Interview: Banda de Turistas, Psych-Pop From The Heart

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Twitter: @Kiddieriot

Like bands used to do in prehistoric days, Banda De Turistas have been accumulating a big following by playing heartfelt songs and touring their asses off. The Buenos Aires quintet have done spectacularly for themselves, releasing four full length albums since 2008 and appearing on international festivals’ lineups. It’s just a matter of time before the band’s sixties psych-influenced pop rock reaches your ears. We spoke with guitarist Luis Balcarce and drummer Guido Colzani in the wake of the Northern Hemisphere release of their latest EP, Lo Que Más Querés.

Tell us a little bit about Lo Que Más Querés.

Luis Balcarce: It’s already been released in Argentina, but comes out June 17 in Mexico. It’s our fourth album and we’re very happy with the results; it’s a labor that took us many months. It features 10 songs and two producers, one of them is Tuta Torres [Babasónicos], our dear friend who produced our first album in 2008. He produced eight of the 10 tracks; the other two were done by Juanchi Baleiron, an Argentine producer and member of Los Pericos. It was a great musical gathering because we could really bring out the essence of the band, with a fresh side of us. [We wanted] to make people dance, to bring it to a more physical territory. The first single “Química” was a great success– it was a number one song on Argentine radio for 10 consecutive weeks, and that gave us a big push. It’s a great moment for the band; we’re really happy.

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Creatively, what were your challenges?

Luis: Yeah. We wanted to take our ideas to the furthest limits. There was a lot of collaboration between the five members of the band, and of course with our producers. I think that people have been noticing because they already have been able to listen to the album through Deezer and Spotify. You can see a…bubbling excitement. It’s going to help us play all over the place.

You’ve already toured across a lot of countries, but it seems like you’ve especially taken a liking to Mexico. Where does this affinity come from?

Luis: When we started playing music, we were really young; we were 18 and 19 years old when we released our first album, even though we’d already put out an EP called Cóctel de Instantáneo, which was really different. The first album was magnetic, and it triggered a lot of things for us, even over in this part of the world 12,000 kilometers away from home. Since people in Mexico are really curious about new bands, the people who organize the Vive Latino festival invited us to play and even gave us a really good time slot. We hadn’t been outside of Argentina much, so being able to go out of the country to play our music, at only 20 years old…

Guido Colzani: It was the first time we had been outside of Argentina!

Luis: That’s what I’m saying. As musicians, we hadn’t played outside our country, and we also hadn’t been out much with our families. Our opportunities to travel have come from music. Anyway, we were playing at Vive Latino, at 6 o’clock in the afternoon, with people singing along to Banda De Turistas’ songs, and the album hadn’t been out yet. You could only hear it online.

Guido: We even had to borrow instruments. Our bass player had to borrow a bass from Javier Zuker, the Argentinian DJ. A ‘68 Fender, no less.

Luis: We didn’t have instruments at that point. I had a half-broken Epiphone [guitar]…but we even had the chance to book a small show in Colombia on our way to Mexico and it was great. That’s when the lightbulb clicked on. We decided that we were going to dedicate ourselves to music, and we had to give everything to it because bands like us, that start as an underground thing after meeting in school– it’s sometimes difficult to keep going financially-speaking because it doesn’t pay off that well. It’s not easy. We saw that Mexico had a great circuit of bands we could play with, and we could learn a more professional way of doing stuff. It’s been amazing.

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How has it been working with Tuta for so many years?

Luis: It was great…well, we’ve never stopped seeing him because he’s a dear friend of ours. But it was great, I think we re-lived that unconsciousness and craziness of our first album. Back then we didn’t know anything…not that we know a lot more now [chuckles]. We got together every afternoon until night time [to record]. We built a studio together.

Guido: We were professional but we were also relaxed because we had a place to work as long as we wanted, at any time we wanted, and with any instrument we wanted. We tried new things…

Luis: It deeply influenced the record. You can’t impose anything on anyone, each person has to develop his personal approach. So maybe we didn’t go to a super-mega studio, instead we did it at home with our own gear that we’ve been buying on our trips; second-hand vintage stuff so we can have the best analog and digital equipment. The recording is very high quality, and we mixed it in a professional studio.

When we started, we just wanted to make music; there was no set goal for us. Now, we want to keep doing it and tour around the world. But I think that the music needs to keep a certain level of ingenuity because that’s what captivates the listener…when you decide to dedicate yourself solely to making music, that’s a challenge because there’s no structure, nothing is explained to you. You throw yourself into the pool, and so far we have been able to swim alright.

Guido: Without a lifesaver, for now. At some point we might need to ask for it, but for now we’re swimming fine.

Who knows? Maybe a yacht will come along…

Guido: Yeah! Maybe the yacht from “The Wolf Of Wall Street” will come along.

To me, an outsider, Argentina seems like a large country full of talent but it’s also a tight-knit scene; everyone knows each other and collaborates with one another. Has this been true for you?

Guido: What happens in Argentina not only happens there, it happens in many places around the world. Soda Stereo, Charly [García], Fito [Paez], [Luis Alberto] Spinetta– all of these projects happened when the scene wasn’t as big as it is today. There’s a ton of music now in Argentina, a ton bands and genres. There’s always been camaraderie; we don’t believe in dividing people by musical genre. We like music and that’s it. We don’t care if it’s ska, punk, reggae, rap, or rockabilly, we believe in the power that music gives us.

Luis: We get along with a ton of people from different bands, and we admire a lot of them. We don’t care if they play mainstream or commercial music; I don’t even really understand what those words mean, to be honest…

Guido: It’s a new genre. “What do you play? Commercial.” “Oh right, I play punk.” “Oh!”

Luis: It doesn’t matter if they play in a huge band or an underground one. We care about the music. If you ask us what what we love, it’s to be considered successful and also as artists. Why hate the ones that sell well?

Guido: We’re in 2014– it’s stupid to be using words from 30 or 40 years ago to classify music, speaking to whether or not it sells, or if it’s meant to be commercialized or not. It hurts the music. We should only talk about the music.

Luis: We shouldn’t limit it. Take Gustavo Cerati, for example. He used to sell a ton of tickets but his art was amazing; that’s why we respect him. Babasónicos, they sell a lot of records and their art is amazing. Same with Zoé.

Guido: It can be done, so why make it a drag?

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In your song “Delivery De Milagros”, the riff reminds me of The Zombies’ “Time of the Season.”

Luis: It’s a tribute.

Guido: We’re huge fans of music from the ’60s and ’70s. We think it’s great that we, as a young band, can play something from that time period, an amazing pop sound. It was the time to do it. Some people don’t know The Zombies. It’s up to the listener’s knowledge to judge if it sounds like them.

Luis: Also, at this point in time, sometimes it’s okay to take elements from others and make them your own. If you read and research, you’ll find that some of the best ideas from the world’s greatest thinkers have been taken from someone else and they have been upfront about it. We’re always trying to learn from other musicians…we did it unconsciously on the demo, and when we noticed it, we called it out.

Recently, Álvaro Henríquez from Los Tres told me that one of their songs is similar to a track by the Smiths. So, when [Smiths guitarist] Johnny Marr played in Chile, the journalists would play him the song and they would ask him if he thought they stole a song from him. And he told them, “It’s a great song, I love it. What’s the problem?”