Although Australian electropop trio Haiku Hands released their debut record in late 2020, Haiku Hands was far from a pandemic album. The raucous, house-inspired release was clearly the product of the era leading up to that pivotal year, as the pandemic’s dulling effect hardly factored into those 12 recordings that perfectly capture the live energy of a festival-focused band.
Yet on their follow-up LP Pleasure Beast, Claire Nakazawa, Mie Nakazawa, and Beatrice Lewis skip over the deep reflection on our collective downtime and jump right back into the party. With the help of collaborators such as Broods’ Caleb Nott, Australian producer Motez, longtime collaborators Angus Stewart (of Hermitude fame) and Joel Nott, and producer/“dark star of the music industry” Dave Sitek, the sounds of the new record reflect the more three-dimensional emotions the band has achieved since 2020, together creating a visceral feel across an expansive 13 tracks that maintains an indulgent and independent (yet deeply communal) feel while involving as many sense at any given moment as possible.
With the album out today via Spinning Top Records, all three members shared some insight into the release by breaking down the influences—from Fatboy Slim to Flamin’ Hot Cheetos—for each track. Stream the album in full and read their words below, and if you’re in the US you can catch them on tour through the next week and a half at the dates listed on their website.
Claire: The image of “I’ve got pleasure on my French toast” is very indulging, and I feel like it’s setting up the album to be experienced with all your senses. The second line, “I’m here to be sexy and free,” feels like the beginning of an essay where you’re like, “This is what you’re about to get.”
Mie: When we were writing and recording, there was an intention to enjoy ourselves and to be as free as possible. “Pleasure”—and the rest of the album—evokes sensory details which I hope the listener can enjoy.
2. “All Around the World”
Bea: We wrote this song mostly between the hours of 11 p.m. and 4 a.m. over two consecutive nights in Los Angeles. We were very lucky to catch Dave Sitek right at the end of our American tour in July. He’d just returned from a writing trip in the desert, and we had 48 hours before we left to go home to Australia. As had happened previously in our sessions with him, we sat in his studio for hours listening to demos at maximum volume, getting schooled on Brigitte Fontaine, Henry Miller, and Pedro Almodovar, drinking tea from his epic tea cupboard, and learning about finer cuts of meat such as picanha. Dave is one of the most creative, generous, psychedelic, and curious people I’ve met. Most of the lyrics in this song came from the conversations we were having with him about mental health, animal instincts, patriarchy, capitalism, and life. He’s the dark star of the music industry, and one of my favorite people on the planet. I felt like my brain was completely rewired and reactivated after stepping into his studio vortex for those 48 hours.
Claire: One of the reasons we chose this song to start the album with is that it sums up a mood and mission statement about wanting to stay true to our instinctual side, our beast side. It’s like a manifesto of where we’re at in our minds right now. The lyrical structure remained in the order that it was written and recorded, and has a purist feeling to it—as well as sounding fresh as hell.
Mie: Some of this song was inspired by a YouTube video Dave showed us of Hermeto Pascoal playing glass bottles and the flute in a lagoon with a bunch of other half-naked people—it’s so weird, creative, and free. After talking to Dave for hours, we came to the topic of people fearing their inhibitions. I feel like there’s a lot of fear of doing the wrong thing or being disgusting, so much so that some people have swung in the opposite direction. This was a bit of a trust-in-faith (or trust-in-Dave) song: no thought of a chorus, no one cared about putting in any hooks. I feel like it was an impulsive song after talking about the world for hours and taking a big breath.
3. “Cool for You”
Bea: We wrote these lyrics to a completely different song a few years ago. Motez hit us up asking to collaborate, and I sent him back a bunch of acappella tracks. He then wrote the beat underneath to our previously written vocals, completely changing the BPM and warping the vocals to suit. When he sent it back we all lost it—it was so good. I feel like Motez is one of the greatest producers in Australia right now. He makes some of the most interesting, hard-hitting, genre-bending electronic music.
This song is about being at a party and enjoying being yourself. It’s the antithesis of capitalism: that you need to be something else, that you need another product to feel good, that you need anything. In fact, you’re already awesome and mad and lit, and you should be singing it from the rooftop. It still gives me goosebumps when I listen to it, even though I’ve heard it a million times.
Claire: I was happy to hear that “Cool for You” gives Chemical Brothers or Prodigy vibes. I feel that. I like that it’s really raw and uncontrived. I imagine shouting the lyrics from the top of a staircase bannister pre- or post-party. It has that attitude and confidence you sometimes feel before you go out, like anything could happen.
Mie: When Motez sent his first demo of “Cool for You” I was like, “Yes, let me thrash my body, let me be at the Haiku Hands rave.” It made me feel excited to be able to play such a banger. I find a lot of the time people are watching us during our gigs, and I would love for people to thrash about during our set. I think “Cool for You” is a great moment to forget, thrash, and feel empowered.
