Fo For most of the people on the planet, 2020 was a year trapped inside. During that period, Naomi Saalfield, also known as Nai Palm, lead singer of the Australian band Hiatus Kaiyote, had a particular room on her mind: a childhood room that used to glow red for an hour every evening. It has become the subject of a featured track, Red Room, on their latest third album, Mood Valiant, and it is a song that has taken on new meaning. “It has become an anthem that celebrates that we are all in our rooms in the context of the pandemic,” says Saalfield. “It’s a perfect example of how music makes its way and lives different lives with different people.”
Speaking during a video call from his home in Melbourne, his mane of blonde hair bursting into the darkness of the room, Saalfield stoically recounts how the global pandemic was just the latest development in several years of bad news: namely, a cancer diagnosis. breast cancer, mastectomy and the death of her beloved rescue bird, Charlie.
“It really was a difficult year. I had lost a breast and then I lost my bird, which I went everywhere with for almost a decade, ”he says. “But loss is not something new to me; I am an orphan and have experienced many deaths in my life. It is a blessing to have the arts as a vehicle to process it. Sometimes the only thing that can really heal you is music. “
These losses came as the four-member Saalfield band was crafting new music for Mood Valiant, the follow-up to the acclaimed 2015 Choose Your Weapon. They also came amid a hectic touring schedule, as Hiatus Kaiyote saw a surge in popularity after several of his tracks were sampled by hip-hop royalty, including Kendrick Lamar, Drake, Beyoncé, and Jay-Z. These beat-flips exposed their niche, playing jazz and soulful music beyond box diggers and their fellow musicians. to a more mainstream audience, and it was a huge surprise.
“We’re just nerds making weird music,” says Saalfield with a smile, “so it’s amazing to see people like Drake playing our track at a stadium show in Australia; it shows that you never know where your music will end or what it will mean to other people. “
For Saalfield, whose cancer diagnosis triggered emotions from his past that he had never faced before, music provided an outlet. “My mother died of breast cancer [when I was 11] so it was intense to experience something that I had been through. Since I use music as a vehicle to process emotions, she emerged as a strong theme on the record. “
The album title also references Saalfield’s mother’s fierce presence as a single mother of six. “She used to have two Valiant Safari trucks: one was white and the other was black. Depending on your mood, you would drive one or the other. Usually it was white, but if black was driving, you knew you shouldn’t mess with Mom that day, ”laughs Saalfield. “Brave is also such a beautiful word. He has great righteousness and we want people to feel brave and beautiful, regardless of their mood, when they experience music. “
The result is 12 tracks that, in typical Hiatus Kaiyote style, defy easy categorization, but are united by the warmth of Saalfield’s vocal harmonies. From the string-laden joy of the lead single Get Sun to the stark introspection of the aforementioned Red Room, and the thunderous beat of Chivalry Is Not Dead, with riffed lyrics from leopard slug mating rituals, Mood Valiant is spacious and exuberant. .
The key to the album is the musical contribution of 75-year-old Brazilian arranger Arthur Verocai (a “shameless genius,” according to Saalfield), who tracked the string and horn sections with the group in Rio de Janeiro. Verocai’s luscious strings and powerful horns intertwine on multiple tracks, while Red Room was also written during the same late-night session.
Another room in particular, bassist Paul Bender’s home studio, also proved key to survival when Covid struck. “Did the pandemic take us to end our record?” Saalfield asks jokingly. “Bender likes to quote that art is never finished, it is just abandoned, but all I know is that I would have lost my mind if we didn’t have that studio to go to. I just want to be a study rat; that’s where we thrive the most. “
As the world tentatively reopens, the band will embark on a short tour of Australia. “It will be great to play again and we will have a show in a few days,” says Saalfield. “First though, tomorrow is my birthday and we are all going skydiving. I wanted to celebrate with an experience, as we have been a band for 10 years and we have evolved together. I hope we don’t waste all the adrenaline on the jump, but we have to move with love, without a doubt! ”.
Another big leap for Hiatus Kaiyote.
Mood Valiant is out June 25 via Brainfeeder
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism