Simon Mavin



Poised to drop his debut solo EP via Bastard Jazz Recordings, Simon Mavin has always been at the center of a multitude of projects. The 2020’s have seen extra velocity in his universe.  Most prominently known as the keyboardist/co-producer/co-writer in Hiatus Kaiyote, the band released their third album in 2021 via Flying Lotus’s Brainfeeder label, where they received their third Grammy nomination.

And at the same time, Mavin produced Natalie Slade’s EP ‘Control’ (Eglo Records). Their process was sporadic–they’d get together at his studio in Melbourne (she’s based in Sydney), record a song together, she would then head home, and Simon would edit, produce and mix on his own. By the time she’d return to the studio, they’d begin a new song and repeat the process anew.

Simon was also simultaneously producing Emma Donavan’s album with his other long term band The Putbacks which he’s been a part of for well over a decade.

All three albums went on to become groundbreaking Australian soul records and all were nominated for awards across the globe (Grammys, ARIAs, Music Victoria, AIR, etc.).

In the midst of this flurry of creativity, Simon was also working day-to-day on scoring a 24-episode animated series, with 30-40 tracks per episode, along with two close musician/producer friends who operated as ‘Scoreasaurus’.

Most of these projects orbited around The Grove, a small recording sanctuary in a creative share house in Coburg, a suburb on Melbourne’s northside. In Simon’s studio, he had installed a library of keyboards. 30-40 synthesizers, all of which were painstakingly patched in to be simultaneously accessible and ready to record in an instant.  A drum kit in the corner was constantly mic’d up, and everything routed through a multitude of analog mixing desks providing different flavours of tone and texture. The Grove had such appeal that it was chosen as the studio to record the Gilles Peterson compilation ‘Sunny Side Up’ on Brownswood Recordings.

“The whole concept behind that room was no set up time, making it as simple as possible to create with whoever would walk into the session. I could go to any instrument and play it and record it very, very easily,” Simon explains.

It was in between all this hive of activity that he would find some rare quiet moments to go into his lab and create freely. “It was never really an emphasis of any particular project or genre, style or anything.  I would just try to approach with a clean slate so anything could come out. A lot of the time, completely different sounding things would happen, but two songs seemed to fit together well and became a record, which has been a wonderful surprise.”

‘Good Hair Day’ started as a journey he took by himself, blossoming from a piano idea to which his Scoreasarus partner Nick Lam added guitar parts, and later, some bass by Henry Hicks. He then pulled up some Brazilian drum sounds from his VST collection and programmed the drums in real time.

Simon knew this track was a stand alone, it was danceable and had a harmony that looped really well. “The energy at the end of the progression keeps pulling through, it felt like it was in that world of Herbie Hancock’s late 60’s—70s repertoire”, a world Simon knew all too well. Pre-Hiatus Kaiyote, he had a Herbie tribute band ‘Thrust’ , which played Sextant, Secrets, Manchild, Thrust and Fat Albert Rotunda, what he deemed as ‘Intellectual-funk’. Gangster-esqe attitude jazz.

Nick Martyn, another good friend, was at The Grove doing a recording session on drums with Simon. Whilst Nick was warming up, Simon was recording and when listening back at a later date, the drum loop for “Only You & Me” was found. He’d always resonated with the pocket and flavour that Nick has on the drums, and built the track out from there. Fellow bandmate from The Putbacks, Mick Meagher, added real bass to the track, and from there Simon layered in Juno 60, Juno 106, a solo on his Rhodes, and some vocoder parts.

Earlier in his career, he’d been a session musician for over a decade playing nearly anything that had groove.  “Elements of all blues, jazz, pop, rock, reggae, latin, dance, funk—all of those different styles I’ve picked up all along the way, all of that leads the way when I go to the studio today. But I always have an open palette and no set ideas. In the beginning, I tried to have that concept…that’s something that has definitely led me into the Hiatus world…”

“The next thing I might release will be a solo piano record, something completely different. Like these recordings are a snapshot of my life right now, that’s how I want to make music–where it  feels like a freeing, honest way to create and release”.