Interview: Hermitude (AUS) on Pollyanarchy, their Aus tour and funk.

Hailing from the Blue Mountains, Luke Dubber (Luke Dubs) and Angus Stuart (El Gusto) make up the iconic Australian electronic duo Hermitude. The pair soared to the top of the ARIA charts with their last studio album, Dark Night Sweet Light, back in 2015 and have now followed it up with an equally impressive body of work Pollyanarchy.

With the boys hitting the road to tour Australia and New Zealand with their sixth album, we caught up with Angus Stuart to hear about Hermitude in-the-making to Hermitude now.

How are you, Gus? Where are you right now?

I am in Melbourne.

Amazing. Are you checking out the city?

Yeah, we just went for a walk round and had some delicious lunch in Chinatown. It’s fantastic.

Oh, how good is Melbourne’s dumpling scene? They just have phenomenal dumplings.

Phemonenal.

Phenomenal.

I can’t even say it was that good.

You’re mouth’s just too full of dumplings at this point, I think.

Yeah, exactly!

I want to start at the start of Hermitude, which is quite the career span. You and Luke are jazz trained musicians. Is that right?

Well, we came up playing a little jazz. Luke, went to AIMS and studied contemporary keyboards and I just came up playing heaps of jazz, funk, and soul and stuff in bands. But yeah, we just did that a lot when we were growing up.

Was that the sound of Funk Injections? Was it quite funk-based?

I’ve got to take Funk Injection out of the Wikipedia! Yeah, that was our first band. I was probably about 12 or 13 when we started that band. Hence the name.

That’s an interesting name for 12 or 13… Has some interesting connotations.

Yeah. But it was me and my sister and then we invited Luke to come and play with us and just jam and stuff. And we started just playing around up in the Blue Mountains at local like … There’s a Winter Magic Festival that we played at. Then we ended up becoming the house band at the local club in Katoomba called Triselies. It was a really great … I guess the formative years of just being musicians and learning how to perform on stage and play in front of people, how to work a crowd and that kind of thing. Because we played like two or three sets a night and half the time we were like improvising a lot and yeah, it was a really good sort of setup as a musician I think.

A good training ground. So it was quite a legitimate band then. It wasn’t just a little flash in the pan sort of thing. You went for a couple of years.

Oh yeah, yeah. It went from, like I said when I was about 13 to like I was about 25. We just played a lot around town and down in Sydney as well. And but some way midway through that point me and Luke started mucking around with samplers and keyboards and synthesizers and stuff, which ultimately became Hermitude.

Yeah, because from Funk Injections, that caught the attention of Urthboy and The Herd, so to speak. And is that where Elefant Traks came in for you guys and then you were like, “Hey, we have this side project actually Hermitude, that you guys might be interested in.” How did that all happen?

Yeah. So Urthboy came to [Luke] Dubs’ 21st birthday party and we were like, we had jammed that night at his party and Urthy saw us jamming as kind of like Funk Injection. And he was like, “Oh man, that was dope. Do you want to like hook up and I’ve got another rapper friend of mine and we can have jams and rap over your staff?” So we started doing that, but I showed Urthy, also a mix of beats that I’ve been making with Luke. He was like, “Whoa, this is cool.” And he took these, like, “Can, I borrow that tape?” And he took it and he took it to Elefant Traks and then he came back like a week later, and he’s like, “Hey Elefant Traks really want to put out some of these songs. What do you guys think?” And we were like, “Oh.” Because up until then it had just been like a side project. It just kind of happens like that. And it was kind of really awesome actually. Because then we were like, “Okay, let’s finish these songs.” And we had to go in and finish them and yeah, it was a really great little experience.

Well then the rest is history, really.

Yeah! I mean, it’s been going ever since. They’ve put out every record we’ve done. So good. They feel like family.

Of course they would. I mean you’ve just released your sixth studio album with them. Congratulations, Pollyanarchy. Incredible work.

Thank you so much.

I’m curious, why have you guys decided to stick with albums? I was trying to Bag Raiders recently. They had put out a bunch of EPs. Look at Sneaky Sound System. They have a lot of singles. Yeah. Where do you see the pros in album formats?

I guess for us albums … for us it’s kind of about forming a body of work and having that tell the overall story. You know? And it’s a challenging thing to do because it’s a lot of music and it’s a lot of work that gets put into it. But overall it feels like writing a novel or something, you know? I don’t know, we’ve just kind of always been into doing records because it seems like you encapsulate a time, that period of your life into that record. And for us that’s a cool thing and what we like to do, I guess.

With Pollyanarchy it was really about capturing the last couple of years of mine and Luke’s life and packaging it up and then giving it to the public and saying, “Hey, this is what we’ve been up to and this is where we’re at.” You know? And I guess you can go back throughout our career and listen to those little sections of our life. But at the same time, I respect the way of putting out EPs or just bringing out singles and stuff. But I feel like at some point it’s good for an artist or a group to put out a body of work that is like solely their record. You know? Their album.

