What makes a band interesting is growing and that’s what we’re trying to do: An Interview with A Banda de Turistas

By - 09 August, 2010

There’s no mistaking the influences of A Banda de Turistas from the first moment you hear their music. Their rich, keyboard-laden sound harks back to British bands such as Pink Floyd and Procol Harum, but repeated listens reveal there’s a lot more going-on, with occasional trips down the Autobahn, hints of New York’s No Wave scene as well as the undeniable stamp of Argentine rock. Their first US release came with Magical Radiophonic Heart (possibly nodding to the electronic experimentation of the BBC Radiophonic Workshop) in 2009, a compilation of earlier releases Magico Corazon Radiofonico and El Retorno. It highlights the sound of a band constantly searching for new sounds while also perfecting the art of the pop melody. It’s a juxtaposition that suits them well. I met with Luis from the band, their guitarist and also one of the lead vocalists.

What are you guys up to at the moment?
We are composing some new songs for the third record. Today we rented a place in the colonial part of the city, the older part of Buenos Aires which is called San Telmo. We have rented a place there and today we are rehearsing the songs. It’s a real nice neighbourhood because it’s old; colonial style with all the historic monuments. It’s nice, it’s cool. We have some gigs coming up soon, we are going to be in Salta, Tucuman, a beautiful place with plenty of mountains and valleys. We are also preparing a show in a well-known club in Buenos Aires [La Trastienda] where we have played several times before. There will be some special guests and we will be making a danceable set with each song seguing into the next one. It’s going to be a party set.

How did A Banda de Turistas start?
We started in 2006. We were a union of two different bands. We met in college where we were all friends. Patricio, Bruno and Tom had a pop band that sang pop songs in a good way of the word ‘pop’, like classic Bob Dylan, The Rolling Stones, The Beatles, classic stuff. Then, the drummer Guido and I had an instrumental band, really experimental with the influence of bands like the Silver Apples or the sounds of Argentine rock that were really interesting, and then also bands like Arthur Russell, kind of trippy sounds with some danceable rhythms. Then some experimentation like the German bands Neu, Van der Graaf Generator, Kraftwerk, Can and then we would play, for example, 30 minutes of jams. Then when we met we created a fusion of both sides, the songwriter pop with the sound of experimentation.

How did you come to work with Mario Caldato Jr on your first record (Magico Corazon Radiofonico)?
After we recorded the first album we were halfway through mixing it and we then decided to call Mario Caldato Jr., who’s a record producer in Los Angeles who we knew through his work with Super Furry Animals. For example, with Super Furry Animals we really liked the sound that he produced. We contacted him, told him we were from Argentina, South America, that we had no money, we gave him our music and he loved it. So he said give me some time to arrange my agenda and I will do it, and his work was incredible, and that was our beginning.

This seems to be a theme of recruiting well-known producers as Peter Mew (from Abbey Road studios) produced the second record El Retorno yeah?
We always have the need to be in contact with people in the world who like music that we also like, so I Monster [with whom they've also worked] or Mario C or the producer of our new album. We are always in the search for new sounds and trying to co-conspire with good people.

There’s a real retro sound to your music. Do you use a lot of vintage equipment?
We like the vintage sound, and so we use a lot of vintage equipment. We know that a lot of the bands that have a sound that we like used a lot of this equipment, with amplifiers, tape delay, valve stuff and those kind of big sounds. So we tried to use that equipment, but not for fashion, just for the sound.

What are your thoughts on the current state of music in Argentina? Do you think the country needs to step out of its rock traditions?
Argentina has always been characterised as a country of rock since the 60s. There is a lot of rock. For instance the first country to do rock with spanish language was Argentina. In Spain nobody was doing this so we have a lot of heritage. I think at the moment we are in something of a crisis.

Is there a scene for bands like your in Buenos Aires, making this experimental pop sound?
We are not part of a scene here in Buenos Aires. Weplayed everywhere and we developed our own fans. There are some other similar bands but the fact is that there is no scene here.

Earlier you mentioned the influence of some Argentine bands – care to recommend a few for us to listen to?
You should listen to Pescado Rabioso, Los Gatos, Manal, Virus – which is a really nice 80s group, then you also have Los Abuelos de la Nada (our article on Andrés Calamaro, the leader of this band is <a href=”http://www.soundsandcolours.com/articles/argentina/andres-calamaro-beyond-prolific/”>here</a>) – the grandfathers of nothing.

What are your plans for the future?
We are going to Mexico in October for the third time. When we’ve been before it was really great – we have a good fanbase there. We also did South by Southwest recently and generally are just trying to play as much as possible. We would like to go to Europe but the thing is we sing in Spanish. In Spain we are soon going to release our album and we hope to go there in 2011. We will also probably play in Peru at some time.

Is this the general objective of the band at the moment, to tour and travel around as much as possible?
The plan is to tour, to play, to have good music, good songs. I think that’s the objective of many bands, and that’s what makes a band interesting is to keep growing and that’s what we’re trying to do.

The album Magical Radiophonic Heart can be bought from Amazon or iTunes

Here is the video for A Banda de Turista’s latest single “La Hora del Segundo”:

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