Host Bodies Discuss the Yin and Yang of Their New EP, "Diamondfruit": "It’s Magical to Be Different"
San Francisco-based duo, Host Bodies go beyond just telling stories. Sonic partners James Collector and Nick Hess design vividly colorful scenes with their riveting masterful use of live instruments, electronic elements, and field recordings that capture the familiar sounds of nature and bustling cities. Inspired by the mountains and deserts of Colorado and the cities in California, their newest EP, Diamondfruit is the perfect example of yin and yang that goes into Host Bodies’ songwriting.
With Diamondfruit out on February 8th, we caught up with Nick and James to chat about the EP and their plans for the rest of 2019, which will hopefully include tour dates and some stunning visuals to go along with the new music. Read more about the duo and new EP below.
Interview by Dom Vigil
Can you tell us a little bit about Host Bodies for anyone who might not be familiar?
James: Host Bodies is a live electronic duo based in San Francisco. Nick Hess and I have been collaborating since living together in 2006. He is a multi-instrumentalist and graphic designer. I make beats and rap. In 2013, we played our first Bay Area show and in 2016 we released our debut album, ‘Daily Apparatus.’ The thing to remember about us is that we blend hip-hop, blues, and electronic genres.
You guys kicked off 2019 with the release of your new single, “Accept”! What inspired the song?
James: I moved back to San Francisco after living on the Western Slope of Colorado in 2016. When I showed up at Nick’s house in the Inner Richmond after a 20-hour drive, we immediately started playing music in the crowded basement where we used to jam. I put on an early demo of the chords for “Accept” and Nick played the main melody right away. The title of the track is a truncated version of one of Jack Kerouac’s writing essentials: “Accept Loss Forever”. The next one on the list is: “Struggle to sketch the flow that already exists intact in mind.” I think the way Nick quickly found that main melody is sort of evidence that this song existed intact somehow before we recorded it.
What would you like listeners to take away from “Accept”?
James: A deep breath and a sense of surrender and hope.
“Accept” comes from your upcoming EP, Diamondfruit. What can fans expect from the new EP? Was there anything you wanted to accomplish with this one?
Nick: We wanted to make a more mindful project, something at peace with itself yet swept into the wonder and mystery of the landscapes that inspire us. California and Colorado are both so close to our hearts, the elemental nature of them calls to us here in the city.
You’ve mentioned before that Diamondfruit was inspired in part by your home state of Colorado and new home of California. How have these places affected the music that you’ve been writing?
James: The tension between the city and wilderness is present in this collection of songs. It’s the longing to be surrounded by elemental nature and yet the need to go into the heart of urban centers and experience that flurry of human activity. Nick and I try to get outside as much as possible to draw energy from natural places, from the coasts and forests of northern California, from the mountains and deserts of Colorado. Somehow that natural energy transmutes into sound in the studio. We also inspire each other. The other day, we were talking about how being in a duo is very much like yin and yang in the way that it’s best if we never completely agree. We don’t want to agree, to be the same person. It’s magical to be different, to be in tension, in play.
Diamondfruit is also 100% self recorded! What was the most rewarding part about the writing and recording process?
James: In electronic music there are endless possible sources for sounds. You can buy loops and samples and find stuff online, but it’s not completely yours. It doesn’t tell your story the way self-recordings do. Over time, I’ve come to appreciate the power in telling our own story. The room we record in might have a unique natural reverb, the tuning of an instrument might be less than computer-perfect. The result is a distinctive sound. If I had to choose one rewarding moment of the writing and recording process, I would say that our sessions in the Winter Park cabin where we brought our gear for a few magical days in 2016 ended up having a huge influence on the EP.
Nick: It was snowing all around us while we developed the ideas, and it was a week of pure joy and relaxation. I think you can hear that in the music.
Were there any challenges you had to overcome when working on the EP?
James: Some of the Diamondfruit tracks were written before the release of our debut album, Daily Apparatus. We had to consider the first impression we wanted to make. While Diamondfruit is very special and close to our hearts, it’s only one side of our sound. It was a challenge for me to put some of these extremely personal songs on the shelf for years. I’m so relieved and grateful to be sending them out into the world now.
Nick: Guitar takes, too many guitar takes (laughs). A couple dense and challenging mixes. Thankfully we had the help of Grammy-nominated producer and engineer Count Eldridge.
With Diamondfruit out soon, do you have any other big plans coming up? And shows or tour dates in the works?
James: Once we’ve made sure Diamondfruit has had its proper release, we’ll switch gears and focus on performance. We would love to go on tour. We’ve been honing our live set for years and have a new goal to create a stripped-down version. We want to see how minimalist we can get, in order to bring our music to venues where the only sound system is an amp or two. From a gear standpoint, electronic music can be quite cumbersome. In the Bay Area, venues are in demand (some of our favorites have recently closed. RIP Hemlock). So it’s exciting to think about how we can bring our music to new listeners and play a set that might otherwise be difficult to set up.
Nick: Graphic design and animation is my day job, so we have many visual ideas in the works, Want to release more video content this year, both in traditional music video format and also live concert graphics are something we want to make happen. But like James said, we want to strip it down before we build it up.
Thank you for taking the time to chat with us! Is there anything else you’d like to add?
James: Diamondfruit is a collection of our chilled out, melodic instrumentals. The intention behind it is very specific. At the same time, we have so many other styles of music that we want to release. We have dance tracks, downtempo beats, ambient ballads, hip-hop bangers, etc. Stay tuned for a completely different vibe to follow up “Diamondfruit.” For now, we hope our listeners enjoy the healing wavelength of this EP.