The conversations are represented in full below, at length, because we couldn’t bring ourselves to trim too much. They have been edited for clarity. These women are powerful and fun, smart and motivated, badass in every sense of the word, and we’re grateful for the chance to chat. Enjoy.
“We are more than excited to be joining forces on this tour! It is an important time when women of the world are undeniably rizing up and reclaiming their power, restoring balance to the current male energy-dominated paradigm on Earth, and when all people are realising that collaboration is the foundation of the future. This tour is a celebration of that. We are all stronger Together…”
– Hirie & Nattali Rize
Yellow Scene: First, can we get an intro to who you are and what you do, how long you’ve been doing it, for folks who may not know. You’ve been putting out albums for a while now and I’m betting people are discovering you every day, like you’re brand new.
Hirie: I go by Hirie, the band goes by Hirie, we’re all Hirie. We’re based out of San Diego. I’m from Hawaii, so we kind of have an island, reggae sound.
* The band includes Chris Hampton (saxophone, melodica, accordion), Andrew McKee (trombone, guitar, didgeridoo, percussion), Andy Flores (bass), Blaine Dillinger (lead guitar), Matt Benwa (drums), and Charles Roy (keyboardist).
YS: We know you grew up an internationalist; your father was in the UN, you were born in the Philippines, lived in Italy, then Hawaii which is where you figured out the reggae life and picked up that spirit, that love, that vibe. How did you end up with the band in San Diego? What transpired to make that happen?
H: I met Chris [saxophonist] on Bandmix and we started doing music together. I linked up with a producer and put an album together. Then, Tribal Seeds offered us a tour, so we had to put a band together for a tour and that’s how the band got together.
YS: What specific influences helped inform your current musical work but also the implied spiritual and political work that’s infused in your music? One fan called the vibe of your music Shamanistic [Shamanism is an ancient healing tradition and moreover, a way of life. It is a way to connect with nature and all of creation.]
H: I never heard of Shamanistic, that’s nice. I think of it as very transcending, maybe like ethereal. I listened to a lot of Enya and Norah Jones growing up so I tried, at least on the last album, to be more trippy. More of a head trip vibe.
YS: What are your influences from Hawaii?
H: When living there, I had a lot of Ooklah the Moc, Soja, Rebolution, Tribal Seeds, Steel Pulse, Dezarie.
YS: Your tour name, Woman Comes First, can be read a few ways. Archetypical sexism (the idea of teh man holding the door for the women, like, men are caretakers and your woman comes first), or worse, as an accidental sexual pun. We assume neither of these are the point. What are you saying with the tour name?
H: This is funny because nobody has ever asked me. I was reading a Q&A with Orlando Bloom and they asked him, “what is one thing that you’ve always carried with you, something you’ve been told or heard or read?” He said, “my mom told me the woman always comes first.” Then, the interviewer asked, “Is that sexual?” and he said, “It’s any way you want it.” I remembered that. I literally wrote a song after reading that (Woman Comes First) and it totally inspired me and Nattali Rize’s tour. It’s our first headlining tour. Someone in the band was like, “it should be the Woman Comes First tour,” and we already had a song out with Nattali Rize, so we asked and thank god she wanted to do it.
YS: Sun & Shine is your new single. The album name nails your childhood travels. The lyrics are interesting. It’s a love song featuring Eric Rachmany. The song starts with you singing:
Living is hard for the easy
Believe me it’s easier to please
Work it in your mind
If it costs you to find
Maybe you can look inside for your inner light
H: For me, it’s just about living for yourself and turning your back away from assholes. Pretty much.
YS: It feels like a love song.
H: I never thought of it as a love song. It’s like a Bonnie and Clyde. I think it’s easy to have a double meaning for one person. For me, I was talking about haters and being like “I don’t waste no time, fill up on sun and shine.” But then, [in the music video and the lyrics] I’m hanging out with a dude and I’m like come on… get away, like the second verse:
We get away, to get lost
Can I buckle down
Look how big you are
I’m fluffing his ego. Like, come on, there’s some much better stuff out there. [The song is] kind of like egging people on to be more like come on you don’t need to hang out with these people that are making you feel down. There’s too much happiness in the world. Life is a love song.
