Hermitude at Lightning in a bottle Music Festival
The West Coast’s premiere boutique festival, Lightning in a Bottle, drew its proverbial curtains to a close last May after a four day marathon of hedonism, breathtaking artistry and a star studded line-up of unbeatable performances. While the sun vanished behind an endless range of rolling California hills to kick off LiB’s final night, thousands of festival goers momentarily disengaged from their chosen source of hyper-stimulation to appreciate a view that was nothing short of awe-inspiring. The sprawling landscape soaked up the last rays of golden light as the futuristic sounds of LiB’s world class acts echoed through the valley.
Beneath a crystal clear night sky, Australian electronic duo Hermitude took to the Thunder Stage to deliver one of the most anticipated sets of the weekend. The band consists of El Gusto and Luke Dubs who rose to prominence in Europe and North America thanks to abundant critical acclaim for the Flume remix of their song HyperParadise. In contrast with the grimey trap and nearly subsonic deep house that had come to characterize the weekend, this crowd bounced to the beat of Gus’ steel pan grooves tapped out live on a drum machine and a symphony of Soul inspired synth courtesy of Luke Dubs.
The biggest single released by the band this year is called Through the Roof, and that’s the only way to describe the explosive level of energy seeping from the tent as they debuted a hard-hitting series of new tracks from their album Dark Night Sweet Light. We sat down with Gus after the show to discuss the group’s exponentially growing fan base, the development of their unique sound, and what the future holds after a landmark year in the group’s decade-and-a-half long career making music together.
You guys just played a killer set!
I noticed you guys using a variety instruments on stage. The drum pad, scratching and even the MPC for a second. What is your main inspiration behind your choice of performance?
I guess because we came up playing in bands, when we wrote the records first and we had to figure out how to perform them live we were like ‘OK well we just gotta play it live then’ so Luke would play the piano and the keys; synths and stuff. I would do the scratching and get on the MPC and tap out the samples and that’s just how we thought it was, so that’s what we did. We never felt comfortable behind a laptop.
It definitely makes for an exciting set. I could see a lot of people jumping around to it-- they definitely feed off the energy. As a spectator, when you get the chance to go visit other artist’s performances which ones do you like to see?
I love to watch a really amazing band play live. A great band where they all build off each other and perform well together. I love watching an amazing vocalist. Someone who’s just an incredible artist performing to the crowd. I also really enjoy a talented DJ who knows how to work the audience and take them on a journey throughout their set. Good music is good music and however it’s performed, as long as it connects with the audience and takes people somewhere it’s a really good thing.
What’s the source of inspiration behind Hyperparadise?
We wrote HyperParadise in 2012, and we wanted to branch out and make something as tropical, fun and melodic as possible and that song just came out. It was this energy that we really wanted to put across to the people.
It seems like you really embrace that energy, especially when you played Flume’s remix. There’s a third version out there as well, right?
Yeah, we also played Ganz’ flip.
All three are just unique and incredible renditions of the song. Each has it’s own personality.
Yeah, and that’s why it’s so fun when we play it live. We get to do a medley-- we start with the original, move it to Flume’s remix and then finish with the Ganz flip. It’s a timeline of the song’s life... it’s just great! Each one keeps getting bigger and bigger. Those dudes, both of them, just killed the remixes!
It all mixes together so well... You & Flume really seem to play off of one another. Do you have upcoming plans to collaborate with him in any capacity?
Man, to be honest, I’m not really sure because after that remix shit just blew up and he’s playing festivals… we’re playing festivals… and the only time we ever see each other is when we’re on the road somewhere. We’re just kinda moving around but hopefully we get to run into him soon and we have the chance to do something.
It seems like there’s a lot of pressure for artists to classify their sound within one of the various sub-genres of dance music. You guys are all over the place with your tracks. Do you just play what you feel? Your sound has such a wide range.
Yeah man, totally. To be honest, I don’t know where that comes from with us.
Is it that you never felt any limitations on where you could go with it?
Yeah I guess that’s it. We do stay within some sort of boundaries. We don’t make a lot of house or “4 on the floor” kind of stuff but I guess it’s kind of like Hip Hop, Electronic Funk, Reggae and Soul, you know? It’s all very much part of the basis of where we come from, but inspired by dudes like Flying Lotus or Hudson Mohawke. That whole new beat scene really connected with us so we just do whatever feels right. But yeah, as for genres I have no idea.
A lot of people seem to classify your general genre as “Future Beats” and I wonder, do you agree with that title? It’s so broad...
Yeah, I probably like that title better than EDM but you could call it Jazz Rave, you could call it whatever. I really don’t know. We have a hip-hop background but we also have a heavy electronic influence. We used to listen to The Prodigy and shit like that when we were growing up. We had a lot of influence from the UK which was the more electronic side and we had a lot of hip-hop influence from the US and we were just down in Australia mixing it all up.
So many great artists have come out of Australia recently. Can you recommend some Aussie talents that haven’t quite blown up in America yet?
Yeah man! There’s a dude called Basenji who’s dope. Obviously Wave Racer. UV Boi. There are tons, it’s really cool!
You guys have been working together for about 15 years now, right?
Well as Hermitude we've been together about 12 years and before that, when we were growing up as teenagers we were playing in the same bands.
How has your sound developed through that time?
It’s changed a lot. I mean, when we started out, our first ever release was an EP in 2002 and it was much more sample based back then-- We were very much hip-hop influenced.
That’s what I figured based on all the Serrato turntable scratching in your set!
Right, I guess in 2002 if you think about it there was a lot of sampling going on… hip-hop based kind of stuff. With each album we try to push ourselves to do something a little bit different and I guess really what brought us into the general populous eye was HyperParadise when we wanted to do more of an electronic beats kind of thing. There’s a whole lot of that going on in the record.
You guys are in a great place with your careers right now. What’s next-- touring, new albums, etc? You just had a big album release...
Yeah, our record just came out in Australia and it drops in North America and the rest of the world in August. It went to Number 1 in Australia!
Cheers, man! So yeah, it seems to be popping off and I’m really excited for it to get out here. It’s called Dark Night Sweet Light and it comes out the 28th of August. We've got a whole lot of shit coming out soon and then we’re going to come back here and do an album tour toward the end of the year which should be really fun.
By Curtis Castro