Nai Palm by no means had an average upbringing. Though everything she’s been through has helped shape her into the unique, humble and passionate musician that she is now. Even through the phone, as she told me of her parrot Charlie Parker, I could sense the honesty in every word she said. Growing up as an orphan, who for a long time didn’t have a place to truly call home, enabled Nai to channel that pain into something much more beautiful: music. “I feel like having something dramatic to you at a young age and when most compassion comes from suffering, I feel like as a musician what you’re doing is you’re creating therapy for people and it’s a really beautiful thing,” Nai says.
Listening to a song by Hiatus Kaiyote the positive effect is felt immediately, and for many fans, their music becomes a sort of escape for whatever they are experiencing in their lives. On Nai’s birthday she was contacted by a Saudi Arabian woman explaining that their music is her sanctuary in a place of trauma, war and tragedy.
“When I was an orphan and moved to Melbourne I listened to a lot of Oumou Sangaré,” she says. “I didn’t know what she was singing about but she was my concept of home and kind of a mum to me. That was where I would go and it would be my solace. So to have that profound effect on me and be able to continue that on with other people; it’s really powerful and beautiful and it’s the reason why I wanted to extend upon just playing in my bedroom.”
Luckily enough, Nai was able to share her ethos for music and form Hiatus Kaiyote via a chance meeting at a gig in which Nai Palm was playing a pink nylon stringed guitar. “I actually loved my guitar and it was stuck at a friend’s house so I borrowed another friend’s little sisters practice guitar,” Nai says.
“It was one of my first gigs so I didn’t really know the difference, I was just like yeah this will work, but I actually have really tiny hands so it worked out pretty good.”
Through similar passions and an obvious connection, the band, comprising of Nai Palm, Perrin Moss, Paul Bender and Simon Mavin, have gone on to win numerous awards and release an album all while keeping their feet firmly planted on the ground.
“We’re very sincere in our expression and we don’t write to please anybody – we write to pay tribute to what the song should be or intuitively how we think it should be perceived. That then attracts good people and it attracts people where it really means something to them, as apposed to a lot of music nowadays that’s temporary,” she says.
There’s no denying the honest intentions in everything the band sets to work on, but their style, which they describe tongue-in-cheek as “multi-dimensional, polyrhythmic gangster shit”, is much harder to pin down. While Nai has grown up in a variety of different places and with an even bigger array of infuences throughout her life, living in Melbourne has easily been one of the biggest influences.
“We’re really lucky that in Melbourne multiculturalism through the arts is really embraced and I think that’s really beautiful,” she says.
When&Where: AWME @ The Hi-Fi, Melbourne – November 15
By Amanda Sherring / Photo by Luke Kellett