A long talk with Hermitude, the hardest working duo in Australia
Live Surfing, Skateboarding and Music on the hot sands of Manly Beach, Sydney.
Since they released their stunning 2015 album Dark Night Sweet Light, Hermitude have barely paused for breath. They’ve toured relentlessly over the past two years, hitting seemingly every festival stage across Australia and the world. In the past summer alone, they’ve played Party In The Paddock, Beyond The Valley, Field Day, Southbound and Spilt Milk festivals – all over the course of two months.
But now, the duo – comprised of Luke Dubs and El Gusto – are winding down. They’ve only got two shows left on their calendar before they disappear to record the highly-anticipated follow-up to Dark Night…, and they’re excited. They’re excited to go out with a bang, and they’re excited to finally be able to get into the studio.
Before they disappeared from our view, we grabbed some time with Angus Stuart (that’s El Gusto), to have a chat about the insanity of the last two years, and just what’s in store for the new record.
You guys haven’t really stopped at all since the release of Dark Night Sweet Light. Which shows really stand out from the last 18 months?
I guess some of the shows that stood out to me was our home town show in Sydney at the Hordern Pavilion, which was one of the biggest headline shows we’ve ever done, which was just amazing. It was just such a crazy energy in the room and it was kind of like we had our own little festival going on there so that was definitely a massive stand out.
Overseas we played at a festival in the states – Bonnaroo Festival, which was really, really fun and was actually the first festival that we played on our second run to the states. We just landed and flew down to Nashville and we played this show and it was just wild. The crowd was so hyped, so cool and it really set the tone for the rest of the tour.
How do you keep it fresh when you’ve been touring an album for an extended period of time?
We can alter the set as we got along, we change up not only order but we do different edits of songs as we’re travelling to try to better things as we go along. Like “Oh, this part of the song hasn’t really been working that well, let’s try and tweak that a little bit”. We get on our laptops in the tour bus and do edits and try to figure out new versions we can do. I guess that’s one of the ways we combat it – having not put anything new out for quite a while.
Is there a particular track that has evolved the most?
I think probably ‘Searchlight’ off Dark Night, Sweet Light. There’s two versions on Searchlight on Dark Night, Sweet Light. There’s ‘Searchlight’ and then ‘Searchlight Reprise’ right at the end of the album.
We kind of combined the two and the new added in these kind of big sort of lush piano moments. I’d say that was probably one that really evolved and became a really awesome moment in the set.
Going back to alteration between sets. You’ve played basically every venue from huge, massive festival stages to club sets – how much alteration depends on the size of the venue and the crowd that you’re playing to?
Generally it depends a lot on how long we have to play. Quite often at festivals you’ll have a 50 minute set or a 45 minute set even, in which case you have to take out a bunch of songs. Festivals are a little more hyped and up-tempo. You can get everyone going constantly, whereas club shows you have the ability to take people on more of a journey – like take it up and then bring it down and have a nice mellow part then bring it back up again. In those club sets we generally play a longer set. We’ll play for 75 minutes or an hour and 20 minutes sometimes. We’ll be able to include some of our more down tempo stuff, which is really fun. I find that really cool.
“With instrumentals you create a mood and an atmosphere and people can take whatever they want from that, but with vocals you really direct the song.”
You’re just about to hibernate and write your next album. Do you have a clear idea of the direction of the album at the moment?
It’s going to be a bit more psychedelic than our last records. That’s probably all I can say in terms of the sound. It’s still early days. We’re experimenting a lot with playing instruments and re-sampling it and then chopping it up. I’m quite excited about the next stage of the writing process.
You two have been working together for a long time. How has your working relationship developed over that time?
In the early records we would just hook up every couple of days a week and write some tunes together. The HyperParadise record was when we dropped everything else and started doing that five days a week. We were just going to the studio everyday and just writing – really putting our full focus to it. I think that’s one of the things that hasn’t changed a lot.
That’s kind of how we work now. I guess the Hermitude sound is what happens when me and Luke get in the studio together. That’s the thing that hasn’t really changed over the years.
Do you have particular roles when you get in to the studio?
There are definitely roles that we’ve fallen into. Luke is a piano player and I’m a drummer. Rhythmically I might do a bit more and Luke might come up with more of the chord progressions. We do try and flip it up so that we’re not doing the same thing all the time. Sometimes we’ll come in and I’ll sit down at the piano and I’ll start playing chords and then Luke will be like: “Oh that’s cool, what if you change that chord up or invert it.”
We try to not repeat ourselves in the way that we write songs because – especially if you’re doing five days a week – you can get into a rut. It’s a challenge that we usually give ourselves – to try and do something different.
Given the success of ‘The Buzz’ on Dark Night Sweet Light, are you going to re-visit bringing in collaborators and vocalists for the new album?
Yeah, definitely. It was really, really fun working with Young Tapz and Mataya and also Urthboy – who helps with the lyrics. We sat down with Tim (Levinson – Urthboy), we wrote lyrics and we sourced the vocalist that we thought would sound cool. That was really fun because generally we’re more an instrumental outfit, but I quite enjoy working with vocalists.
We always put our slant on it, whether it’s chopping it up and putting it in the sampler and then re-playing it – it just adds another element. Vocals bring so much of a focus into the song. With instrumentals you create a mood and an atmosphere and people can take whatever they want from that, but with vocals you really direct the song. We’re going to definitely try and work with lots of vocalists on this next record.
So these shows coming up are the last you’re going to playing for a while?
We’ve got show this week and then in about six weeks we’re playing up somewhere outside of Byron at what I think is basically a bush doof [laughs]. This weekend we’re playing at the Australian Surf Open.
It’s getting to a point now where we’re really keen to get into the studio and just write new music and I guess that’s a really good thing. We’re chomping at the bit to get in there. That’s how we’re feeling at the moment.
Hermitude play the MTV Stage at the Australian Open of Surfing in Manly this weekend – head here for more details.