It seems Hermitude has evolved in a remarkably less than stepwise fashion, with each new album astonishingly different from the last. Elgusto casually counters such profundity: “It’s just an evolution of what we were in to. At no point did we ever want to redo what we ever did before.”
And the incarnations have been stark, starting when Luke Dubs and Elgusto got together to play in a number of bands when they were just youngsters. Elgusto recounts, “I was a drummer when I was growing up. We were playing mostly reggae, jazz and funk, and I think that was the beginning of Hermitude’s rhythm.
“I guess we got a lot of influence from Herbie Hancock, Parliament and James Brown of course. Herbie Hancock was kind of it for me in terms of his records. ‘Head Hunters’ with the song ‘Chameleon’ was where it all kicked in for me when I was young. The grooves on that record were incredible.
“Also there was a big influence when I went to Cuba when I was 15 years old, and my father and I studied Afro Cuban percussion. That was really an eye opener in terms of different styles and traditions. When I came back it really switched something in me.”
Eventually the inspiration and zeal culminated in the formation of Hermitude and they started writing music with a couple of synths, a sampler and a set of turntables. Since then, we’ve heard Hermitude play the instrumental hip hop that was all the rage in the early 2000s, then head off with some Latin sounds (which is understandable considering Elgusto’s background), and now onto something best described as future beats and electronica. Elgusto explains it is way outside of the square, but just what they’re into.
“As we progressed through the records we really liked to challenge ourselves. Soon we totally dropped the samples and played the instruments ourselves. When it came to ‘HyperParadise’ we wanted to challenge ourselves again with the general scene of beats in the last couple of years and the different synthesisers we collected on the way. And when we found a space, we set everything up in the one room all patched and ready to go. Then we sat there for a year and wrote ‘HyperParadise’.”
Some hip hop fans are highly likely to be exasperated by Hermitude’s new foray into future beats, but Elgusto explains that it’s simply an evolution of the band.
“I guess we wanted to move into a more electronic world rather than the hip hop world. We really wanted to focus on Hermitude’s core sound which was mostly instrumental. So instead of getting guest rappers or vocalists in we wanted to produce a whole instrumental record that could stand on its own two feet amongst the vocal albums out there.”
“Then we thought, how are we going to get this album to stand on its own two feet and get people walking away whistling a melody and getting really involved in the song? We thought there’s still got to be a hook, a chorus with a hook. So we started mucking around with samplers and synthesisers and just making sure that we had strong melodies to have people walk away and remember the song. And I guess what happened was that it came out more electronic than we thought and a bit more dance floor.
“I think we’re always taking steps and ‘HyperParadise’ was three years since the last album so it seemed like a large step. We’re back in the studio working on our next one and I think it’s going to be further down the road from where ‘HyperParadise’ finished.”
But it seems that regardless — or because — of Hermitude’s new sound, the duo are in high demand, even at unexpected festivals such as Earth Frequency.
“We’ve played at a number of doofs over the last couple of years. They’re always really fun with a bit more of an alternative crowd and they’re usually out in the bush somewhere with a really cool vibe. I think we’ve been booked a lot for doofs because our music is kind of ‘there’ but just a bit different.”
And when pressed for what Earth Freq-ers can expect to see, Elgusto states, “We like to perform our live shows as live as possible in an electronic sense. We never want to look like a couple of guys standing behind laptops nodding our heads. I guess that comes from the live performance background playing in bands. We have a bunch of synths on stage, an MPC sampler with drum pads and turntables, and we recreate the songs with all of those things on stage. We want to bring the live band and hip hop side of things into the electronic world.”
HyperParadise’ is out now. Hermitude play The Zoo on Sunday January 27 and will appear at Earth Frequency Festival at Landcruiser Park from February 15-18.