YS: What does “fill up on sun and shine” mean, is it a Hawai’ian thing?
H: i don’t know…just, fill up and shine.
YS: What does Hirie mean?
H: It’s like a combo of Hawaii and irie. Hawai’ian irie.
YS: And remind me, how many cities are you doing? How big is the tour?
H: We’re doing 15 shows in 18 days.
YS: Are you tired? You’re near the end.
H: You know, it’s funny, it’s ironic that the hardest tour we’ve ever done is the one we booked. We should know better than to just slam it all together; we’ve had one legit day off.
YS: What’s the spirit of the show? When people come here, what are you hoping that they get?
H: More of a feminine drive, like more of a feminine touch. Because we’re (Nattali and I) both very strong women, but we’re vulnerable and emotional and we’re females. There is something that you can’t reproduce. I hope that people feel that warmth regardless of the topic or whatever we’re singing about.
YS: I think that’s human too. Being strong doesn’t mean you can’t be feminine. Being strong doesn’t mean you can’t be emotional. I think that full humanity is a real vibe. How was the Fort Collins Show?
H: It was really good. We raged. The tour package is looking so much better than I had anticipated. We all never expect something to be the greatest. You have to really work hard and hope for the best, but this tour has really been exceeding our expectations and that’s dope.
YS: What’s next for the band?
H: We’re writing our new album.
YS: You have a name for it?
H: Not yet. We have some ideas.
H: *hooks us up with some albums*
YS: Last question. I want to ask you this. This is your current Facebook photo.
YS: And this is your first Facebook photo.
H: Ohhhh, STFU. Trip out.
YS: Think about everything this woman knows and experienced. Now, this is the first photo on your facebook. What does that [first, most recent] woman know that this [previous] woman doesn’t know?
H: Who is she? That’s a good question. I mean I’ve been married since then. I’ve been with my husband now 11 years…wait, since 2008. 9 years.
YS: Is he Sensei boy?
YS: It’s good to look at old and new photos, right?
H: Yeah, that’s trippy man.
YS: Love it. Thanks for sitting down with us.
By way of explaining the project name, Nattali Rize, “In mid-2014 Blue King Brown [Nattali’s original band in Byron Bay, Australia) relocated to Jamaica where Natalie decided to change her performance name to Nattali Rize, due in part to Bob Marley’s lyrics for “Rise Up”. She explained the name change was also “Partly because everyone finds my [birth] name so hard to say, partly because I feel that I’m evolving as an artist. Rize is such a strong word, and Nattali spelled the way I’m using it now comes from the word ‘natta’ which is a native American Indian word meaning speaker.”
Yellow Scene: Nattali Rize, thanks for meeting with us. For folks, who might not know who you are, who is Nattali Rize?
Nattali Rize: The project is Nattali Rize. We’re from Australia and Jamaica. We’ve been together for a couple years now, touring mainly, in the US and Europe, Australia, Japan. We are conscious music, heavily inspired by reggae, dub, groove based. We released our debut album earlier this year; it’s called Rebel Frequency, and, you know, we overstand that we’re coming forward in a time where conscious music, and consciousness itself, is on the rise.
And so we’re very conscious of that, really aware of that. We’re really grateful. And driven, and focused on the mission – that is – helping to amplify what is already happening on planet Earth in terms of raising the vibration, in terms of the great awakening, the great remembering, and the reclamation of individual collective power away from systems that have taken [it] away from us for some time now. These generations are rising up out of the illusion and starting to peer their heads out and go, “yo, this is a fuckin lie,” for one, and, for two, we can just build new systems of living, loving, and being. If we decide not to give our energy to one set of rules, or authority, or whatever it is, then that will die. So, for me, it’s like…
YS: but…will it die?
NR: Yeah, because if you don’t give something your energy, ok, well it doesn’t to survive. So, if we stopped participating in the current government, in the current system, it would stop having our power. If we don’t give it our power, it won’t have it. And it won’t live. Instead of trying to fix the outdated system…what I’m saying, the crux, instead of trying to fix an outdated system, putting our energy into that, let’s put our energy into new ones. Because by doing that we make the old ones obsolete.
