Hiatus Kaiyote have been described as "future soul," but all sorts of nonsensical names could be concocted to describe their genre-mashing style: alt-funk, indie jazz, Afro trip-hop–take your pick.
The Melbourne, Australia-based band's first album, 2013's Tawk Tomahawk, earned a Best R&B Performance Grammy nomination for the song "Nakamarra" and praise from elite artists such as Questlove, Erykah Badu and Pharrell Williams. Choose Your Weapon, the follow-up released May 1 on Sony imprint Flying Buddah Records, is somehow both twice as long and twice as interesting. We spoke with drummer and producer Perrin Moss about the new album and the band's current American tour, which includes a May 21 stop at the Observatory's Constellation Room. (Note: Some answers have been condensed for clarity. All answers should be read in a pleasant Australian accent.)
OC Weekly: What has your experience been like since Tawk Tomahawk's success?
Perrin Moss: It was my dream to be a touring musician ever since I left high school, to make a living off music. And a living for me isn't necessarily making money, but making just enough to be able to keep playing and writing more music. It's funny because, once it started actually happening, you start recognizing it's a lot of hard work, and you have to be strong, and it takes a lot of time away from everything else.
What was the recording experience like for Choose Your Weapon?
It was a fun process, but also really hard because of all the touring in between making the record. Like, you go away for a month, and then have to pick up from where you left off, and you can't always get back into the same headspace, and you're no longer feeling where the song you were working on came from. Because of that, I've got, like, eight versions of every song on this record.
Where do the complex rhythmic styles and tempo changes in your songs come from?
Some of the rhythmic changes were directly inspired by cultures that live and breathe their instruments. My parents listened to a lot of West African music when I was growing up, as well as a lot of Cuban and Indian music, and that's where my influences are. It's not from the fusion era or anything; I don't think I've ever listened to fusion in my life. I definitely don't want to be defined as a proggy band that does all this crazy shit just for the sake of it. I feel like everything has a place.
How will the live show change with the new album release?
The exciting part for us is that now that these songs are documented, we can start flipping around the ones we have been playing for a long time. We're in the process of starting a new set, on the way to creating new songs that will come with it that will probably be on the next album.
Where do you think Hiatus Kaiyote are headed next?
Everything about our music will always change, and the next album might be completely different than this one. We'll probably get more analog and try to capture the things we're doing now with less time spent on a computer–more limitations, basically, because we need more of that. There's so many ways to make shit easier on yourself, and I think it's really good to make things hard for yourself because that always brings out the best in you.
Hiatus Kaiyote perform with Low Leaf and Anthony Valdez (KCRW DJ Set) at the Constellation Room, 3503 S. Harbor Blvd., Santa Ana, (714) 957-0600; constellationroom.com. Thurs., May 21, 8 p.m. $15. All ages.