Last weekend Is Tropical took stage at the Babylon Soungarden Festival. After a rather energetic performance we talked about the structure and future of music, influences and Turkey.
“Escapism” seemed to play quite a big part of your life at the start of your career. As things have changed and the band has grown, is “escapism” still a big part of your life?
Gary: It’s actually become a self fulfilling prophecy. We used to live in a squat in London and we started using escapism to take our minds to a better place. We started writing about the South Pacific and the Greek Islands, and Berlin so we started to have a lot of distant themed songs that would take ourselves around the globe. The best thing about this was that we’d write a song about Venezuela, then we’d get booked to play there!
But at the moment even though our songs are still based distantly, we’re writing them about the experiences when we travel. Instead of playing the same places around the UK, we try to play at the most interesting parts of the globe like South America, Italy, Spain, Mongolia and Turkey.
We know that you like the vibe of South America, and many other British bands seems to find success over there. What is the reason of this South America – British band love?
Simon and Gary: I think South American people are really passionate and fanatic I guess. There fanatic about their football teams, politics and music, I think when they pick up on something the energy really grows. It’s the same in Asia as well. The Japanese are crazy about their music!
There are discussions on whether music should be completely emotional or mathematical. Some say emotional music is easy but bringing maths into music is what makes quality music. What are your thoughts on this?
Gary and Simon: I think a lot of music is formulated, especially the music that hits the charts, whereas music that drives from passion doesn’t often get acknowledged. I think the formulated music lasts longer like Lean On. There’s a lot of people doing the same thing as what MO and Major Lazer did because it’s the prime example of how to make a massive hit with math. The other thing is songs that sound liken no other, like Gotye – Somebody I Used to Know. He made something special because there was nothing like it.
But I think you can find formulas in anything, even if you’re not consciously trying to do it, there’s always a pattern or a fractal. Even if you look at areal images of African villages you can see fractals. So there’s maths in every part of life, even if its done unknowingly.
In the 90’s Brit-Rock and Trip-Hop dominated the UK charts, in the early 00’s Indie started to make its way through, but do you have any idea what will dominate the country in the near future?
Gary: I had a chat in the early 00’s with a couple of friends and I said that in ten years time dancy-psychedelic music would go big. I was taking bands like The Coral as an example, because they were doing Captain Beefheart-esque psychedelic music with a glance of dance and I guess that’s what Tame Impala did on their last record. I believed in this because I thought the two genres would blend together quite well because It had already been done but I’m not quite sure fort he next ten years.
Simon: Grime music has taken off quite well even though it’s been around for the last nine or ten years but it’s only just started to hit off and there’s a couple of big stars that are coming out now.
Samples of old music have started come in as well, Afro beats have started to shine. There’s this new thing called Awesome Tapes from Africa, they gone back to all these old recordings from Ghana, Nigeria and other countries and now they’re re-publishing them in the UK and America. There’s a festival called Field Day and they’ve asked musicians from Africa to come and play in London. Those guys probably think “I recorded that twenty years ago in my bedroom, are you sure?” But they’re famous now!
In connection the the last question, you recorded your latest album around different continents. Did travelling influence your sound?
Gary and Simon: It did but it happened in an organic way, we didn’t travel to Africa to make African music. It was the little things in daily life that influenced us. Like we would get into an old taxi with a bad stereo and it would cause an organic distortion. So we picked up on little things and started to record them on our phones instead of consciously doing afro-beats. As an example we used the turnstile of the metro in Mexico City and used it as percussion in a song.
I guess we also did this because we didn’t have a lot of time from our gigs, so we would start recording our new material while we were on the road. Like in China and Mexico, instead of going all the way back home we’d rent a house after the gig and record fort he next couple of days.
Of course the good thing was that the songs don’t specifically sound like a country because you’d start off writing a piece in Mexico and end up finishing it in China.
Becoming a musician is a rather risky job, as it offers no guarantee of success. What should one do to carry on with their career instead of quitting?
Dom: I think a lot of people don’t make the distinction of being popular and being important and if your only aim is to be popular it’s not going to really last you. So it’s a lot to do with luck. The other thing is to not concentrate on the number of hits you’re getting. You might not think you’re doing well but I know a lot of great bands that are influenced by some really cool underground acts. Of course the other thing you should do is always question what you’re doing so you can change in a better way.
Gary: I think the best thing to do is just not worry about it, keep on doing what you’re doing. Like we were wanted to play three gigs in the UK, but we were also asked to play in Mongolia. So we went Mongolia and because of the correct decision we travelled to amazing places around the globe.
The Turkish music stage has taken a hit because of the recent attacks and big bands tend not to come over here. What made you come over here?
Kirstie: Anything can happen anywhere these days, a huge attack could happen in England, you never know. The problem is that we read everything that the media wants us to read. They scare people! At the start of the year we did a gig in Beirut, just after the attacks, and we took stage in Fukushima just after the events.
Dom: People just listen to what they want to here, you have to shut yourself out to the scaremongering. We don’t want to fuel this scaremongering of terrorism.
Simon: You’re more likely to get killed by a shark than a terrorist, so why not come?
As a Brit I can say that the one thing I will always miss when abroad is a Pint and Fish & Chips. Would you agree with me?
Gary: On the way here, Dom stopped and got Pie & Chips at a service station. But for me roast dinner I guess. It’s just classic isn’t it?
Kirstie: Full English!
Simon: I guess because we travel a lot, we always miss the food we ate from the country we were last in. Like I’m missing Italian food at the moment and in a couple of days I’ll miss Turkish food.
Thanks to Gary, Simon, Dom and Kirstie for taking the time!