Last week we caught up with Luke Dubs from Hermitude to chat about the recent tour, the upcoming album and his potential career as a game designer
Where are you and what are you wearing?
I’m currently in the living room of our recording studio in Glebe in Sydney. I’m wearing Adidas shoes, khaki chinos, a plain grey t-shirt and a watch.
In the blog that you guys wrote of the tour it sounded like you had a lot of contact with the punters, is that normal for when you tour?
It’s hard when you play big festival shows, but when we support touring shows we like to play our set and then go out and chat to people to see what they thought and if they know who we are. We went out most nights, met a bunch of random people and struck up some bizarre conversations. One night we met some Romanian backpacker in Seattle who was a fan.
How does touring in America compare to Australia? Where do you get a better response?
We definitely get a better response here, we aren’t really that well known over there. That was our first national US tour that we’ve done and we were supporting RÜFÜS who has a pretty big following going on, so it was great for us to get in front of their crowd. We would chat to people after the show and they would be like “oh we hadn’t heard of you guys but we really liked it.” I think we won over a few of their fans which was cool.
You started off playing jazz and funk, then were into hip hop and now have a very electronic/dancy sound. How did this change come about, has it been influenced by trends or is it an organic thing?
It’s probably a bit of both, we’ve been into all those genres ever since we started, but we get heavily influenced by what’s currently in music. When we were playing in our acid-jazz funk band in the late 90s it was when Corduroy and Incognito and all this acid-jazz from the UK was getting heaps of traction. Then the whole trip-hop thing started happening in the UK which filtered down to Australia and we got really into that. But we’re also really into hip-hop from when we were back in school and stuff and as the years have gone on a lot of instrumental hip-hop like trip-hop has morphed electronically. Then the states took over in the 2000s with Flying Lotus and that whole LA-beats movement that is still going strong. We take all that on board and it comes out in our music.
Your new track ‘Ukiyo’ has a lot more chilled sound than your earlier work. Can we expect more of this sound from you later down the track?
There’s definitely a bit of that on the next record. We came out with that tune because we had others that were a bit more banging but we thought it was a nice way to come back. We hadn’t put anything out since ‘HyperParadise’ except for a few remixes. All the remixes we’d done were all trappy and festivally and we wanted to come back with something with a bit more attitude because, believe it or not, we used to write really chilled music. We put ‘Ukiyo’ out first to test the waters and see what people thought and it seems to have been really well received. So yeah there’s definitely a bit of that on the next record but also a fair share of party tunes as well.
When you do a remix of a song, what is it about the song that makes you pick it? What do you look for?
Well it helps if you have a bit of admiration for the artist that you’re remixing. We’ve been lucky enough to have that. But also you have to listen to the original song and actually think to yourself “oh yeah I can definitely hear something in there that I can transform or work with or turn into something of our own.” If you hear a track and you really don’t have any ideas off the bat in your own head then it’s going to be a hard slog to get your own remix happening. We usually remix tunes that really spark something in us and have us going ‘oh yeah we could try this’ and then we have a starting point and once we have that we can keep going and turn it into a remix.
At the start of a few of your songs you have these short little sound bites that are kind of strange but are really effective in setting up the feel of the songs, where do you get these from?
That stuff is samples or sounds that we’ve recorded on our own that we put it in there to give it a unique flavour. We go out to stormwater drains in Marickville in Sydney and smack on drums really loudly and record the sound and come back into the studio ad tweak it a bit. That can sometimes be the opening sound for a track that sets the mood and is the kind of sound that no one else has got because we made it ourselves.
You’ve got some songs that have virtually no vocals, and then songs like ‘Speak of the Devil’ that have a lot more. Is the songwriting process different when you’re writing a song with vocals versus without?
I guess the stuff that we do with vocals at the moment we treat like an instrument. With ‘Ukiyo’ we got a vocal sound and just chopped it to pieces and made it a more melodic instrumental line because the words don’t say anything but bring a feeling. A lot of the time we do treat it like an instrument but other times it’s more of a feature vocal. ‘Speak of the Devil’ was more of a vocal category with a chorus as opposed to a melodic line with vocal chop. It had actual words and meaning. On this record that we’re working on at the moment there’s a mix of that stuff. We like to use a voice as an instrument and morph it into some fun sounding thing and then play it on the keyboard. We like getting the vibe of a singer that brings a real story to a song.
If you weren’t musicians, what would you be?
There are so many things. I used to just say either a rally driver or a meteorologist. I reckon an archeologist could be cool. Probably just the digging and Indiana Jones type stuff. Being an architect would be cool. Besides that, making video games would be good. But I probably wouldn’t have a girlfriend or a social life. Although you do see documentaries of married couples who just game and have a game room and just play whatever game they play for like 12 hours a day as a couple. It’s kind of awesome. Those would be my ultimate careers.
You can have the chance to see Hermitude at Beyond The Valley over New Year’s Eve, but you will need to get your tickets asap!