“I wanted to make something really raw, and simple, and direct, and emotional,” Hiatus Kaiyote frontwoman Nai Palm proclaimed of her debut solo album, Needle Paw. Armed with Michael Jackson (that’s the name of her guitar), the singer-songwriter swept through Paste Studios last week to perform a stripped-back session showcasing her new sound.
Fans of Hiatus Kaiyote, the explosive future-soul quartet that cascaded out of Australia following their cacophonous debut album Tawk Tomahawk in 2012 and similarly sublime Choose Your Weapon in 2015, may be in for a shock. Although Palm’s incredible artistry and emotional performance are still present, much of Needle Paw strips away the lush instrumentation found on Hiatus Kaiyote records in favor of just a guitar, a voice, and some light accents here and there. The shift is especially noticeable because several of the songs are reworked versions of earlier Hiatus tunes.
She explained her decision to make a departure from that signature sound, saying, “I wanted to contribute something to the world that’s really raw and human because I feel like that is an element that’s slowly, surely being filtered out of the arts. I just wanted to do something that was really naked and imperfect. I feel like there’s a lot of power in doing that and it can help people empathize with their own struggles.”
That said, she does admit that there’s little distance between her band and her solo work, saying, “There are new songs that may make the next Hiatus record. It gives people a window into what we do with it and how it evolves into whatever it evolves into.” Watch her play “Atari,” a new interpretation of a previously released Hiatus Kaiyote song, live at Paste.
Palm has made a name for herself with intensely complicated harmonies and rhythms, all performed with a powerhouse vocal delivery that conjures greats like Amy Winehouse and Whitney Houston. She says her ability and diversity as an artist trace back to the wide range of music she was exposed to as a kid, including “a lot of flamenco, Afrobeat and Japanese classical—kind of everything.” She showed off her facility for interpreting and updating classic sounds with a powerful cover of Jimi Hendrix’s “Have You Ever Been (To Electric Ladyland).”
There’s no denying that Palm has the fanbase and gravitas to make it on her own as a solo artist, but her allegiances remain with her bandmates in Hiatus Kaiyote—bassist Paul Bender, keyboardist Simon Mavin and percussionist Perrin Moss—who complement and challenge her. That said, with the covers and raw versions of previously released Hiatus Kaiyote songs on Needle Paw, Palm takes the opportunity to reveal her truest voice. Out on Oct. 20, the album offers a glimpse into one of the industry’s most inventive minds. Watch her perform her original song, “Crossfires”, here. Nai Palm is doing a short tour throughout the US. Dates can be found below. You can also preorder Needle Paw here.
NAI PALM SOLO TOUR DATES 2017:
10: Boston (Brighton Music Hall)
15: New York (Bowery Ballroom)
17: Philadelphia (Union Transfer)
19: Washington, DC (U Street Music Hall)
22: Santa Ana (Constellation Room)
23: Los Angeles (El Rey Theatre)
24: San Francisco (The INdependent)
27: Chicago (Lincoln Hall)