You wouldn’t think of Melbourne, Australia as a hub for neo-soul, but over the past few years, it’s become a go-to place for listeners looking to revisit the late ’90s/early 2000s era of hip-hop-infused R&B music. Alt-soul group Hiatus Kaiyote is perhaps the biggest act to emerge from the area recently, yet musicians like Stella Angelico, The Harpoons and Mojo Juju are also laying claim to Australia’s soul scene.
Next in line are the Do Yo Thangs, the duo of songwriter/singer Hugh Rabinovici and vocalist Audrey Powne. The two met at jazz school, and bonded over a shared love of net-soul virtuoso Erykah Badu. They formed the Do Yo Thangs before they graduated.
Today, Bandcamp premieres the video for the lead single and title track from the group’s forthcoming EP, which will be released Sept. 9. As the band describes it, “One Plus One” is “equal parts performance and programming, drawing from a broad palette of live instruments and electronic sounds.” Rabinovici and Powne swap lead vocal duties, with support from harmony singers Maddie Otto and Tiaryn Griggs.
Before moving over to drums, Rabinovici played piano as a child. Since then he’s played the cello, worked in Scottish Pipe bands, taught himself guitar and studied Carnatic music in South India. We spoke with Rabinovici about the song, and the band’s creative direction.
Listening to the EP reminds me of the music I grew up with—Erykah Badu, D’Angelo, and the like. Is that the sound you were going for?
Yeah, I’ve been really into Erykah Badu and D’Angelo, but I’ve also had a healthy obsession with Stevie Wonder as well.
What era of Stevie are you most infatuated with?
I systematically went through his discography—everything from “Little” Stevie Wonder, the Motown era, the ’70s Stevie, and then even later stuff like The Secret Life of Plants. Probably this album is more like Talking Book, Innvervisions, that sort of era.
What sounds did you “borrow” from Stevie and D’Angelo for this EP?
I’ve always loved their use of textures, the way the music sounds heavy. There was also this orchestration, the way Stevie arranges his songs using different synthesizers. It was always really great. There were jazz harmonies in the work, in more of a popular song forming context.
Where do you see the group going from here?
Our recording relationship is going real well. It’s a super slow process, but instead of cramming a band into a studio for two weeks and flushing out a record, we took six months to get everything together. It gave us time to reflect to think about our next move. From there, we just decided to keep going. We’re still recording at the moment. We just sorta never stopped, and we’re currently four tracks deep into a new album. So now, the focus is on recording. We try to write music pretty regularly as well. We work on music multiple times a week. I think we lean more toward the R&B/soul side, but we also have this sort of electro focus, stemming from Little Dragon and others.
— Marcus J. Moore