The Lightning in a Bottle music festival drew its proverbial curtains to a close last Sunday after a four day marathon of hedonism, breathtaking artistry and a star-studded lineup of damn good performances. As the sun retreated over the rolling hills that line California’s Central Coast, thousands of festival goers took a minute to disengage from whatever they were doing to appreciate the aweinspiring view. The sprawling landscape had soaked up the final rays of golden light from the sunset while the sounds of LiB’s world class performers echoed through the valley.
Beneath a crystal clear night sky, Australian electronic duo Hermitude took to the Thunder Stage as one of the most anticipated performances of the weekend. The duo is comprised of Angus Stuart (El Gusto) and Luke Dubber (Luke Dubs) who recently rose to prominence in the US thanks to abundant critical acclaim for Flume’s remix of their upbeat song, HyperParadise. In contrast with the grimy trap and deep house tracks that had been dropped previously throughout the weekend, this crowd got moving to El Gusto’s steel pan beats tapped out live on a drum machine and Luke Dubs’ Soul inspired synth lines. Through the Roof,the band’s recently released hit single, is the best way to characterize the explosive energy teeming out of the tent as they began to debut a series of simultaneously melodic and hardhitting tracks from the album, leaving the audience yearning for more. We were able to sit down with El Gusto after the show to discuss the group’s exponentially growing fan base, the development of their unique sound, and what to expect on the new album.
You guys just played a killer set!
HyperParadise. Tell us the story of that song.
We wrote HyperParadise in 2012, and we wanted to branch out and make something as tropical, fun and melodic as possible and that song just came out. It was this energy that we really wanted to put across to the people.
It seems like you guys really embrace that energy, especially when you’re playing Flume’s remix. You played another remix of the song as well, right?
Yeah, we also played the Ganz flip.
All three, incredible versions of the song.
Yeah, and that’s why it’s so fun when we play it live. We get to do a medley, and we start with the original, move it to Flume’s remix and then finish Ganz’s flip so it’s just this timeline of the song’s life, and it’s great! Each one keeps getting bigger and bigger. Those dudes, both of them, just killed the remixes!
The way it all mixes together so well, Hermitude & Flume really seem to play off of one another. Do you have any plans to work with Flume in the near future or collaborate with him in some capacity?
Man, to be honest, I’m not really sure because after that remix shit just blew up and he’s playing festivals… we’re playing festivals… and the only time we ever see each other is when we’re on the road somewhere and I think he played here last night, right?
Yeah, he played last night.
So like last night he was here, then tonight we’re here and we’re just kind of moving around but hopefully we get to run into him soon and get the chance to do something.
We’d love to see that happen. So you guys have been together about 15 years now, right?[laughs] Well as Hermitude we’ve been together about 12 years and before that, when we were growing up as teenagers we were playing in bands.
How much do you think your sound has changed over the years?
It’s changed a lot. I mean, when we started out, our first ever release was an EP in 2002 and it was much more sample based back then and we were very much hip-hop influenced.
I can tell with the [record] scratching, you do a lot of that in your set.
Yeah, right. I guess in 2002 if you think about it there was lots of sampling going on… hip hop based kind of stuff. With each album we try to push ourselves to do something a little bit different and I guess really what brought us into the general populous eye was HyperParadise when we wanted to do more of an electronic beats kind of thing and there’s a whole lot of that going on.
You guys seem to be in a really good place right now. Do you have any plans for the future? Touring or making new albums? You just released something not too long ago, correct?
Yeah, our record just came out in Australia and it’s coming out in North America and the rest of the world in August. It just dropped in Australia and went to Number 1!
Cheers, man! So yeah, it seems to be popping off and I’m really excited for it to get out here. It’s called Dark Nights Sweet Light and it comes out the 28th of August. We’ve got a whole lot of shit coming out soon and then we’re going to come back here and do an album tour towards the end of the year which is really fun.
Now, a lot of people seem to classify your general genre as “Future Beats” and I’m wondering, do you agree with that title? It seems really broad...
Yeah, I probably like that title better than EDM
but you could call it Jazz Rave, you could call it whatever. I really don’t know.
Like we were saying, we have a hiphop background but we also have a heavy electronic influence. We used to listen to The Prodigy and shit like that when we were growing up. We had a lot of influence from the UK which was the more electronic side and we had a lot of hiphop influence from the US and we were just down in Australia mixing it all up.
I saw you guys using a lot of different instruments on stage too. The drum pad, scratching and even the MPC for a second. That was cool!
I guess because we came up playing in bands, when we wrote the records first and we had to figure out how to perform them live we were like ‘OK well we just gotta play it live then’ so Luke would play the piano and the keys; synths and stuff. I would do the scratching and get on the MPC and tap out the samples and that’s just how we thought it was, so that’s what we did. We just never felt comfortable behind a laptop.
You always need to be doing something.
Yeah, that’s right.
It definitely makes for an exciting set too. I could see a lot of people jumping around to it... they definitely fed off the energy. As a spectator, when you get the chance to go visit other artist’s performances which ones do you like to see?
I love to watch a really amazing band play live. A great band where they all feed off each other and perform together. I love to watch an amazing vocalist, someone who’s just an incredible artist performing to a crowd. I also really enjoy a talented DJ who knows how to work a crowd and take them on a journey throughout their set.
Good music is good music and however it’s performed, as long as it connects with an audience and takes people somewhere I think it’s a really good thing.
Word! So back to the subject of genre, I feel like there’s sort of a pressure among Electronic artists where they have to classify under one of the different subdivisions of Electronic Music. It seems like you guys are more free for all. You just do what you feel? Your sound has really got a wide range.
Yeah, totally. To be honest, I don’t know where that comes from with us.
Is it that you never felt any limits to where you could go?
Yeah I guess that’s kind of it. We do stay within some sort of boundaries. We don’t make a lot of house or “4 on the floor” kind of stuff but I guess it’s kind of like Hip Hop, Electronic Funk music, Reggae music, Soul music. It’s all very much part of the basis of where we come from, but inspired by dudes like Flying Lotus or Hudson Mohawke. That whole new beat scene really connected with us so we just do whatever feels right. But yeah, as for genres I have no idea.
Is there anybody else you plan to see? Are you going to catch RL Grime’s set?
I’m definitely going to catch RL Grime’s set man! It’s funny, we were just doing a tour in Australia before we came out here about a week ago and he was out there as well playing on the same tour, on the same festival.
Were you guys on the same stage too?
We were on different stages weirdly enough but we got to see his set. It was dope!
I bet! Alright, just one more question... I’ve noticed that a lot more artists have been coming out of Australia recently and I’m wondering if you have any recommendations about Aussie artists that haven’t quite blown up yet?
Yeah, there’s a dude called Basenji who’s dope. Obviously Wave Racer. There’s so many… UV Boi… There’s lots man, it’s really cool.
– Curtis Castro and Evan Chipman
Photos by Jamie Rosenberg