The members of the Argentina psych-pop quintet Banda de Turistas are at about the age when many of us are in a cap and gown, walking onto a stage to receive our university diplomas and wondering what we’re gonna do with our lives. But these artsy Argentines took another route and have instead spent their early 20s opening for Depeche Mode and Coldplay in 60,000-seat stadiums, touring multiple hemispheres and releasing their Stateside debut on the biggest U.S.-based Latin alternative label around. Not bad for a bunch of shaggy-haired kids with an affinity for crate-digging and waxing poetic about ’70s krautrock.
In the midst of a hectic SXSW, we invited Banda de Turistas to tell us about their album Macigal Radiophonic Heart (Nacional), as well as the Buenos Aires music scene and how they got into playing psychedelic ’60s-influenced pop-rock.
Tell me what the music scene is like where you guys are from.
Patricio Troncoso (keys): We have a huge history of rock music in Argentina. It seems like the ’60s, with bands like Los Gatos, Almendra, Color Humano—our country had almost like a huge generation of rock because it is a port city, so all the ships that came from England in the ’60s brought new albums from the movement of early rock ‘n’ roll.
Luis Balcarce (guitar): Generally, the rockers were friends of the sailors.
Patricio: From the beginning of rock ‘n’ roll, we (Argentina) were an exponent of rock ‘n’ roll but in Spanish.
Tomas Putruele (guitar/vocals): There are a lot of people that prefer rock music in Argentina.
I wondered, because you do have a very ‘60s British Invasion sound at times, and I know there are different sounds, too, with a little bit of ‘70s stuff in there.
Patricio: Yeah, we have like a big influence from the ‘60s sounds, as well as all the other sounds in rock history. We like to play one ‘60s album next to another dance album, next to another disco album, krautrock and electronic. So we have like a synthesized concept for the music. We are from a generation where we were born listening to all the music, not just to one part of the music. Some generations in the past, they liked one kind of band and they heard those bands only. We like all kinds of music.
You guys are pretty young. When did you start the band?
Tomas: Four years ago.
You were teenagers, right? How did you form the band?
Patricio: It was a mixture of bands because since we were like 11 or 12 years, we started playing music in separate bands. I played with him [points to Tomas]. Then we met with Bruno (Albano, bass/vocals). And they (drummer Guido Colzani and Luis) were playing at the same time in other bands when we were kids.
Luis: We met at the college. And then, since four years ago, we start playing together, mixing both bands. One band made a kind of experimental sound, trippy jams with kind of krautrock, kind of that sound. The other part of the band which was Bruno, Tomas and Patricio, and they did kind of pop, a synthetic sound. So then we get together and there is where Turistas start.
When you say “krautrock” you mean bands like Can and stuff like that.
Luis: Can or Kraftwerk…
How’d you get into those bands? This was before the internet was fast enough to download full albums easily.
Luis: Because when we were 14 we went to a park, a huge park in Argentina. It was called Parque de Centenario—Centennial Park—and collectors always told us “you have to listen to this” and they recommended some stuff.
Patricio: Future Days (Can album) was published in Argentina in the ’70s. So we have, like, the national edition of Future Days.
Cool, cool. And you guys just had an album, Magical Radiophonic Heart, come out in the States. From what I understand, it’s kind of a collection of previous material.
Tomas: Yeah, it’s a compilation of our first and our second album. The first album is called Magical Radiophonic Heart, like the compilation. And the second one is called El Retorno, or “the return.” We mixed the two albums and edited together this one.
When was the first one recorded and when was the second one recorded?
Luis: More or less, one year of difference.
Did the style change much in between?
Tomas: Yes. But they are really different in the sound and also in the concept, because when we started making the first album we didn’t have so many resources. So we couldn’t…
Patricio: Materialize what we were…
Tomas: We were not all together playing like a band. So we start recording just one instrument, then another and we were just making the songs in that way (tracking). In the second album, we discovered that we could play as a band and make…
Luis: Because of playing. Since we first release our first album, then we play a lot. And playing a lot makes you have the experience to improve on the way you record.
Gives you more confidence?
Luis: Yes. So then we just get into the studio knowing better what we wanted.
Patricio: Also, with the first album, we have a big—not a big, big, big, but like a good reception from the public and the press. So when we started to go to the second one we have the resources to go into a studio and make a more ambitious album.
You’ve had a very good reception, it seems like, even early on, winning awards and getting coverage in Rolling Stone Argentina. I think, if I understand right, kind of your first break was opening for Jarvis Cocker.
Patricio: That’s right. We were told that he was delivered like a list of bands from Argentina. So he…
Kind of listened to them all and then chose you?
Patricio: Yeah. Without having any record yet recorded.
Luis: Only had some instrumental tracks that sounds good, because what we first released was a free download EP album called Coctel de Instantaneo, which was the thing we had at MySpace at that moment. So he listened to that and he liked it and he said, “I would like them to be my opening act.” It was nice. It was a good experience.
Tomas: Between the two albums, we have the experience of playing with bands like The Hives. We also play for Keane, Kraftwerk and Radiohead. We had really a lot of shows in Argentina.
What kind of shows were you playing before these huge stadiums? Are there many small music venues in Buenos Aires?
Luis: We did the discos, the night parties and then the provinces of Argentina, small places, because in the provinces it’s more difficult to play. But then we had the opportunity tour over six counties: Uruguay, Chile, Peru, Mexico, Argentina and Colombia last year. So it was excellent for us because we had the opportunity to show our music.
Tomas: We know it’s a long path, but we like to play in every place that we can. And it’s great because we always see that there is one or two or maybe thousands that are singing the songs and enjoying the show. And it’s great for us. It’s what we like to do, and we know that it’s long path and we want to grow.
Patricio: Yeah. That is what motivates us. Like seeing one guy there or one girl completely out of his mind, singing the songs and dancing.
I know as a fan, that’s the most fun thing about a concert is losing yourself…
Patricio: Seeing yourself in the same place where you are, but you don’t know where you are.
Tomas: What we expect from the shows is to motivate the public all the time with stimulations. Like with music and visuals, also with lights. We think every part of the show is important. So what you see is…
Patricio: …it reaches physical stimulation at one point.
Your lyrics are surreal and playful. What kinds of things do you look for when writing lyrics?
Patricio: Like real situations translated to an unreal situation with our perception of reality, make a story and distort it.
Tomas: And also, the stories are not closed, so everyone can listen to them and interpret what they want about them. So maybe you could let your imagination flow and that’s when you give life to the song.
Patricio: Maybe we are telling your story.
So what is the message people should take from your music?
Patricio: To awake.