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Tourist: “It’s About Finding Words That Help The Music Speak For Itself”

In conversation, British producer Tourist may not be a man of few words but when it comes to his music he is. He delivered one of the best electronic debuts in recent memory with last year's intensely personal record, simply titled U and now he's delivered another record with a one word title Wash.

Wash describes the feeling of the four-track EP better than any critic could. It's a record that feels rejuvenating, soft and fleeting. It's not as heart-wrenching as U, rather it feels like the beginning of something new. Also, for the first time since 2015's Holding On, he's teaming up with vocalists again but not in the same way. For example, JONES features on Apart but her voice becomes a chopped-and-screwed instrument rather than a melody creator.

Tourist will be in the country once again at the end of this year for Beyond The Valley, Origin NYE and Lost Paradise. He'll also play FOMO Festival early next year. We caught up with him ahead of the visit while on tour with Bonobo to discuss the EP and talk about the different crowds he's encountered while touring U.

You're touring with Bonobo right now. It must be great to be able to watch his show and take notes too?
Yeah, it's actually really cool to see the respect he gets from his fans. It's his sixth or seventh album now and it's amazing to see what that means. It's quite inspiring as an artist to know you can write that many albums and still be doing. He's a great guy and he's very loyal. It's amazing to me that he can go to a place like San Diego and play to a few thousand people. I find that incredible. He does the live thing really beautifully and he has quite a lot of respect for how he does things.

You got to play many shows off the back of U last year. Did that inform your work when you went back into the studio after that?
Maybe I'm writing as a reaction to the U record. I'm writing in a different way. I never want to keep making the same record. I wouldn't want to be that kind of artist. I feel like my sound doesn't really exist yet. I'm still discovering what I like as an artist. The album is the best place to show how I feel at a specific moment. How I feel now is different to how I felt when I wrote that album. The new stuff will be indicative of that shift. I'm not a singer so I have to speak through the sounds I choose. I'm definitely choosing different sounds now.

There were no features on the last album but on this EP you've pulled in featured vocalists once again.

The EP is definitely more collaborative. I started collaborating more with other people in ways that don't feel as on the nose as the house...how I've done it in the past. It's not just a featured vocalist. It's someone I've written a song with a chopped it up and made it its own thing. But I'd still call that a feature because they were part of the process of creativity. With the JONES one that's very much how that went.

That ones very interesting because it feels like you've taken your own song and remixed it. Is it correct to say that was part of the process for the songs on the EP?
Yeah maybe. I have a tendency to be quite dissatisfied with things. That was a reaction to thinking, "right we've written something but I want to try and take the kind of sentiment of what we wrote but make it something else." It was a weird one but I'm quite proud of it. It's something that I'll look back on fondly.

I've always been interested in your ability to capture the essence of what you're feeling in one word and once again the EP does this from the title to track names. What was the reason for going with Wash as the title?

This is a really strange story. I had the word Wash in my head for quite a while. It's quite a cleansing thing. It sounds nice. As I was writing the EP I realised that the first letter of each of the songs...there was a point where it was We Stayed Up All Night, then something, then Sleepwalking, then Hush. But it was completely accidental. Then I decided I had to call the second song Apart. I was calling it Wash either way but then I decided to change the second track title to Apart, which was similar to what it was gonna be, then it's Wash if you go down. It's funny it happened like that.

You don't include many lyrics and the titles are very short. Is that a conscious decision of yours to leave interpretation up to the listener and find meaning in the sounds rather than the words?
You know, it's hard to relate to a sound in anything other than listening to it. You can't really describe a sound unless you can play it back. As soon as you apply a word, like if I called my EP Slime, you'd get a very different association with it. It's about finding words that help the music speak for itself. I'm really interested in this. It's really important that my songs have meaningful titles that help portray them. If I didn't call For Sarah that, people may not have got what it was about. When you don't have lyrics and all you have are sounds, the title is a really good way of helping people make sense of what you're writing about. Some people do it really well. Four Tet really makes you think about music when he names something a certain thing. She Just Likes To Fight is a great name for a piece of music. It's such an elegant way of expressing that feeling. There are no lyrics but he's put those words next to the music and it's created a feeling. Wash helps sum-up what this EP is about.

Do you sweat over naming songs?
I do think about it a lot. I really agonise over things. It stresses me out a lot. My job is so much fun though that something it has to be stressful. It's gotta be hard at some point.

The shows down-under early this year were incredible but do you sometimes come off tour and become self critical of your show after you've performed it many times?
Yeah. It sounds bad but I try not to go on the crowd's reaction. I try to think what's my reaction initially. When I write a song I do think about how to perform it live. Run was definitely one of those ones where I wanted to write a piece of music that was uplifting and kind of sad at the same time but also works on a dancefloor. I'm always writing with a picture of performing it in my head.

Have you had a chance yet to play these new songs live?

Not really no. I haven't. I've been playing We Stayed Up All Night. I've got an edit that I do live which is cool. I'm still trying to find the right part of the set to put it in. These Bonobo shows have been a good chance to play the left-centre Tourist things, the more instrumental things. There's a new live show I'm planning so I will be playing them soon.

The shows you're playing with Bonobo are different to the ones you'll be playing in Australia early next year?

Yeah, it will be something new.

Australia must feel like a second home for you now. Does it feel like you get a really warm reception?

Yeah it's amazing. It's so amazing to see my music has travelled so far and be received so well. I love the Australian crowds and culture. It's a real compliment and I'm really lucky. triple j have been huge supporters of me which is incredible. We need triple j here.

Do you feel there's a gap for something like that in the UK?

We've got some great radio stations in the UK, I love Radio 1 but they tend to support my music from 7pm onwards which is cool, I understand they have a charter. We've also got Radio 6 which is really great and they're a good place to go for indie stuff. I think as a listener you have to switch the radio a bit more in the UK than you do in Australia. You know triple j has great stuff throughout the day. It's good. I think the whole streaming thing is dangerous. The playlist is giving you things you think you want but it's nice with radios they give you things you might not know you like when you hear it. Playlists don't help you do that. They don't encourage that discovery process.

It's really interesting to be able to wake in the morning and hear Run early in the morning. It creates a space where some of the biggest acts in our country are electronic and alternative. I think you witnessed that in all its glory during Laneway. How exciting was that for you?
It's incredible. There's no feeling like it. It's a feeling of unity.

Have you noticed a change in the crowds around the world or are you in your own world once you're up on stage?

I think the culture is different across the world everywhere I go. The world is such a complicated and messy place. People are different everywhere you go. A Parisian crowd is different to a London crowd is different to a New York crowd is different to a Brisbane crowd. They're all different and beautiful in their own way. It's so interesting. It's incredible. I've been to gigs in France and they love it when French artists play and they're more pensive when artists from different parts of the world play. They're proud of their culture. It's an interesting observation. But in a world that is more globalist you've got more of an opportunity to make your own global sound but we're still influenced by all the things from where you're from but also the wider culture that exists through the internet. An example of that is Mura Masa. He's really global in his sound but also him in his own way. Major Lazer too. I don't really know where I'd geographically tie my sound to but you notice it changes wherever you play it.

Tourist will play Beyond The Valley, Origin NYE, Lost Paradise and FOMO Festival at the end of this year/start of next year.