4. “We’re Gonna Be the Greatest” [interlude]
Bea: We started writing this song with Caleb Nott from Broods during lockdown when doing Zoom sessions was still really new and weird. But Caleb was one of the coolest, easiest people to work with. We sent demos back and forth and wrote a whole bunch of gibberish ideas, which stayed like that for years before we started to finalize this album. It was a unanimous decision that we all wanted this song on the album, so we started by deconstructing our gibberish and sculpting the meaning and feeling of the track. For me, it’s about stepping outside of the hustle-bustle and stepping into the relaxation of a calm and regulated nervous system.
Claire: I really love this track. It transports you to a tropical island with no worries, but what to do with all your free time. It’s a feeling and an experience.
Mie: Caleb sent us a spacious track that felt like a holiday we’d all been dreaming about. Our demo vocals had mumbles of bananas, bean bags, jet planes, coconuts, and putting our hands in the air. We’d never written to a beat like the one Caleb sent us; it’s a slower tempo and has slide guitar! I professed to Caleb that I wasn’t a confident singer. I used the deep voice setting to bypass my fear of sending him something rubbish. This bit ended up being the chorus, one of those good reminders to just keep on making. Wait for the cream to rise to the top, scoop the cream, and give it to the people.
6. “Elastic Love”
Bea: “Elastic Love” was one of the first songs we ever wrote together back in 2015 when we started writing in Melbourne with our long-term collaborator Joel Ma—back when we used a cupboard as a vocal booth and still didn’t have a band name. It was a beat of his, and even in the original demo there was so much space and warmth. This song is an ode to a night out and the feeling you get being with friends. As a band, we have a communal love of music and partying and festivals and friendship. Claire and I first met at a festival, and from that meeting we started the band, so there’s a real connection to that energy and experience in this song.
Claire: This track is an intimate recall of what it can be like to be out and about with your mates and in the womb of a party, where you get a bit elastic in your mind and reality becomes a bit skewed. That can be a pleasurable place to be.
7. “To the Left”
Bea: This song is an ode to the preciousness of time, to the joy of simple things, and to connectivity and life. I started writing this beat last year when we were on tour and I was doing 20 minute beat writing sessions every day to try and stay beat-fit while out of the studio. We then did a few sessions with Mad Zach in Los Angeles on the beat, lyrics, and song meaning. Then, when coming back to Australia, we took the semi-completed song to Paul Mac and he took it into another stratosphere.
Claire: The song starts with a banging intro and goes from there—an unexpected knee-slapper you can’t help dance too. Mie came up with the simple hook and I can imagine a whole crowd moving together to it. We were also thinking about time, reality, and the simple things being what make you happy in the end.
Mie: The track started with strong major chords, with an Aqua vibe. We all loved it so much, maybe became a bit precious about it, and didn’t know who could help us bring it to life. Legendary dance producer Paul Mac was remixing “Feels So Good,” and when he sent his remix, I was like, “That’s the guy who’s going to finish ‘To the Left’!” He instantly started putting in minor chords and made the song euphoric. We did one in-person session with Paul at Elephant Studios in Marrickville. As we were chatting about getting a guest on this track, Paul mentioned Jamaica Moana, who’s a rapper and an icon in the Sydney scene. We sent Jamaica a message on Instagram to see if they were interested and they got back to us quickly with a freestyle.
Bea: “Geddit” was a song I first started writing in 2020 when I got locked out of my home state of Victoria due to lockdown. I ended up living between Sydney and a permaculture commune in the hinterland of Byron for six months. I was staying next to a meditation hall and writing a lot of music that was very calming and meditative, and then one night I opened my laptop and this beat came roaring out like a steam train. On one of the trips down to Sydney, I jumped on a train and visited another producer named jayteehazard in Newcastle. We were getting up every morning at 5 a.m. and swimming in the ocean for the sunrise, then coming home and working on music. We finished this beat during those days and added the tagline “Geddit.” Mie and I then continued writing the lyrics in Melbourne with Joel Ma.
This song is about getting out of your head and really stepping into your power to aim for whatever it is you’re wanting in your life. It’s not about necessarily getting the thing you’re aiming for, it’s more about that feeling that you’re allowed to try. There are a lot of people from non-dominant social groups who are not often empowered with the feeling of entitlement—the feeling that you’re allowed to go for what you want or be who you want to be. When we were doing writing sessions in the final weeks before the album was due, it was at the same time as when the Matildas [the Australian women’s soccer team] were having their first real moment. It was a huge moment for women in sport all around the world, and this song gave me that same feeling as when I watched them running out on the field.
Claire: “Geddit” adds some raw punk energy to the album.
Bea: We started this song on a writing trip in Bali. We were lucky enough to spend a week at W Hotel in Seminyak where we did an intensive writing week staying in the hotel, using their studio, eating their delicious food, and swimming in their luxurious infinity pools. We’ve had a bit of a rule before where if something makes us all laugh, we should put it in a song. I’m not sure who came up with the tagline “Grandma said you’re gonna go far,” but I can definitely remember everybody laughing. Another cool writing technique was doing freestyle improvisations with lyrics, and then choosing the best bits and chopping them up—which is how we came up with the pre-chorus.
