3 facts about Hiatus Kaiyote’s album “Mood Valiant”
It feels like I’m inside a flower
It feels like I’m inside my eyelids
And I don’t wanna be
Anywhere but here
– Hiatus Kaiyote, Red Room.
On June 25, Hiatus Kaiyote is releasing their first album in six years. Although this break may have been longer than fans wanted, it was anything but a hiatus for the group: from a sojourn in Brazil to a cancer diagnosis, the band has undergone emotional and creative growth that will surely serve as the artistic basis for their forthcoming Mood Valiant.
They have garnered enormous respect and admiration in the music industry through jazzy tracks that sparkle with expressive, funky instrumentals and poetic lyrics. Perhaps nothing speaks to the quality of their neo-soul sound more than the caliber of those who have built off of it: Kendrick Lamar, Anderson Paak, the Carters, Chance the Rapper, and Drake have all sampled Hiatus Kaiyote’s work. They even count both Drake and Anderson Paak as close friends and constant collaborators.
For their latest album, Hiatus Kaiyote has continued this knack for collaboration by traveling to Rio de Janeiro to work with musical legend Arthur Verocai. According to a post on the band’s Facebook, this partnership is “an ultimate bucket list dream collab” that celebrates musical greats while also contributing to the lineage of the sample culture they have become a part of.
1. “Mood Valiant”: The Feels of a Maternal Presence
It has been a hard couple of years for Hiatus Kaiyote. The pandemic (and subsequent loss of financial stability) aside, the lead singer Nai Palm was diagnosed with breast cancer— the same illness she lost her mother to as a child. She had a mastectomy and has since successfully recovered, but the experience left a huge impact on both her life and the band’s creative vision as a whole.
“This record was emotionally deep to create as we recorded everything except the vocals before my battle with breast cancer.” Nai Palm writes. “It is a reminder to express and live with valor and integrity while you’re still here, and it means the world to me to be able to complete it and share it with you against all odds.”
In essence, Hiatus Kaiyote hopes this new record makes listeners feel valiant. They hope it serves as a reminder to embrace life— like Nai Palm’s mom did with her spunky cars that the album is named after.
“When I was little, my mother used to cart 6 wild ass kids around in two cars. Both were vintage Valiant Safari station wagons. The 1967 model. One was black, one was white. She usually drove the white one, but on the days you knew not f*ck with her, she drove the badass black one… She was extremely fly.”Nai Palm via Facebook
Although Mood Valiant isn’t set to be released until the end of this month, so far two songs have already dropped: “Get Sun” and “Red Room.”
“Get Sun” is vibrant in a way that speaks perfectly to the “valiant” mood that the band wants to express, whereas “Red Room” is infused with a tenderness and nostalgia that may stem partly from Nai Palm’s memories of her childhood and time with her mother.
2. “Get Sun”: Nature nurtured Hiatus Kaiyote’s music
A way to get sun when your heart’s not open
Nai Palm’s experience with an indigenous community in the Brazilian Amazon led the band to include a sample from a documentary called Corumbiara in “Get Sun.” And though the subject of the documentary is sobering, “Get Sun” itself has a joyful sound.
“The time has come for us li’l Kaiyotes to emerge from our hutch to bring you some sunshine.” The band wrote in a post. “‘Get Sun,’ the first single of our new album Mood Valiant, is a song we filled with all our love, and also the incredible arranging of Arthur Verocai.”
“Get Sun” is sunrise, with soaring notes like rays of light illuminating an early morning sky. “Red Room” is sunset: sultry and cozy and rich.
3. “Red Room”: Treasuring Childhood Memories
“Red Room” was inspired by Nai Palm’s room in her old house that turned red for an hour every sunset. She misses that house and the warm glow she was held in at day’s end.
The song was actually created impromptu from a studio jam at 3 a.m. after a full day of collaborating with Verocai. The lyrics were written on the fly, a couple passes were laid down, vocals were left sleepy and raspy, and that was that.
In a diary-like Facebook post, Nai Palm writes about the origin of the song with the characteristic level of vulnerability that makes it seem like she’s having an intimate conversation with the tens of thousands of people who follow the band page:
“The vocal booth had a red light in it, and reminded me of the beauty of my old house I used to live in. All the windows were red stained glass and whenever the sun set, my whole room would glow red for an hour until the sun dipped down. A magic moment in my everyday.Nai Palm
It’s the celebration of the sanctuary of having a nest or a home. Something I value deeply from having been uprooted my whole childhood.
We wrote Red Room pre-pandemic, and the song took on a whole new meaning for me. Art is funny like that, it reveals itself slowly unfurling through time. It became a gentle anthem of contentment in appreciating the little things like having a roof over your head, and changing the perspective of being captive in our houses. Like f*ck it, maybe this IS the place to be. I don’t wanna be anywhere but here.”
Everyone should have a red room to go to be comforted and feel safe. I’m sure all of us have had moments in life where we remember being enveloped in warmth and light and color— whatever that light source may be.
And though the world is filled with darkness, with cancer and COVID-19 and global warming and all sorts of suffering, there is still light. And maybe this album is a reminder to celebrate that light, to look up to the sky, to soak it in and “get sun” and revel in our own red rooms.