Grammy-nominated Melbourne group Hiatus Kaiyote return with their new album Mood Valiant. Featuring Naomi “Nai Palm” Saalfield (guitar, vocals), Paul Bender (bass), Simon Mavin (keys), and Perrin Moss (drums), the new album is the followup to their 2015 release Choose Your Weapon, and comes after being sampled on songs by The Carters (Beyonce & Jay-Z), Kendrick Lamar, Anderson .Paak, Chance The Rapper and Drake, with whom Nai Palm collaborated on his Scorpion album.
The new album has been in the making for six years, but that interval reflects more hustle than hiatus. The result is an album that relaxes into a groove: sunlit, sublime, masterful. Behind everything is Hiatus’ familiar sense of musical adventure, their knack for making the complex sound simple.
The six-year journey of the album originally began on the road, as they began to add new material to their live sets in while touring in support of Choose Your Weapon. By the fall of 2018, backing tracks had largely been laid, ready for Nai’s vocals. Then, during a brief swing through the U.S., Hiatus’s frontwoman was diagnosed with breast cancer. “That was a massive scare,” recalls Nai. Her mother’s death from the same disease was never far from her mind. Nai rushed back to Australia and into the hospital, where she underwent a life-saving mastectomy.
As Nai recovered, the band turned back to their work with altered perspectives. Her lyrics, even those written before her illness, took on a prescient quality. It wasn’t until a trip to Rio de Janeiro in late-2019 to work with legendary Brazilian arranger Arthur Verocai on Get Sun that the vibe of the entire album shifted.
This is apparent in the album’s first single Get Sun, featuring Verocai. The track came together during a session in Australia’s Byron Bay. “It was really exciting and fun to play at the time,” recalls Perrin Moss. The song took a transcontinental trip to finish. Perrin had introduced the band to the work of Brazilian arranger Verocai, whose self-titled 1970s album, Perrin says, “changed my world.” Verocai agreed to add strings and horns and asked if the band would be attending the session in Rio de Janeiro. Nai Palm says: “We were like, ‘That would be amazing, but we could never afford it.’” The band eventually engineered a mini-tour to pay for the flights, and both the schlep and the expense ended up yielding a spiritual, tearful experience for the band— the kindness of Verocai and the alchemy of Brazil left them inspired to create two more tracks for the LP in an all-night session.
“When you think your life is going to be taken away from you, it makes you think about who you are,” Nai says. “I guess after the breast cancer scare I decided that I needed to prove to life that the offering I have is genuine. My only wish is to live and offer my experience of time and beauty.”