavier Rudd
  • Pete Murray
  • Ian Moss
  • Kate Ceberano
  • Kasey Chambers
  • The Waifs
  • The Church
  • Jon Stevens
  • The Living End
  • Mark Seymour & The Undertow
  • The Angels
  • Russell Morris
  • Kate Miller-heidke
  • Vika & Linda
  • All Our Exes Live In Texas
  • Ross Wilson And The Peaceniks
  • John Williamson
  • Troy Cassar-daley
  • Briggs
  • Tex Perkins The Man In Black
  • Hiatus Kaiyote
  • Josh Teskey & Ash Grunwald
  • Weddings Parties Anything
  • The Black Sorrows
  • Cw Stoneking
  • The Bamboos
  • Chain
  • Backsliders
  • Ash Grunwald
  • Melbourne Ska Orchestra
  • Jeff Lang
  • Nathan Cavaleri
  • Kim Churchill
  • Henry Wagons
  • Jk-47
  • Garrett Kato
  • Mama Kin Spender
  • Dami Im
  • Pierce Brothers
  • Emily Wurramara
  • The Buckleys
  • Fiona Boyes & The Fortune Tellers
  • Ray Beadle
  • Pacey, King & Doley
  • Mick Thomas’ Roving Commission
  • Hussy Hicks
  • Roshani
  • Daniel Champagne
  • Little Georgia
  • Lambros.
  • Round Mountain Girls
  • The Regime
  • Electrik Lemonade
  • Palm Valley
  • Byron Busking Competition
  • Rockwiz Live

Tickets to the 2021 Byron Bay Bluesfest are on sale now – head to bluesfest.com.au for more info!