In 2010, Anthea White and Mark Palmer, the creative core of acclaimed soul visionaries The Hipstones made a life-changing decision: They decided to leave home. Home in both senses of the word for an artist, geographically and aesthetically. Anthea and Mark had nurtured into existence one of Australia’s finest and most critically acclaimed indie soul bands, but they were passionate about taking their music beyond borders and stylistic boundaries—they wanted to artistically challenge themselves. They had to leave home.
The Hipstones’ latest, Wise Man, is the story of two accomplished musicians, who are also a couple, making a profound musical and personal adventure away from the allure of hometown success and the comforts of being near friends and family. It’s an epiphanic and masterful album of abstract, futuristic, jazzy, hip-hop soul-pop album, brimming with introspective lyrics and poetic social commentary.
Wise Man was three years in the making and it’s a breakthrough album in terms of artistic growth. It features the golden touch of iconic producer Justin Stanley (Chaka Khan, Jamie Lidell, Eric Clapton, Sheryl Crowe, Nikka Costa, Beck and more), and stunningly beautiful conceptual artwork courtesy of New York buzz artist Shanti Grumbine.
“The album is a storyboard and it captures all the jubilation and heartache from our journey from Sydney to New York,” Anthea reveals.
The Anthea and Mark known as The Hipstones, fronting various seven to nine piece lineups, have garnered accolades and awards internationally for a signature soul aesthetic music that draws inspiration from the James Brown tradition of stone funky grooves, the reflective nature of folk, the sweet concision of pop, and the expressive possibilities of all eras of jazz. Back home in Sydney, Australia, they’ve had their songs featured in primetime television shows; they’ve been the house band on a popular morning television program; they’ve performed twice at The Sydney Opera House; they’ve played numerous festivals; and they’ve earned regular rotation on local radio stations.
Outside of Australia they also achieved acclaim. In the U.S.A., The Hipstones were runners up for “Song Of The Year” in the prestigious Just Plain Folks Awards. The Hipstones shared a bill with soul icon Chaka Khan at Indonesia’s Java Jazz Festival, playing in front of 100,000 festival attendees. USA Radio DJ George Graham of WVIA enthused their previous record was “a very appealing and distinctive recording that combines a kind of thread of 1960s-style soul with an intriguing mix of other ingredients, such as jazz harmonic complexity, and sometimes a kind of dreamy atmospheric texture. “
Wise Man is a multi layered album, conceptual, confessional, and genre shattering. The duo’s beloved harmonies, soulful roots, and sophisticatedly accessible songcraft are now enriched by electronic textures, deconstructed and futuristic hip-hop beats, and captivating but challenging modern jazz compositional flourishes.
The title track inventively merges a glitchy groove, sharp pop hooks, and rich harmonic content with mellifluous vocals and sage lyrics. “That song is about a mystical person that you envision will come and fix everything, but then you realize that person is actually you,” Mark says. The cubist contemporary soul of “All We Want Is Everything” is both haunting and comforting, revealing everyone’s wish to transcend the mundane struggle of the everyday to indulge in a life of riches. “Read Your Mind” is elating and insightful with a big, rugged beat and punchy horns and Mark and Anthea’s dreamy harmonies abstracted.
One of the most powerful aspects of this journey is that Mark and Anthea uprooted as a married couple. Their romance and the creation of The Hipstones are inextricably linked to a fateful trip the couple went on to Japan as soul and jazz musicians contracted to play hotel gigs for six months. Their relationship grew from something of a Lost In Translation story, and, soon after falling in love, they discovered their musical compatibility. Mark’s visionary approach to piano, arranging, producing, and singing perfectly complimented Anthea’s stunningly angelic and dynamic vocals, and they had shared love of vintage, jazz, soul, and R&B.
In 2006, the two founded The Hipstones.
The last eight years have led to Wise Man, and every element of the album has been thoroughly considered. Justin Stanley’s production has a big bottom while maintaining nuanced clarity so strings, horns, keys, and airy vocals are at impactful levels. Artist Shanti Grumbine is known for her intricate and abstract multi-medium collage work, and her awe-inspiring cover art features geometric cutup style imagery comprised of images of Anthea and Mark’s fathers. “It carries a very personal message,” Anthea says of the cover image. “The art is fragmented and pieced together and it represents the patchwork of experiences and memories that brought us to this point.”
Looking back on it all, Mark candidly says: “It was a long process and, at times, it was frustrating, but it feels like we musically grew up on this album.”Anthea adds: “We don’t know what will happen with the next album, but this is where we are right now, and I guess you can say we’re sort of musical grownups.”