Hermit Kingdom member Jessica Bathe recently ventured out and produced her own EP this summer while studying abroad in South Africa.
If you haven’t heard of local Austin band Hermit Kingdom, you’re truly missing out. I had the pleasure of hearing them live this summer at Swan Dive, and let me just tell you, this group can really bring it. However, one member of the group was noticeably absent. Jessica Bathe, who goes by Upper Reality, was studying abroad in South Africa at the time, but that didn’t stop her from producing her own EP iWanna which you can view here:
The video was shot by Gunshot Films during her time spent in Johannesburg, South Africa.
Upper Reality answered a few questions about her own individual sound, her contribution to the band and her time spent in South Africa.
On Vinyl: How/when did you get involved with Hermit Kingdom?
Upper Reality: It was Winter 2014-15, and the Pearl St. Coop was having a showcase, as per usual. They had a little break, people were going up doing some freestyling, I really wanted to do it but I was nervous, and I had a friend give me a little push and finally I went up and did my little style—stringing words together but singing instead of rapping. It was a nice vibe, then Jay approached me asking me if I wanted to perform with Hermit Kingdom, then joining came soon after that. It was a really nice fit for me because we’ve always been a collective, so it’s a nice environment for encouraging each other as a group but also as individual artists.
OV: You went to South Africa! That’s amazing! What were you doing there?
UR: I was going there studying Economics at UCT (I’m studying that at UT) but that was only a means to an end, because I’m always trying to grow my music. I’m a bit obsessed. So I spent a lot of time at the music school and the jazz scene there, just trying to learn and grow and see what kind of person I can become. And it was nice, because I wasn’t worried about getting an A in every class so much as passing, so it gave me a lot of elbow room for going and pursuing my passion as a musician. To be honest, I didn’t do a lot of drastic stuff like feeding giraffes or volun-”tour”-ing, I was just doing my thing, living how I wanted to live.
OV: How would you describe your individual sound/contribution to the band?
UR: Well I’m a soulful cat. I have a little edge on me but my main mission as a musician is to bring people toward themselves. I like when people are in touch with their inner spirit, like those are the people that I like to surround myself with, so if I can create that kind of energy in my music I feel like I’ve fulfilled my purpose. I produce my own individual material for myself (planning on opening myself up to others jumping on), but as far as Hermit Kingdom goes, I just add soul. Some feminine energy to balance out the overall sound, make us stand out a bit as a multi-faceted group.
OV: Where would you say you garner your inspiration?
UR: Oh everywhere. I can get inspired by a TV commercial. I listened to a lot of different genres throughout my life. I love The Doors. I love Erykah Badu. I love Bob Marley. I love The Isley Brothers. I love Janelle Monae. Hell I love Gilberto Gil, and I’ll lend an ear to pretty much any hip hop or jazz. If it comes from the heart I’m gonna vibe with it and be inspired.
OV: Who do you think your music speaks the loudest to?
UR: I think my music speaks the loudest to people seeking their own purpose amidst a world trying to dictate a purpose for them.
Photo of Upper Reality courtesy of UnbELIvable Photography. Photo of Hermit Kingdom courtesy of Richard Santos.