And for us, that music is a way of connecting to these thoughts. Not just these ones, but beyond that; beyond the physical existence. Beyond just the daily grind. Music is a way of remembering and connecting and healing ourselves, and our communities. It’s medicine. It’s the realest shit on the planet. Art. All forms of art. That’s the realest shit out there, so…
YS: Creativity is what you said on stage…
NR: Yeah, Creativity, exactly.
YS: You mentioned that this is your debut album, but you’ve been performing from way before this. So, what is the origin of you, specifically, of Nattali Rize?
NR: I started playing music on the street in Byron Bay, Australia. I played drums. Hand drums on the street. I was a street performer. And I had a band, called, Blue King Brown.
YS: Blue King Brown?
NR: Yeah, that plan is still together. We mainly play in Australia. It’s a big band. And then I moved to Jamaica, like 3 years ago, and started this project in essence.
YS: So you’re from Brisbane?
NR: No! *laughs* What made you say Brisbane? *laughs harder*
YS: I don’t know. It popped in my head. I apologize. So where are you from originally?
NR: I’m from Melbourne and Byron Bay.
YS: Cool. I find it interesting that you play what many would consider pretty serious reggae. Real reggae. But your facebook page says that you’re world music, like genre, the nomenclature is different. Do you have a specific definition, anything…
NR: You know, definitions are kinda like wack…I mean…
YS: I feel that, but…I see the differences in…
NR: You can’t deny. Yeah man, we have reggae, we’re reggae influenced, heavy influence, but we cross over into rock.
YS: That’s real.
NR: We love hip hop, we love different styles like that. But yeah, we come from those roots, you know. The band, for sure, comes from those roots, but we’re very diverse in the music that we love, that we listen to and that makes its way into our sound. Our sound is pretty unique in that sense, because, just from the fact that we’re from two opposite ends of the planet and we’ve come together to create something new, you know…
YS: I should’ve started by congratulating you on that performance, ‘cause that was dope.
YS: It’s my first time seeing you, seeing your group and I was super impressed. The positivity, the power, the stage presence, the energy, the diversity of stagecraft. Overall, really impressive. Where do you come across all that level of musical talent, right? Like, multiple instruments, playing solos in the band, all of that…
NR: Where did I?
YS: Yeah… you’ve been playing since a child, or?
NR: *laughs* Yeah, I picked up the guitar when I was 13 and my mom was my first guitar teacher.
YS: Your mom?
YS: “Woman comes first.”
NR: *laughs* Yeah, she came first. She taught me the blues… *laughs deeper*
YS: Who’s the blues?
NR: Oh, lots of blues. I listened to a lot of John Lee Hooker, and Lead Belly, and Jimi Hendrix, and Janis Joplin. Major. All from my mom. And reggae, too. She’s the one who played Bob Marley and Jimmy Cliff and Judy Moab and Santana. These are like my childhood heroes.
YS: Damn…A lot of good shit.
NR: Yeah, you know, so guitar was really my first love and that’s my first instrument and then I just came across the drums and it just, sorta happened. And I could just play. It became a way, you know, when I was young, to make some money on the streets. I was street performing and, you know, surviving, and I was wicked. But not only that, it was a pathway, and a bridge to meet so many people. I met so many amazing artists just from them seeing us play on the streets. Like, Michael Franti, John [inaudible], Ozomatli. Every band that came through Byron Bay for the big festivals would see us on the streets. They would be like, “yo, come and jam with us.” And that’s how we met. And those people, Michael Franti, John [inaudible]… they’re close friends of ours. We’ve done a lot of touring with them. Yeah, the streets really helped grow my whole personal musical journey.
YS: Quotes from Rebel Frequency lyrics:
“Said all we really need to do is build some new systems
For the ones we’re living under now, Well that’s not really living
You overstand we’re singing cause we love this world we live in
Never underestimate the power of the people in it”
Right? Those are your lyrics.
