Ahead of their Vivid LIVE performance, Tone Deaf speaks to Luke Dubber of Hermitude about the duo’s early years and the creation of their new album Mirror Mountain.
Hermitude’s seventh album, Mirror Mountain, is the Blue Mountains duo’s most relaxed body of work to date. There are a few pop songs, such as the recent single, ‘When You Feel Like This,’ featuring Sam Hales of The Jungle Giants, and some songs designed to give the sub-woofers a work-out, such as the Jon Hopkins-esque ‘Lift Me Up.’
But the songs on Mirror Mountain are lither than the wonky hip hop and post-dubstep productions that dominated Luke Dubber and Angus Stuart’s early releases, and not so fine-tuned for radio as the pair’s previous release, 2019’s Pollyanarchy.
Hermitude will officially launch Mirror Mountain at the Sydney Opera House on Thursday June 2nd. The gig, which takes place on the House’s Northern Boardwalk, is part of this year’s Vivid LIVE action.
Tone Deaf speaks to Luke Dubber about Hermitude’s early years and what their intentions were for Mirror Mountain.
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You made Mirror Mountain in Blackheath in the Blue Mountains. Are you both living back there now?
I moved back probably about four years ago and then Gusto came up during the first lockdown, so he’s been up here for two years.
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What was it like growing up in the Blue Mountains? How involved in music were you
There’s always been a pretty flourishing art community up here, whether it’s visuals or music. Actually, the high school I ended up at, Katoomba High, had a really good music teacher who nurtured a lot of our musical creativity. He ended up forming a band with us and we used to go and do gigs locally.
Luckily when we finished high school there was a few venues opening up and promoters doing stuff in the Mountains. It ended up being quite a popular spot in that heyday of hip hop DJs coming out on tour from America. They’d start booking the DJs a slot up in Katoomba.
Were you and Angus close when you were growing up?
We kind of were. I’m four years older, so in high school that’s a pretty massive gap. But the reason we ended up linking is because his dad was running a high school jazz band, like a big band – it was a 12- or 15-piece big band and Gus was on the drums.
The keyboard player just vanished or something and they had a gig coming up. So, I knew someone who knew someone and ended up in that band. Angus was 11 and I was 15 and we were playing these really dinky jazz songs around the place.
Check out Hermitude’s newest album Mirror Mountain:
How did that turn into you and Angus forming Hermitude?
By the time he was 15 and I was 19, we had formed this other band with his sister and had done a few gigs. Then him and his dad went over to Cuba for a few months to study percussion and he came back through Hawaii and bought a set of turntables.
So, after the band rehearsal we’d set up his turntables in the lounge room and I’d just put a keyboard next to it and we’d just jam over instrumentals from 12-inches of hip hop stuff, like Wu-Tang or whatever we had.
Were you more into hip hop than electronic music?
Hip hop probably was a pretty big obsession, but I had also just finished high school, so I was old enough to go to raves and clubs in the city. So, I was a massive techno guy back then and I was making gabber on my Atari computer at home with a really shitty keyboard that sounded horrible.
Our bond formed over hip hop and then, as time went on, we discovered that we both were into The Prodigy and Aphex Twin and Ninja Tune stuff.
You’ve incorporated more pop elements into your sound over the years. Did that inclination come later?
We’d always been really lucky with triple j – they’d get a song off one of our records and give it some rotation, which was great, but our music wasn’t very radio friendly at that point. It was just beats without much vocals and stuff.
When we wrote HyperParadise, we were a little bit more mature, we were ten years deep already, and we’d just come off a break. So, when we came back together to do that record, we were like, “Oh, let’s try and write a pop song, a song we could get on the radio.” And ‘Speak of the Devil’ was the first one that got a bit of traction.
Check out Hermitude’s ‘The Buzz’:
2022 is Hermitude’s 20th anniversary – is that right?
I think December 2002 we did a vinyl-only release and that was the first thing we put out, and then our first record came out the following year. But yeah, it’s basically 20 years of Hermitude, which is crazy.
Your last album, Pollyanarchy, was full of guest vocalists, and mostly overseas artists. Whereas, there are limited vocal features on Mirror Mountain and no overseas guests. Was that the plan going into the new album?
A little bit. Pollyanarchy was the first time we’d ever really done a full vocal record. That was a thing that we just wanted to tick off. It was a lot of fun, but it was also a difficult album to write – we were back and forth to America a lot and just working with different vocalists takes time. It was an amazing experience, but we might have lost our way a little bit writing that record. The identity of Hermitude kind of changed with that record.
Were you reclaiming Hermitude’s core identity on Mirror Mountain?
We were like, “Let’s just forget everybody else and just go back to how it was when we first started and see if we can find that spark that we used to have before it became a job.” We were just getting together at night and having fun – and we somehow managed to re-spark that flame.
Hermitude – Vivid LIVE
Thursday, June 2nd
Sydney Opera House, Sydney, NSW
Tickets: Sydney Opera House