Mood Valiant

Mood Valiant

“Things should change and evolve, and music is an extension of that, of the continuity of life,” Hiatus Kaiyote leader Nai Palm tells Apple Music. The Melbourne jazz/R&B/future-soul ensemble began writing their third album, Mood Valiant, in 2018, three years after the Grammy-nominated Choose Your Weapon, which featured tracks that were later sampled by artists including Kendrick Lamar, Drake, and Anderson .Paak. The process was halted when Nai Palm (Naomi Saalfield) was diagnosed with breast cancer—the same illness which had led to her mother’s death when she was 11. It changed everything about Nai Palm’s approach to life, herself, and her music—and the band began writing again from a different perspective. “All the little voices of self-doubt or validation just went away,” she says. “I didn't really care about the mundane things anymore, so it felt really liberating to be in a vocal booth and find joy in capturing who I am, as opposed to psychoanalyzing it. When you have nothing is when you really experience gratitude for what you have.” The album had largely been written before the pandemic hit, but when it did, they used the extra time to write even more and create something even more intricate. There are songs about unusual mating rituals in the animal kingdom, the healing power of music, the beauty and comfort of home, and the relationships we have with ourselves, those around us, and the world at large. “The whole album is about relationships without me really meaning to do that,” she says. Below, Nai Palm breaks down select lyrics from Mood Valiant. “Chivalry Is Not Dead” “Electrons in the air on fire/Lightning kissing metal/Whisper to the tiny hairs/Battery on my tongue/Meteor that greets Sahara/We could get lost in static power” “The first couple of verses are relating to bizarre mating rituals in the animal kingdom. It’s about reproduction and creating life, but I wanted to expand on that. Where else is this happening in nature that isn’t necessarily two animals? The way that lightning is attracted to metal, a conductor for electricity. When meteors hit the sand, it's so hot that it melts the sand and it creates this crazy kryptonite-looking glass. So it's about the relationship of life forces engaging with each other and creating something new, whether that's babies or space glass.” “Get Sun” “Ghost, hidden eggshell, no rebel yell/Comfort in vacant waters/And I awake, purging of fear/A task that you wear/Dormant valiance, it falls” “‘Get Sun’ is my tribute to music and what I feel it's supposed to do. Even when you’re closed off from the world, music can still find its way to you. ‘Ghost, hidden eggshell’ is a reference to Ghost in the Shell, an anime about a human soul captured in a cyborg's body. I feel that within the entertainment industry, but the opposite—there are people who are empty. There’s no rebellion. They’re comfortable in this vacant pool of superficial expression. I feel like there's a massive responsibility as a musician and as an artist to be sincere and transparent and expressive. And it takes a lot of courage but it also takes a lot of vulnerability. And ‘Dormant valiance, it falls’—from the outside, something might look quite valiant and put together, but if it's dormant and has no substance, it will fall, or be impermanent. And that's not how you make timeless art. Maybe it'll entertain people for three seconds but it will be gone.” “Hush Rattle” “Iwêi, Rona” “When I was in Brazil, I spent 10 days with the Varinawa tribe in the Amazon and it changed my life. On my last day there, all the women got together and sang for me in their language, Varinawa, and let me record it. There were about 20 women; they'll sing a phrase and when they get to the last note, they hold it for as long as they can and they all drop off at different points. It was just so magical. So we've got little samples of that throughout the song, but the lyrics that I'm singing were taught to me: ‘Iwêi,’ which means ‘I love you,’ and ‘Rona,’ which means ‘I will always miss you.’ It’s a love letter to the people that I met there.” “Rose Water” “My hayati, leopard pearl in the arms of my lover/I draw your outline with the scent of amber” “There’s an Arabic word here: hayati. The word habibi is like ‘You’re my love,’ but to say ‘my hayati’ means you're more than my love—you're my life. One of my dear friends is Lebanese. He’s 60, but maybe he's 400, we don't know. He’s the closest thing to a father that I've had since being an orphan. He makes me this beautiful amber perfume; it’s like a resin, made with beeswax. There’s musk and oils he imports from Dubai and Syria. So it’s essentially a lullaby love song that uses these opulent, elegant elements from Middle Eastern culture that I've been exposed to through the people that I love.” “Red Room” “I got a red room, it is the red hour/When the sun sets in my bedroom/It feels like I'm inside a flower/It feels like I'm inside my eyelids/And I don't want to be anywhere but here” “I used to live in an old house; the windows were colored red, like leadlight windows. And whenever the sun set, the whole room would glow for an hour. It's such a simple thing, but it was so magic to me. This one, for me, is about when you close your eyes and you look at the sun and it's red. You feel like you're looking at something, but really it's just your skin. It’s one of those childlike quirks everyone can relate to.” “Sparkle Tape Break Up” “No, I can’t keep on breaking apart/Grow like waratah” “It’s a mantra. I’m not going to let little things get to me. I'm not going to start self-loathing. I'm going to grow like this resilient, beautiful fucking flower. I've made it a life goal to try to at least be peaceful with most people, for selfish reasons—so that I don't have to carry that weight. Songs like this have really helped me to formulate healthy coping mechanisms.” “Stone or Lavender” “Belong to love/Please don’t bury us unless we’re seeds/Learn to forgive/You know very well it’s not easy/Who are they when they meet?/Stone or lavender/Before the word is ever uttered/Was your leap deeper?” “‘Please don't bury us unless we're seeds’ is a reference to a quote: ‘They tried to bury us, they didn't know we were seeds.’ That visual is so fucking powerful. It’s saying, ‘Please don't try to crush the human spirit, because all life has the potential to grow, belong to love.’ This song is the closest to my breast cancer diagnosis stuff; it’s saying, ‘All right, who are you? What do you want from life? Who do you want to be?’ Do you emit a beautiful scent and you're soft and you're healing or are you stone? Before anyone's even exchanged anything, before a word is ever uttered, your energy introduces you.” “Blood and Marrow” “Not a speck of dust on chrysanthemum/Feather on the breath of the mother tongue” “I think is one of the most poetic things I've ever written; it's maybe the thing I'm most proud of lyric-wise. The first lyric is a reference to a Japanese poet called Bashō. I wanted to use this reference because when my bird Charlie died—I had him for 10 years, he was a rescue and he was my best friend—we were watching Bambi on my laptop. He was sitting on my computer, and we got halfway through and he died. The song is my ode to Charlie and to beauty in the world.”

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