This song is about how no matter how hard you try, it never seems like you’re quite good enough. Capitalism, social media, and the commodification of art and life are unquenchable beasts. Although this song is delivered in a satirical way, its deeper meaning is actually a quite serious comment about the social sickness of “busyness,” which affects a lot of people in the western world. I read a book called Four Thousand Weeks by Oliver Burkeman a while ago, and 4,000 weeks is the amount of time that you get if you live until 80 years old, which is the average age of life in western society. One of the main points of this book is that you’ll never get to the end of your to-do list, and that with the small amount of time we have it’s so important to have time away from the hamster wheel. Life is so short and beautiful, and the people in your life are so important—if we don’t spend time feeling that beauty, what’s everything else actually for?
10. “Feels So Good”
Bea: “Feels So Good” is about speaking your truth into a world that would often much prefer you stay quiet. There are governments, partners, and family members who sometimes would prefer us not to say what we want or to be who we are. This song is a dedication to those moments in your life when you can be brave enough to find your voice and really let it all out.
Claire: This song has relevance—especially when we wrote it during lockdown, wanting people to feel good, less scared, and all the other feelings that were dominating at the time. It has an open sound that I hope many people can connect with. I recorded my vocals two nights before I gave birth, so the chorus “Let it out / It feels so good / It makes you want to cry” took on a whole new meaning. The music is inspired by Fatboy Slim’s anthemic dance vibe and Gorillaz.
Bea: “Chito” was written with one of our longtime collaborators and close friend of the band, Angus Stewart from the group Hermitude. It was written in Los Angeles, Melbourne, the Blue Mountains, Sydney, and other parts of America. It’s a song about a mythical character called Chito, which in the Urban Dictionary is a term describing “A lady who is a hustler. She’s known for her adorable nature to help people she cares about.” We all have Chitos in our lives, and this song is an ode to them and their vibe, their swagger, and their ability to break through the patriarchal pressure of conformity and repression. For me, this is an ode to our manager whom I love very much and who has taught me so much about being a good witch and using your powers for good, giving as much as you can, and being the best version of yourself you can be whilst having a damn good time.
Claire: We did a lot of sessions on this song, but it seemed to emerge in its simplest form to just be what it is: a dope beat with some bouncy lyrics. The lyrics were first sparked by our bandmates’ appreciation for Flamin’ Hot Cheetos when we were touring in America.
Mie: My spelling is not good, so when I went to google “Cheetos,” I spelt it “Chito.” I think we all resonated with this character and know a few Chitos ourselves. For me it’s that person who makes their own path. It’s refreshing to be around their strong value system, and caring for friends is at the top of their list. Chito moves to the beat of their own drum. Another banging tune by Elgusto!
12. “I Am Nothing”
Claire: We were in Hermitude’s studio in the Blue Mountains having a break from recording, playing around with the synths, and freestyling on the mic. The three of us made this song together really quick: Mie had been talking about the concept of, before you start creating, saying “I am nothing, I know nothing”—becoming an empty vessel to receive the goods, taking yourself out of the equation, and just being open to the ideas. The pitched-down vocals are just what came out at the time, a mundane to-do list of household maintenance, warped. I like that we made it just the three of us, and that it was underthought and spontaneous.
Mie: Before I jumped on a train from Sydney up to the Blue Mountains, I was chatting to my flatmate, Manu, who’d been meditating and reading a bunch of Buddhist books. We were chatting about creativity and things getting in the way. He shared with me the saying “I am nothing, I know nothing” from some of his recent readings. Starting the writing trip with these words in mind helped give me a bit more freedom in the making process. The concept also helps take away songwriting rules and the ego while making. When we were deciding if we should put “I Am Nothing” on the album or not, we showed it to a bunch of good friends and one of them—who’s 10 years old—said that it’s a good palate cleanser. That was a good enough reason for me.
13. “Ma Ruler”
Bea: “Ma Ruler” smacks you in the face like your best friend’s just arrived at the party—the one you’ve been waiting for who'll drive the dance floor into the ground.
Claire: We’d all arrived in Bali for our wiring camp. Mie arrived last and had come from a time of parties at her house. She came into the session with this fully formed hook (or wrote it quite quickly), and the rest of the song was based on that—an homage to the lifeforce-energy person of the party. I visualize a few different friends who, when they get going on the dance floor, become the energy centerpieces—if they’re to leave the room, it’s all over. Bea also wrote one of her—I think—most killer verses on it.
Bea: A supercharged, high-energy self-affirmation anthem for anyone who wants to wipe off the patriarchal stain of self-loathing. A song to listen to before you go out, when you’re out, and when you get home.
Claire: The idea is “Stop looking for what you want elsewhere… Maybe you have everything you want or you need in you,” which is a nice note to end the album on. Mie’s final verse also is a killer ending to the album. What she’s saying is so bold, but she’s saying it in the most vulnerable way that it feels really powerful and also kind of hilarious at the same time. It’s an unexpected ending to the track, and I think this also sums up the album. Our approach evolved to embrace “breaking rules” and not doing what’s expected. Our lyrics are also sometimes about that, so I’m happy we were also able to bring this approach to the creation of the album, and I hope people can feel a bit of that and catch a buzz of excitement from hearing something different and new.