YS: That, to me, reads as a challenge to status quo, right? Condemnation of structures of civilization, at least in the west…
YS: …and a threat to maintenance of order, vis-a-vis power of the people. What’s going on for you in the lyrics that you write, and in this song specifically. ‘Cause this is…
NR: I mean, I think that really, the lyrics…
YS: … Speak for themselves? But they’re also insubordinate, right?
NR: Well, they’re just…
YS: It’s against the status quo, right?
NR: Well they’re just a little bit of truth. It’s just the truth. It’s like, like I was explaining before, instead of putting our energy into trying to fix outdated systems, all we really need to do is create new systems, “cause the ones we’re living under now, that’s not really living.”
NR: “You overstand we’re singing this ‘cause we love”, ‘cause it comes from a place of love. “We love this world we live in. Never underestimate the power of the people in it,” to create something new.
YS: I want you to know that I love what you’re doing.
NR: *nervous laugh” Good.
YS: I respect this. Utmost. But how do you expect people to change systems when in the same song you’re asking them – or, not asking them, you’re telling them – you won’t vote…
NR: Mmhmmm, yeah, ‘cause that’s voting in a system.
YS: In a system. So then what we’re leaving is either direct action or passive resistance. What’s the option?
NR: The option is individual, spiritual growth. Evolve our consciousness.
YS: Individual spiritual growth…under a system.
YS: Does it outgrow a system? How does it outgrow?
NR: Yeah, because, when you reach a level you realize, you have realizations of the world, and the system, and how they operate. You start to dissect, “wow, ok, so there’s more to this than I’ve been told.” For one. For one, there’s a lot more to it. Like, practically and definitely spiritual. Practically, I’m thinking about things like legalese and the illusion of the system…
NR: When a police officer says, “Do you understand what I’m telling you?” What they’re saying is, “Do you stand under my authority?” If you say yes to that, then you’re giving up your power to them. This is part of the illusion. It’s words, it’s spelling. That’s why they call it spelling, ‘cause they got you under a spell. So that’s part of it, right?
YS: That’s deep.
NR: The other part of it is.
YS: That’s f****** deep.
NR: You asked the question, bro *laguhs*
YS: No, but it’s deeper because it goes all the way back to the origins of teaching…
YS: …language to people.
NR: Exactly. And that’s what I’m saying. We have to stop. You know the whole voting thing, it’s like, if I’m voting, then I’m voting for the perpetuation of the system. If I’m voting for this, I’m voting for that politician, I’m voting for the politician in the system, in the framework, that fundamental mindset, the whole concept of life according that politician, or that party, or the puppeteer of that politician. So what I’m saying, right, is I don’t vote for that way of life. I don’t vote for that reality. I vote every fucking day by my actions, by my words, and my thoughts, and my, just my life…is a vote.
NR: For something different. For something real. For something new. For something, like, we don’t need that system. It needs us. That’s the craziest bit about it. It survives from our power. And we’re in this time where we have to navigate it. We’re trying to get out, but we’re still in, and it still is the majority of the framework, but we’re growing. And that, we’re growing smarter. More and more people are starting to feel and think these ways. And there are people building their own sovereign communities. Sovereignty.
NR: Yeah, because, sovereignty is what we want as individuals and groups of people even. Like, who am I to tell you what you should do to get free. What you should do to get sovereign. And what system you should make? ‘Cause everyone lives in a different environment, with a different reality, and different geographical challenges or non-challenges or gifts, you know. So I’m just saying, if this system is really, what we really think is the best we can do, a system that is at war with peace, that is at war with fucking health, that is at war with love, that is at war with our higher self, you know, that has systematically and fundamentally trashed the planet that we call home…is that really the best we can do? No, I’m saying no, that’s not the best we can fucking do. And we all know it. We’re just starting to realize that, ohh, the people they can make it better is us.
YS: Right *staring in awe*
YS: You talk a lot about politicians and-
NR: Not really.
YS: …systems. A little bit. You talked about voting for politicians, voting for the system, voting for the institution, and I think that’s important because on your song, One People, you made a very specific reference to Obama.
