‘Everyone is their own musician’: Side projects save Hiatus Kaiyote from indefinite hiatus

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‘Everyone is their own musician’: Side projects save Hiatus Kaiyote from indefinite hiatus

Words By Tammy Walters

Ever heard of that cheesy saying, “If you love someone, set them free”? Typically saved for the lore of love, it’s a policy that Melbourne jazz/funk band Hiatus Kaiyote have employed to ensure the freedom of creativity in band members.

Keyboardist, Simon Mavin, backdropped by his impressive home studio, and band bassist Paul Bender, with a Sgt. Pepper’s poster over his shoulder, discuss the flexibility and freedom of Hiatus Kaiyote that keeps them returning to the passion project. 

2023 saw Mavin step into solo territory with the release of his debut album Some Days with singles ‘Good Hair Day’ and ‘Only You & Me’, and continuing his support of powerhouse Emma Donovan as a member of her band The Putbacks. Vocalist Nai Palm has been playing solo shows across North America for the past twelve months and together Mavin and Bender join fellow instrumentalists, working under the collective The Sweet Enoughs, producing mood music for listening and relaxation outside of the core project. Side projects allow them to not go on hiatus from Hiatus.

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“We’ve been doing Hiatus for 10 plus years now. So you get used to how the mothership flies, and when there’s time to do other stuff and when there’s not. It’s still pretty unpredictable if there are certain points where stuff pops up, but I think we get a general sort of leniency to do other projects while we’re doing Hiatus as the main thing,” Mavin explains. 

“That’s the thing about this project, everyone is their own musician in a way, and can work on different kinds of things. We’re very different musicians in the band, which is great because then when we clock off from Hiatus, we’re able to focus on things that we want to get better at or pursue and then often those things come back to Hiatus. 

“Like someone goes on a journey down a certain path musically and inevitably it’ll just sort of end up winding back into the sound of HK which is pretty cool.” 

It’s their ability to leave the band and immerse themselves in separate music projects that extend their already impressive compositions. With accolades of Australian Independent Record awards wins, National Live Music Awards on their shelf and Grammy nominations, Hiatus Kaiyote benefit from developing outside of the band. 

“We all learn stuff from doing our own side quest for sure. When you spend time going into a specific style or headspace, it’s nice to bring that into the projects and then at the same time, it’s also nice that the side project is its own thing with its own set of rules about it. A lot of things that would make something Hiatus don’t have to be on the table, but then when you come into Hiatus, a bunch of things that would make it that side project also don’t have to be on the table, but they can definitely influence each other and I think the more music that you record, the more you learn about creating sounds and creating arrangements. It all informs each other,” says Bender. 

Key areas of development have been sourcing material and conversing with other musicians for Bender, whilst it’s a return back to basics for Mavin in being comfortable composing and putting melody to paper. In a world of productivity overload, it’s not a matter of hustle culture driving their desire to develop but more of their internal challenges.

“I have limited time to be on the planet. So I should get on with stuff and I always think about someone like Frank Zappa who made such complicated music and is also one of the most prolific recording artists ever. So it’s like he was putting into the hardest records to put together so what’s your excuse?” says Bender.

These new skills are being embedded in the next Hiatus Kaiyote album which Bender confirms they are “working through trying to finish”. The lead single ‘Everything’s Beautiful’ just dropped in January. Similarly, they are elevating their live show, having songs from Mood Valiant, Choose Your Weapon and Tawk Tomahawk recreated through The Dreamboat Orchestra, coming to Hamer Hall on Friday 23 February.


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“The Hiatus repertoire is pretty thick. There’s a lot of stuff going on most of the time. So when we perform it live as the four-piece or seven-piece, we inevitably have to strip it down a little bit. So it’s great being able to have an orchestra there that can do a bunch of the things that are on the record that we can’t play live and then also having someone like Miguel [Atwood Ferguson] who’s arranging the songs and being able to put his two cents into the pieces as well in certain ways. 

“It’s really an incredible gig. The first one we did at the Hollywood Bowl was really special and it’s just incredible to hear our music performed with a very large ensemble.”

Hiatus Kaiyote will perform at Hamer Hall w/ The Dreamboat Orchestra, Melbourne on Friday 23 February. Get tickets here