Hiatus Kaiyote talks world tours and Erykah Badu co-sign

7 December, 2020

BIMM Institute Manchester was lucky enough to host a virtual Masterclass with Paul Bender (bass) and Simon Mavin (keyboards) from the Grammy-nominated and genre transcendent Hiatus Kaiyote.

Self-describing their work as ‘Wondercore’, Hiatus Kaiyote have two albums and an EP under their belts. They recently penned a global publishing deal with Warner Chappell Music and are set to do even bigger things in the coming years.

As lockdown rules still apply throughout the country, Paul and Simon joined us in a virtual seminar interview by Natalie-Eve Williams, BBC Introducing Manchester Producer, and Artist Development Lecturer at BIMM Manchester. They addressed many topics and answered a plethora of student questions.

Simon kicked things off by talking about how he made their start in music:

“My mum played the piano, and I got on at about 4 or 5 years old. I did the normal thing that people do over here and did the AMEB Grades: the Australian Music Examination Board. Every year, you get a bunch of songs, you learn them and perform them to some judges, and they give you a grade. I don’t know how much I like that method anymore; it’s pretty weird. But, it was when I got to uni that I started getting into music properly. That’s when I fell in love with it. I met other musicians like myself.”

Paul spoke about how his brother influenced his start in music:

“I got a brother who’s two years older than me. He started middle school and high school before I did. When I got to middle school, he said, “right, you’re here now. You should play bass”, because they didn’t have a bass player in their band. The band was called Frij, which is a great name to this day. ”

“I would play along to CDs and learn songs by ear. I’d play them over and over until I had it perfect.”

– Paul Bender

“I jumped straight into that, playing old metal covers; Metallica, Pantera and that. I fell in love with it straight away. I would play along to CDs and learn songs by ear. I’d play them over and over until I had it perfect. That was really fun for me.”

How Hiatus Kaiyote came to be

Both Paul and Simon have been playing and making music for a number of years now, and that clearly shows in the musicianship within their compositions for Hiatus Kaiyote. Being friends for several years has helped this as well. Paul talked about how they first met:

“We hit it off!”

– Paul Bender

“Me and Simon were the first in the band to meet each other. Actually, when I first moved to Melbourne, Simon was in a million bands playing a million different styles of music. We were both playing at jazz gigs and in corporate functions and that. He knew a lot of people I was speaking to and we ended up doing those shows together; we hit it off! We definitely turned up in suits and played a few weddings and that sort of thing.”

Transitioning into the music industry

Simon and Paul shared a laugh and reflected on how far they have come since playing at weddings and the likes. Both discussed what they did before the band was as big as it is today. Having a second job is almost imperative at the beginning it would seem; it’s one of the few ways you can afford to support your passion. Both spoke about their former jobs and how they transitioned.

Simon: “I kinda made a firm decision to try to be a live performing artist when I finished university. Whilst I was at university, I was working in Melbourne Aquarium. It was keeping me afloat, but then I got on the dole for about 12 months. I started getting some Latin gigs.

“Luckily, there weren’t many people that could play Latin, but there were lots of Latin bands in Melbourne. This was my first taste of playing regularly and getting paid from it. That supported me for three or four years, and then other things started to pop up. I finished uni and tried to do a teaching degree, but couldn’t do it; it wasn’t for me.”

Paul: “Yeah, I tried the teaching thing too, and it was a struggle. I was teaching guitar one-on-one. Kids want to learn guitar. I really struggled with that – I would go to schools and people’s homes, but it was difficult. Some kids were into it, but others were clearly forced into it by their parents.”

“For me, if someone wants to learn more about music theory, cool, I’ll chat at you forever, but when you’re trying to teach a twelve-year-old, it’s hard. I didn’t like the child psychology, babysitting side of things. I had a short-lived career in hospitality: I washed dishes for a day and didn’t get a call back. I wasn’t even good at that.”

Paul and Simon gave insight into many facets of their careers so far; the trials and tribulations that come with being a successful worldwide renowned musician; their latest album; gaining recognition from Erykah Badu, Prince, Q-Tip, ?uestlove; making a start on Bandcamp and loads of other interesting topics.

A huge thanks to Paul and Simon for joining us, offering their advice and sharing their wisdom and experience with us. We hope they join us again in the future. You can check out our other BIMM Masterclasses here.


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