NR: *Laughs* Yeah, you picked up on that? *laughs harder*
YS: How could I not? I mean…
NR: You’d be surprised.
YS: People are that dense?
YS: I heard it and I pushed pause, and I was like, I rewound that to make sure I heard that right, right? But like, “you talk about hope and change but there’s no proof…”
YS: Right? And that’s real af, right? A lot of people are still under the illusion that progressive politics, or American politics, Democratic politics, are gonna help, but they’re not, right?
“Your civilians are like slaves locked in servitude
And the only way you keep them… ummm
NR: “…is to keep them from the truth”
“…is to keep them from the truth
While the institutions keep
[both NR/YS]: “indoctrinate the youth,
We hear you speak of hope and change
Then you leave no proof.”
YS: So it seems like you’re out here to change some serious minds in a very real way. I feel, maybe for me, right, because maybe I’m still stuck in the institutions, on this side of it, on this side of that line, how does that work? You’re speaking about it from the point of view of someone that’s not from America. How do we deal with that on our side? What would you suggest for people here?
NR: What? How to what, exactly?
YS: How to change, how to challenge that, how to deal with the Obama’s of the world that talk so lovely and maintain…
NR: This is exactly what I was just saying about just, like, becoming aware that any… okay, first of all, if the person is a politician, red flag *laughs*
YS: Red flag? No matter what, no matter who?
NR: Yeah, you know, I mean. It’s just the perpetuation of the system.
YS: What created this line of thought for you?
YS: Like, the political orientation of Nattali Rize?
NR: Well, I grew up in uhh, in what do you call it here? It’s called like, commission housing, I think you all would call it like…
both NR/YS: Projects.
YS: Yeah, I personally grew up in the projects.
NR: My mother worked for indigenous organizations, aboriginal change organizations. So, from a really young age, I was aware of marginalization of the first nation people of Australia; these people are like my family now. They became my community.
YS: Right, Rabbit Proof Fence made headwaves in America talking about that.
NR: Yeah, that’s awesome. And so from a young age I kinda became aware of this injustice; racism, prejudice. These are things that my mom, working in an organization with indigenous people, faced daily. And, you know, it was part of their struggle, part of their story, and part of their work…
NR: …to heal and, you know, raise the thing up. From a young age, just so, my mind grew. Yeah, that’s why it interests me. It always interests me, the people, and the world. I was very interested in politics, and I used to watch [them], and I was [inaudible] on TV, on panels with them, and it was like, you know, I do, done that. I was in that mindset of working within the system, and then I…grew. And then I realized that we don’t even have to fuckin’ participate in this system. I realized, I started – you know what it was – incredible; I read a few books. That starts to open, starts to drive me down that rabbit hole. Once you go down there, there’s – what’s it called? – there’s a great YouTube series. It’s an Australian guy. It’s audio of home speaking in a living room, to just a few friends, and explaining his research. I think it’s called the matrix – uhh, unloaded, the matrix revealed…
YS: Something matrix from Australia, gotta look into it [editor’s note: there are Australian web series’ called Australian Strawman Matrix and Australian Strawman Matrix Reloaded on YouTube, which we assume is what is referenced here.]
NR: Yeah, and it went viral around the world and awakened me up to the freemason movement.
YS: I feel like I’ve seen one of the videos.
NR: It’s just like an image holding place and then it’s audio, and it’s wicked. And that really set me down a path of going, “ohhh, shit,” like, hey, that’s what’s going on.
YS: How old were you when that happened?
NR: Ummmm, I wanna say like, not that long ago, like twenty…uhhh…three?
YS: No idea? Around there?
NR: Yeah, around there.
YS: What’s next for Nattali Rize?
NR: We are going to be treading down into the South Pacific region, we’ll be in New Zealand. And Australia. And will be returning to America, as far as live shows go. We’re working on new music, always. We’ll be in and out of Jamaica to do that, in and out of America, and Europe, quite a lot as well, and just…staying upon the mission. We’ll be coming forward, time and time again. New music, more creativity, more connection.
YS: Word, I appreciate your time.
NR: Thank you, you too.