The men of Banda de Turistas want us to know that while they look like rock stars, and sound like rock stars, they certainly don’t act like rock stars. Literary and lofty though they may seem, this is a band of five equal members, whose dedication to making good music, plain and simple, is as refreshing as blasting their hit “El Rogadero” with the windows rolled down.
Much hyped at home in Argentina and all over Latin America, Banda de Turistas are now ready to prove that they are more than a buzzword in the U.S., with two shows in California next week: November 13th at San Francisco’s infamous Elbo Room, and the 14th at L.A. hipster hangout The Echo.
Expanding on, if not moving away from, their vintage-vibed debut, their first U.S. release combines the first album, the Latin Grammy-nominated Magical Radiophonic Heart and sophomore effort El Retorno, for a proper “intro to Banda de Turistas” experience. But despite the introduction, the band’s trippy lyrics, mod look, and deceptive youth keep Banda de Turistas a bit of an enigma. We spoke with guitarist/vocalist Tomas Putruele to unravel some of the mystery.
Well, Brooklyn seems to have more enthusiastic young people: lots of different backgrounds, lots of Latin people. We also loved Austin, Texas, when we played South by Southwest. We found the people there very openminded.
You’re a rather young group, and have the aesthetic of the classic rock idols of the ’60s. Would you say the band is generally well behaved on tours, or do you go wild on the road, like those rock stars might have?
We are very professional, I can say that, but we’re young people, we like to have a good time. But we’ve discovered that this is the thing we want to do for the rest of our lives, so we have to respect each other, and we have to play well. We don’t believe in that traditional rock attitude. It’s played out. Rock stars are no longer untouchable. In our band, no one is the star, no one is more important than the other. We are five. We are all important in the group, and it’s very democratic. We say to each other, ‘you bring an idea, we’ll work it.’ We can separate ourselves from the song we’re working on. We even have three lead singers.
So no pretensions, you stay true to your beginnings while moving forward.
Yes. Our first album, we didn’t go to a studio, we just recorded in our home. We sent those tracks all the way to London, to Mario [Caldato Junior, legendary producer] and he mixed them. If we can work, as a band from Argentina, with the number one producer, that’s a good sign for young bands coming out of Latin America.
I’ve heard the language you sing in described as “surrealistic Spanish.” Where is the inspiration for the lyrics—poetry? Literature?
We are readers. Bruno reads a lot of poetry, and we all tend to read esoteric books: alternative ways of understanding life, Asian philosophy. But we try to read everything. We also just write about what happens every day: what our friends do, what we do, the life we’re living here, every-day work, play, actions. We leave a lot up to the unconscious.
“WE STARTED WITH A VINTAGE SOUND BECAUSE
WE ONLY HAD ENOUGH MONEY FOR OLD INSTRUMENTS.“
What about the cool ’60s aesthetic—not just your sound, but the way you all look. Did one of you dress in that style first, or did you all implement it together?
It’s kind of a coincidence. Lots of things for us come from the unconscious. When we started out, we were listening to that era of music. We synthesized the first 40 or 50 years of pop. On the first record we released in the states we definitely have that ’60s sound, but we’re open to growing, letting ourselves change. Also, we started with a vintage sound because we only had enough money for old instruments.
We left it up to the director, making those. We didn’t have time to come up with stuff ourselves. It’s the vision they tend to have of the group. But we don’t want to be pegged as a retro band. We want to make the organic sound new.
Could it also be about presenting yourselves as foremost a live band?
In a way, but the video for “El Rogadero” is actually pretty modern. We just went out to a field near one of our houses, and played around. And in post, they messed with it so the frames cut into each other, so each image morphs into the next, pixilated. It’s not something I’ve seen before.
How would you describe the band’s genre then?
Pop of the future. We want to discover the new sound of the world, make the new classics. We want it to be actual in any year.
“WE DON’T WANT TO BE PEGGED AS A RETRO BAND.
WE WANT TO MAKE THE ORGANIC SOUND NEW.“
What bands did you admire growing up?
Rock Nacional is a very important influence, that sound is a soundtrack for us. It surprised us, actually, because when we were younger we were focused on bands like Pink Floyd and The Rolling Stones; U.S. music, the classics. When we got older, we discovered bands from Argentina, like Almendra…old Argentine bands.
What bands playing now do you think have a unique sound, the way you do?
There are local bands with the same spirit. They make a party of every gig they play. Internationally, Super Furry Animals have a great unique sound.
Have you played before with any of the bands you’ll be performing with in California next week?
We haven’t played with Pacha Massive before. Should be exciting. We’re touring with some Mexican bands we know soon, though. We love Mexico. We’ve made friends with a lot of bands there—new, cool groups.
The lineup next week includes some DJs, and the whole event should be quite a party. Will Banda de Turistas be hitting the dance floor after your set?
Probably. We have fun! We play each show like it’s the last show of our lives.