If you can pack a venue on a rainy Monday night in East London, you must be doing something right. While many electronic artists struggle to translate their studio productions into exciting performances, Hermitude’s live set is extraordinary. But, as the Sydney-based beats duo take the stage at Shoreditch’s XOYO, there’s definitely an air of the ridiculous about them.
El Gusto and Luke Dubs look like the Beastie Boys after raiding PC World, with a bulky MPC sampler and a Micro Korg strapped around their necks like oversized novelty medallions. After the pair come to the front of the stage, talking to the audience and playing from their neck-mounted instruments, within minutes the crowd is totally hyped. Launching into the first full track, they retreat behind the mixing table, frenetically jumping between samplers, keyboards and turntables, while a live feed of their mixing is projected against the back of the stage behind them.
“We try and play as much live as possible because we came from playing in bands and we never wanted to just DJ or stand behind a laptop,” says Angus Stuart (aka El Gusto). “We started mucking around with turntables and keyboards, and that’s pretty much how we run the show now, which is kind of funny.”
Angus and Luke Dubber (aka Luke Dubs) started playing music together 20 years ago after meeting in the school band as teenagers. They played together in a succession of different bands, including soul groove outfit Funk Injections, before getting deeper and deeper into hip hop. Hermitude eventually came to life in 2000 after Angus picked up a pair of decks in Nashville on a trip to the US.
“It’s like the most unlikely place to get turntables,” says Luke, who then puts on a country accent: “Yeah I got ma’ decks in Nashville,” and they both burst into laughter.
When he regains composure, Angus adds, “That was the start of Hermitude really, just two mates making beats, having fun.”
Over time Hermitude’s output has gradually evolved from trip hop to a more varied and less easily categorised sound, much closer to bass music than hip hop. The latest album HyperParadise won a phenomenal reception and opened up a host of opportunities worldwide. After putting out a succession of solid records, how did it feel for one suddenly to go stratospheric?
“It’s reassuring, reaffirming that you’re on the right path,” says Angus. “People like what you’re doing and you’re ready to go.”
But where did this monster of a record come from? After nearly two decades of working closely with one another, the pair decided to take a break and spent a year travelling and touring with other artists.
“I remember reading in an interview: the time apart is just as important as the time spent together,” says Luke. “We’d both been working on ideas and played them to each other. When we came back together we just had heaps of fire in the belly, you know?”
If you’re in Berlin, you can see them live on Wednesday, May 14 at Cassiopeia.