After enlightening minds and liberating souls during their Bluesfest appearances in 2014 and 2016, Nahko and Medicine for the People will be returning to Australia next month to serve up their worldly mix of rock, hip-hop, and alt-folk to their fans down under.
I caught up with front-man Nahko to discuss HOKA, upcoming releases, touring Oz, the ‘call to action’ and more.
Catchy happiness, a world of inspiration and a call to action: Nahko will be bringing a little more than just his music to Australia this April.
HAPPY: You and the band have been invited back to Bluesfest for a third time. What’re you most looking forward to about playing here again?
NAHKO: I’ve always loved our time at Bluesfest, there’s just such a good vibe there, but one of the coolest things I feel like for the artists is the fact that it’s set up in a way in which more often than not you have time to check out your friends play, and even sometimes be lucky enough to sit in with your friends. Also getting to hang out with the other artists, that’s pretty rare when you’re touring! It’s great that it’s set up in that way.
HAPPY: Is there anything other than play shows that you hope to do whilst in Aus?
NAHKO: Oh yeah, I have so many friends up there that are doing great work so I’m looking forward to connecting with them, and checking in and always checking to see the social movements of Australia, and how we can be of assistance through our own networks in America. Here in the United States we’re obviously going through a period of interesting dictatorship so there’s a lot to be learned from our allies in Australia.
HAPPY: You released your third album HOKA in 2016. Talk me through the writing and recording process of the record?
NAHKO: Half the songs were older than eight years or so, so we were digging them up and there was a list of them that needed to get recorded that were really important songs which had become quite known through YouTube. That was really fun to give them life, and bringing them back in a sense. The other half of were pretty fresh, so it was really fun. It was the first time the band and I got to do a record together, the two previous records I had done on on my own with a producer, and the other I had done with a different band, so it was the first time the band had really worked together as a collaborative effort. It was the first time we had worked with the producer, Ted Hutt, as well which was really great, getting to work with somebody who’s had such a great history with rock and folk music, and he just knew where we were trying to go with things.
HAPPY: Was there a particular message on the album that you wanted to get across to people?
NAHKO: There are so many different themes covered in it, but I think that the call to action is the overarching theme, to get moving, and get active. It definitely has had its response in American movements over the past year. I think that by a call to action I mean an umbrella of empathy, in which forgiveness, and grace, and compassion embody a sense of ideals, and a fierce sense of stewardship to protect and serve the planet for your children and your children’s children. It’s very basic stuff, it’s not like the things we sing about, or share in our music is anything that’s foreign, it’s my own sense of poetry I guess. Really it’s basic respect, you know?
HAPPY: For sure. So who or what inspires your music the most when you’re writing?
NAHKO: Oh man, so many different things. Life is such an art project. I’m sure there are so many things that inspire you in your day to day life, and same goes for me. When I’m writing music or writing poetry, I have such a wide sense of appreciation for all styles of music, from classical to hip-hop. With jazz the source of the melodies really just come from the vault somewhere deep inside. Certainly there are who’s and what’s which inspire, and I think as humans we’re such sponges to the world, as we should be, so each song on the record and each song I write is not derived from one particular thing, but in fact from multiple layers of life’s games, and being human. So, anything you could name as an idea of where the inspiration comes from, you’re probably right.
HAPPY: Cool. Last year during your performance at Bluesfest I noticed how well the audience connected with your music. What do you hope for people to get out of your energetic live shows?
NAHKO: Liberation I suppose. I think having an experience at a show is what everyone’s looking for, you know, you’re waiting for them to play your favourite song, and you want to dance, so I like challenging my crowd with certain dialogues and topics but I also like making people laugh so I think that there’s something in there for everybody. Who doesn’t like to have a big old sing-a-long with a couple thousand people, feel good, and feel some form of unification with a stranger, and to feel like you’re finding common ground with people through the mysterious and beautiful language of music?
HAPPY: Do you have any on-tour rituals?
NAHKO: I’m sure I do! All of us do like to work out, so we always do these funny little workouts, and we’re all very much involved in our spiritual practices that we each do individually, and collectively which mostly is no huge hippie thing we just pray together, and give gratitude for safe travels and for the opportunity to share this beautiful music with people and have this be our work, it’s a pretty nice way to live.
HAPPY: Lovely. And are you working on any new music at the moment?
NAHKO: Yeah, definitely I’m actually working on digging up the catalogue a bit and putting together a collection of songs from my 19 to 22 era, I’m working on that in May and another Medicine record is getting worked on in winter so there will be new music out within the next year for sure. Two different levels.
HAPPY: Wonderful! I have one last question, what makes you happy?
NAHKO: Hmm, there are so many things, I’m trying to think of one way of saying it. I guess when other people are happy I’m happy. I think that it’s a reflective thing, when you see other folks are happy it makes you happy, so I think we need more people in the world just to be content and happy, it’s catchy.
Nahko and Medicine for the People commence their A Call To Action tour on April 2nd in Auckland. They’ll be hitting dates all over Australia throughout the month all the way up until Bluesfest in Byron Bay.
To find out if they’re playing a show near you, follow this link.