Don’t get me wrong, I love albums. Yeah, exactly what you’re saying, it’s like a storyline. It’s almost like a photo album but in songs. And it definitely is almost a punctuation in careers. It’s like you have, this is your album for these years.

It’s interesting because obviously you’ve got Haiku Hands featuring, and those girls have been a large part of the Hermitude minutiae. And things that you’ve also got BJ the Chicago Kid, Electric Fields… just some incredible collaborations on there. I’m curious, do you approach these artists with the top line already sorted out or do you come to them with the track, being like, “Do your thing!” How does it work?

So we did a bit of both with this record. Funnily enough, we did a lot of writing. We went to LA a bunch of times during the course of writing Pollyanarchy and we did some sessions with top liners who just basically write lyrics and melodies to the beats that we’d bring and we work with them and say, “This is the direction we want to take.” And they would write some lyrics and melodies and then you would pitch it to an artist. And then other times we would go and just work with the artists direct. And funnily enough, all the songs that made the record were the artist direct, which is, I don’t know if that’s just how it works. But for us that’s how it worked. And I think it was just, I don’t know, it just felt more real working directly with the artist.

It’s just like hanging out. You’re just hanging out together and we communicate what we’re feeling and what the music feels like to us. And then they write and we would just hang out in the room with them and they would just … A spark would happen and we’d go on a flow. So to me, I prefer that way and it’s obvious because those are the songs that made the record, but I know there’s a lot of different groups and artists out there and massive songs that have been written by top liners and then pitched to an artist and the artist will come in and add their flavour to it and then off they go. For us it was all direct with the artist.

That’s obviously the method that works best for you guys, awesome. As you said before, you’ve just kicked off your Australian-New Zealand tour and you’ve got Haiku Hands along for the ride as well, and Ninajirachi. How does it feel to kick off that leg of the tour?

It feels fantastic. It’s just really great to get back out on the road again, because we’ve been kind of just locked up in the studio being hermits making Pollyanarchy for the last couple of years. So it’s really fun to just get back out and play in front of audiences, especially here in Aus where it feels like our home ground, our stomping ground and getting to play these new songs for everyone is so dope.

I guess we’ve been playing the old songs for quite a while now and like, “Yeah, we’ve got all these fresh tunes we want to play for everyone and perform them live.” And then taking Haiku Hands, they’re our family. It feels great. It’s just like a big gang on the road. We’re just rolling. And Ninajirachi is just awesome. She’s so lovely and her music’s fucking amazing. This feels like a really cool gang. Basically. We’re just roaming around Australia and New Zealand. We actually came down to Melbourne about a day early, but once we get into the venue, it’s just all of us hanging out together and mucking around and then we all just one by one that each of us goes out on stage and rock rocks the show. It’s really good. It’s a good vibe.

What a fun way to end the year. What a fun way to end the decade, huh? How good.

That’s right. We were signing off on the decade and we’re moving into 2020.

Yeah, that’s it. Let’s talk about that exact night. NYE in the Park is what you’re playing for the ringing in of the Roaring Twenties. Who are you most excited for on that lineup? We’ve got Crooked Colours, Safia, Client Liaison, Bag Raiders, Sneaky Sound System, Touch Sensitive, Young Franco. A lot.

Awesome. Young Franco. He’s a legend and I love his stuff. Crooked Colours, legends as well. We had a great time with them recently. Yeah. It’s going to be Touch Sensitive always brings a good vibe. It’s going to be a super fun night. Also it’s hometown, Sydney, we get the rock out New Year’s Eve in Sydney with all our friends and fam and it’s going to be a hell of a night.

You’ve also got Party In The Paddock as well next year and that is an insane lineup.

Yeah, look, and it’s cool too because that literally started as a party in a paddock and now it’s become a legit festival and we played it a few years ago and it was so much fun. It’s Tasmania wild basically.

I can’t wait just to feel like one with nature. Gus, thank you so much for your time and best of luck with the run of the shows. It should be a really fun one.

Thank you so much for having me. It’s a pleasure.

Pollyanarchy is out now! See Hermitude on their Australian/NZ tour and NYE In The Park. More information here. 

13 November | Powerstation | Auckland, NZ

16 November | Shed 6 | Wellington, NZ

22 November | Enmore Theatre | Sydney, NSW

23 November | Fortitude Music Hall | Brisbane, QLD

30 November | Kambri at ANU | Canberra, ACT

6 December | Uni Bar | Wollongong, NSW

31 December | NYE In The Park | Sydney, NSW

1st – 4th of March 2020 | Snow Machine | Hakuba Valley, Japan

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