Haiku Hands: A Collaborative, Hip-Hop/Punk Hybrid

Wednesday 21 November 2018

When artists attempt to fuse their contrasting talents to form a collective unit, a disaster is bound to occur; but, in the case of Haiku Hands, the total opposite happened. Haiku Hands is a genre-bending band whose members all practice different mediums. After crossing paths, several times at festivals, Claire Nakazawa, a visual artist, and Beatrice Lewis, a synth and electronic artist, decided to plant the seeds for what would become the hip-hop/punk crossover we know today. The recruitment of Mie, Claire’s sister and a fellow visual artist, locked the band in place.

Exploding on the scene with a banger of a single, ‘Not About You’, their tracks are imbued with messages of self-empowerment and seizing the day.  The two voices of Beatrice and Claire make the singles swell with celebratory pomp and summons the listener to rise up and be swallowed by the frantic energy that comes with the songs.

Since releasing multiple tracks — including one with True Vibenation — the group are supporting English rock band, Bloc Party, on their Australian leg of the tour. Now in the middle of their own headlining European tour, we chatted to Beatrice Lewis, 1/3 of Haiku Hands, about said tour, their creative process and the origin of the group’s name.

First things first, how and when did the group form?

Claire and I met when we were both playing at festivals around Australia in 2013. It was at a time when there weren’t heaps of women on festival line ups and I remember seeing her on stage and being really blown away and excited. We ended up staying up all night the first night we met and then just kept meeting around having really good conversations about life and music. We also both had a mutual friend called Joel Ma who is a rapper under the pseudonym ‘Joelistics’ and we all wanted to write together. Claire came down to Melbourne where Joel and I live and we had our first session where we wrote Jupiter and then Work on It (yet to be released), we had such a good time in those sessions. 

We then released Not About You and started doing shows, Mie firstly became a part of the live show and then became more and more involved in the creative side of Haiku Hands. We also have a really awesome performing member who does shows with us in Australia called Mataya Young and we write with two great artists from Australia Angus Stuart aka ‘El Gusto’ who is a really important part of the music side and Joel Ma who is a part of the writing team. 

How did the name ‘Haiku Hands’ come to be?

Haiku is a short Japanese poem with seventeen syllables and three verses and often includes nature in its subject and distills meaning and feeling in a very succinct way. Hands represent the collaborative nature of Haiku Hands; we are very much a collective that work with lots of producers and other artists.

The songs have a wide range of influences, who are some artists you’ve been inspired by?

We all have really varied music taste which is cool. But artists that have definitely influenced the band are Beastie Boys, Run the Jewels, Die Antwoord, Santigold, Bjork, Little Dragon, Little Simz, subtract Zebra Katz to name a few.

Various publications have described you as a mix between Charlie XCX and The Beastie Boys, what would you say your sound is?

I don’t really know how to describe our sound it feels like it is so many different things coming together, there are lots of influences in there from punk to hip hop to grime to pop music!

Can you take us through the process of writing the tracks, how do you create the sounds of Haiku Hands?

We mainly write all together in Melbourne with Joelistics. We make the beats or get beats from different producers, we play through them all and the ones that we decide on or the ones that make us get up from the couch and dance around the studio are the ones we normally work with. El Gusto is one producer who has been quite involved, making the beat for Not About You and also mixing other tracks. We then work on the concepts and lyrics and vocals together in the room, then we’ll often take the songs away and perform them and refine them individually until we are happy with them.

On your new single ‘Squat,’ you worked with the rap group True Vibenation, can you describe that process?

The early incarnation of Squat was written by Vuli from True Vibe Nation, the first time he played an early sketch of the track at a show in Sydney Claire heard it and immediately wanted to work on it together. Later that night at the after party at Claire’s house Vuli was given an artwork of Mie’s and on the back of it they signed that we will perform Squat together.  We then started collaborating on Squat and performing it around festivals. When we get to play it on stage with the two bands it’s ridiculous fun as there can be up to 10 of us and heaps of colour and chaos and horns and mic swapping and squatting.

‘Jupiter’ was included on Matt Wilkinson’s from Beats 1 ‘Best Songs of  2018 So Far,’ how do you feel about that?

Great! We met Matt at the Great Escape this year and he is so awesome. It’s a real honour, he has superb music taste.

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Melbourne and Perth thanks for the love @listenoutaus so much fun! So awesome to have @flex.mami jointing us on stage. ? @ladydrewniak ❤️?

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You’re in the middle of a headlining tour in Europe, how are you feeling about it?

I am excited we are back so soon. We came over in May for The Great Escape and a few other shows so it’s nice to be here again! It’s great to be doing shows to whole new audiences as well, like we are making a whole new bunch of friends. I am excited because I am visiting a few places I have never been before such as Amsterdam, Oslo and Stockholm and then we are also ending in Iceland! It’s also such a beautiful time of year, we don’t naturally have an autumn in Australia, ie. none of the native trees are actually deciduous so seeing all these beautiful yellow’s and reds is stunning.

What are you most excited about regarding the live shows?

We are looking more and more into the visual element of the show which is exciting. So working on lighting and visuals and how to add more dimensions to the live show. Claire and Mie are both visual artists and are really great with colour and aesthetics so that is what is most exciting to me currently.

Lastly, if you could share the stage with anyone, living or dead, who would it be and why?

Haha, wow, sharing a stage with dead people would be a pretty weird experience. I would personally say Gandhi. He would be nice and chill and we could all sit and have a tea and a chat.