Posted On 24 Sep 2014
Tag: Anthea White, Australia, Brooklyn Flea Market, Carnegie Hall, Chaka Khan, Dap Kings, Donny Hathaway, Erykah Badu, Eva Cassidy, Greenpoint, Indonesia's Java Jazz Festival, James Blake, Jamie Lidell, Japan, Justin Stanley, Mark Palmer, Met, New York, Nikka Costa, Read Your Mind, Robert Glasper, Rockwood Music Hall, Sharon Jones and The Dap Kings, Sheryl Crow, Surrey Hills, Sydney, Sydney Opera House, Teenage Dirtbag, The Hipstones, There Ain't Nothing In The World, Tokyo, Wheatus, Williamsburg, Wise Man
The Hipstones are an Australian/American seven-piece soul, jazz and funk band formed in 2006. The band is made up husband and wife duo, Mark Palmer and Anthea White, with a rotating ensemble of other jazz and soul musicians based in both Sydney and New York. Mark Palmer is also a member of New York band Wheatus which is best known for their 2000 single “Teenage Dirtbag”.
Their third album Wise Man was funded by the band’s fans through crowd sourcing. The album was produced by Justin Stanley who has also produced for Nikka Costa, Sheryl Crow, Jamie Liddel and Chaka Khan. It is set to be released in mid-2014.
Learn more about this talented pair and the music they create in the following interview:
Can you remember the exact moment that you realized that you wanted to start a band?
The exact moment when we decided to record our own music was a sunny day in Surry Hills, Sydney Australia, we were driving around with the radio on and heard, for the first time, Sharon Jones and The Dap Kings and were like, who is this? This moment was pinnacle in us forming The Hipstones as an original project. Just before this, we were already working together doing a hotel contract gig in Tokyo, Japan. We loved the sound of our voices together, and we loved so much of the same music. When we got back from our contract we were officially an item, and when we heard Sharon Jones and The Dap Kings that was the moment we knew we would create music together.
For people just getting to know you guys, how would you describe your music?
It’s soul influenced by jazz and funk. Soul in the sense that it’s music that is meant to make you feel good and uplift your spirit, and make you dream and dream big. Also music that celebrates the power of love.
Our current sound, if we compared it to current artists, is a marrying of James Blake technology with some Erykah Badu grooves and some Robert Glasper too.
We started trying to recreate old funk sounds like the Dap Kings did… Then we started writing more songs that were inspired by the musicians in the band who could all play jazz, soul and funk, so we focused on groove and melody and interesting chord progressions. It’s always been about how we can showcase our voices too, and harmonize together. On the latest record, we finally allowed some synths and electronic influences especially after falling in love with James Blake.
How did moving from Australia to New York change the music you make?
Mark: It became more about the struggle of what we’d done and our determination to make it work. We also found a new batch of amazing musicians who played in such a way that our music really blossomed. We also realized how much an audience that is brought up on soul can understand your music more and understand what we’re trying to do.
Anthea: It is hard to say. We have been in NY for a little over 5 years and have grown a lot as people and as musicians, so a lot can change in 5 years no matter where you live, however , NY is one of a kind. Our lyrics pretty much tell our story of living in NY. The pulse of NY intensifies normal experiences. We have been exposed to so many styles of music here. There is a mass of creativity going on and we can go out any night of the week and hear inspiring independent artists doing their thing. You can just do your thing, experiment, and really score your own life here.
Do you get homesick? How often do you get to back to Australia?
We always miss family and friends, but we’ve been back a lot and recently had a four month stint while waiting for our visas to come through. I do however feel very at home in NY, but you can never recreate the beaches of Sydney and the laid back feel.
What was it like performing at the Sydney Opera House? Is that something every Australian musician hopes to do one day? What would be the equivalent venue for musicians here in the states?
It’s very prestigious of course, but every venue is only as good as it’s audience. There, they are an educated appreciative audience, but I don’t mind playing to 20 people in a tight room who are all digging it! I guess in New York at least, it would be the Met… Or Carnegie Hall. But nothing compares the the Opera House!
What’s it like being in a band with your significant other? Have there been any silly arguments?
Silly? An enormous amount, yes! It’s like when your parents tell you you can’t go to the party you want to go to and then you scream and make a fuss and tell them you hate them… It’s like that sometimes! But then we make up very quickly and laugh about our childishness. We’re very comfortable with each other and not worried about showing our emotions. You can’t just hold it in or you go crazy. Sometimes though we have to remember that we’re not just in a band together and we have to keep the love spark burning.
Tell me about the major career change that you made in 2010?
We moved from the comfort of our little scene in Sydney to take on the masses and start from scratch in NY. We played our first show as a duo to a handful of friends and didn’t get another gig at that venue for almost a year. We learned what it was to work as a musician (I.e doing any other job to pay rent so we could play and record our music!)
You guys shared a bill with Chaka Khan at Indonesia’s Java Jazz Festival. What was that like? Did you get to spend any time with her?
She was amazing live and could sing any note still. We did meet in the hotel lobby one day. She was like a loving aunt, very warm and so so tiny. Our bass player at the time took a liking to her daughter who is also a great singer… That was about as much time as we had hanging. We were fans more than anything at that time.
How is your latest album, Wise Man different then anything else you’ve released? It was produced by Justin Stanley who has worked with a ton of incredible names. How did that relationship come to be?
Well, it’s all new songs, new band and all written and recorded in the US. It’s also the first time we worked and trusted our project with someone else… Once we had decided that we wanted to work with a producer we started looking into artists’ works that we admired and Justin’s name was credited to a lot of them, like Jamie Lidell & Nikka Costa, so we just decided to reach out to him on Facebook. Fortunately he liked our material and was interested in working with us. He was amazing to have throughout the process! He made little tweaks and suggestions that took the record to a new level. He also validated ideas when we may have shyed away in the past. This is also the first time we released something on vinyl. And we did a lot of the vocals at home take after take, where we normally tried to get everything down in one or two takes. This meant it took a lot longer, 2 years from when we initially talked to Justin about the project. It was worth the wait!
If you could collaborate with any musician, living or dead, who would it be and why?
Mark: I’d love to write a song for Donny Hathaway. He was the most amazing interpreter of songs and his voice is by far my favorite. He had more soul in a single note than anyone I’ve ever heard.
Anthea: Ditto in Donny Hathaway! One of the greatest voices I have ever heard. Eva Cassidy too. She was an incredible interpreter. More contemporary, I would say James Blake. We love his incredible gift and I think we would both bring something intriguing out of one another.
“Wise man”, “Read Your Mind” and “There Ain’t Nothing In The World”.
What’s been your favorite venue to perform at and why? What’s been a favorite crowd?
Rockwood Music Hall… It’s where we shredded the songs and built up our New York following. People that go there love hearing unknown bands and they appreciate the work you put into a song or arrangement. The sound there is so good and there’s no time wasted with sound checking or setting up… Your on, you line check, you play, you get off for the next band.
When you aren’t performing or working on new material, what do you guys like to do for fun?
We don’t have a lot of time off together these days. When we do have time off together, we love meandering through Brooklyn Flea Market and generally around our neighborhood in Williamsburg and Greenpoint as well as catching live music.
Mark: I love to cook, play tennis and basketball and watch movies. Also, I could spend an eternity on the beach if it was possible. I also love building things with wood. I built most of our furniture in our apartment, and any project that comes up is so fun.
Anthea: Yoga is my savior and of any chance to get out of town and see some lush greenery is a must for me. Ditto on the beach too!