Hermitude: Monocles and booty-shakin’

Hermitude, the beguiling Blue-Mountains duo, have been busy on the road, and crafting more gems for their upcoming shows. Never been the type to sit back and relax, the boys have had a frenetic 2007 to date, which has taken in a second Japanese tour as well as a slot on the Easter Great Escape Festival in Sydney. Tristan Masters caught up with them in the lead-up to their appearance with Katalyst at the latest instalment of Dust Tones in Sydney, to talk about monocles, booty-shakin’ and their burgeoning ability to rock great shows both here and abroad.

You’re an outfit renowned for collaborating with other artists – Elgusto with Paul Mac and the Dissociatives, the Herd, the Bird, Upshot, Wes Carr, and Explanetary; Luke Dubs also with Explanetary, as well as Vassy, Funk Injection and Guache. How much distinction is there between hermitude and these other projects? Do you find that they influence or shape the hermitude sound?

I’m sure they influence us somewhat, but at the end of the day, it’s the hermit union which decides the direction of hermitude’s sound. The secret society of age old hermits who are suprisingly savvy when it comes to the hip hop production techniques.

Likewise quite a few guests appear on Tales of the Drift – Urthboy, Blu MC etc. Do you think this helps keep things interesting stylistically, or is there more a culture of making music with friends / like-minded artists?

It’s more of a case of if we dig your style; we’ll ask you to collaborate on our record. It does keep things interesting obviously; we like to work with singers and rappers to break it up a little.

To what extent do you think that other artists broadly like yourselves (Combat Wombat, Music VS. Physics etc.) are gaining recognition? Would you consider this style a stand alone subset of the hip-hop genre, as opposed to, say, the obese records style?

Hip-hop has become a pretty broad term nowadays. from the days when hip-hop was run DMC or erik b and rakim, through the 90’s when ninja tune and other “trip hop” artists broke through to now when you’ve got guys like edit doing glitchy aphex twin kinda influenced hip hop. i think hip-hop has room for all these different styles whether your a little left field like pasobionic or unkle ho or straight down the line like the [Hilltop] hoods.

TM: There has seemed to be quite a lot of jet-setting from the hermitude camp of late – how did your sets go down in Europe and Japan?

Smokin! Last year we played the lost weekend festival in Norway which was not only amazing music but in the most amazing location surrounded by fjords and the likes. People were coming up to us after the show saying we were the best thing they saw all weekend! We just got back last week from our 2nd tour to japan and this also was a success. We were lucky enough to support DJ Kentaro on his album launch in Nagoya. We had a killer show and were well received. he also completely ripped it and it was an honour to share the stage with him in his home country.

Was Japan hand-picked as a destination for you to play shows? How did that first Japan tour come about?

We had always wanted to play in japan, especially after playing with

[DJ] Krush in Sydney, and funnily enough one night, we met an Aussie promoter who is based in Japan at a show in Bondi. He liked our style and invited us over to play. He has also taken over Music VS Physics and Unkle Ho. From that first tour we made enough connections to go back again, and we will continue to do so cause Japan is sick!

Much of your sound seems influenced by DJ Krush – who is rumoured to have a soft spot for you as well. To what extent do acts like Krush, Bonobo or RJD2 shape the style you play in?

They’ve been a massive influence of course, there kinda pioneers of the genre really so no doubt a little is gunna rub off here and there. But as we progress I think our sound becomes more our own. It takes quite a while to refine your sound, I think.

What’s it like playing to a crowd in Malaysia (i.e. at the temptingly named ‘Discover Hennessey Party’). Is there much of a scene for your genre of music there? Or for Ozi Batla, for that matter?

Absolutely. Hip-hop is worldwide these days. We did that show and came home with a bunch of CD’s from local underground crews that came to check us out that play locally round KL [Kuala Lumpur]. It’s steadily growing up there and I’m sure when we go back there it’ll be even bigger.

Were the organisers good enough to spring for some Hennessey on your Rider?

Man, I’ve never been more hung-over after a gig than after that henny show. They definitely hooked us up…

Is it considerably different coming back to Australia to play a string of shows? What was it like to play the Great Escape bill, for example?

It is different. The great escape was amazing for us. There’s nothing like touring internationally and rocking shows to people you can’t even talk to and who you talk to through your music, but when you come home and play a mad festival to your home crowd, well, its a beautiful thang.

Given the choice, would you rather play a slot on a festival line-up, or play a smaller show?

Either is cool. Both have there different vibes and rock out in different ways. I guess with individual shows, we can showcase what we do a little better because were not so limited time wise, but were not that fussy.

How is the crowd response different between bigger shows and smaller, more intimate gigs?

It depends, if you play on day 3 of a festival, everyone is so mago they don’t care what you play, they just need to feel some bass so they can shake some rump. with smaller gigs, people are usually staring through monocles sipping on vodka martini’s so you gotta have ya wits about ya.

What’s coming up on the Hermitude calendar? Have you had a chance to work on some new material throughout your busy touring period?

We certainly have. some of which we’ll be playing at the show this sat nite. Best everyone be comin’ down to see what direction the hermit union is taking next…

Cheers guys! – ‘Till next time.

Hermitude play Dust Tones at the Manning Bar, Sydney Uni this Saturday (21 April) alongside Katalyst, Rephrase, Percussion Junction, Mark Walton, Noodles, Noel Boogie and Bentley.