’Tropics – Blame’

The “chillwave” movement has matured phenomenally in the last couple years with acts like Toro y Moi and Washed Out evolving their sound from lo-fi bedroom productions to beautiful and complex musical compositions. UK producer and vocalist, Tropics, has architected his own chillwave aesthetic that, true to its name, features a vibrant sensibility and deep sonic textures. On his debut album, Parodia Flare, Tropics put together a beautiful collection of colorful compositions and began experimentation with his voice, but his recently released follow-up, Rapture, feels like a true breakout project. With stripped down organic instrumentation and a newfound focus on vocals, Rapture proves a cohesive, deeply emotional and soulful project that reaches new depths without losing the glowing energy of its predecessor. We had a chance to catch up with Chris Ward, the mind behind Tropics, about his musical background and influences, the evolution of his sound and more. Check out the interview below and, if you like what you hear, head to iTunes to grab a copy of Rapture.

TMN: What was your first experience with making or playing music?

Tropics: The furthest back I can remember was this little early learning centre tape player with a microphone attached to it. It was really kid-like and colourful. I remember it having this weird echo which probably sounded quite cool. I used to record songs off the radio. Then my first memory of playing music was getting a drum kit at around 10.

TMN: You studied music in university and are a multi­-instrumentalist, right? How integral has that been in allowing you to bring your vision to life? Or do you feel like you’ve learned more from just from experience?

Tropics: I wouldn’t say I’m a multi instrumentalist, I’m a producer, who like most of us can play keys and a strum out a few jams on guitar, drums. I feel I’ve learned a lot from experience but some more theory and things about the industry when I studied music, but to be honest; I didn’t do a lot of studying, I just wanted to go to university with all my friends and have all the free time in the world to party, take recreational drugs, have lots of sex and make as much music as I could.

TMN: The colourful aesthetic in your music definitely brings some influences to mind. Who are some artists you grew up listening to that you feel continue to inspire you today? Any ones who’ve influenced you in unexpected ways?

Tropics: I think there’s influence from a lot of 90s electronica, in my sort of ‘go to textures and sounds’. My older brother played me loads of Leftfield, Massive Attack, Faithless and Underworld when I was around 11 or 12, which I ended up getting back into quite a lot at 16 and 17.

 I think one of the great things back then was that the Internet wasn’t so revolved around the music industry, or if it was, I wasn’t aware. So I’d get records/albums, without taking interest of reading into when they were released or how current they were . If I connected with it, I just connected with it and it became my new love affair. I feel I’ve lost this a bit ­or, a lot of us have, with the pressure to keep up with this quickly moving industry with 100 new flavours and artists coming through a month!

TMN: It’s really interesting to contrast Rapture with your debut album because it seems like your sound has really stripped down with more focus on the vocals. Can you talk a bit about your artistic evolution between those two projects?

Tropics: Yeah it was a different process really. I wanted to adjust my process to create a very vocal based album with stains of what I’d picked up with the first, remnants of that texture and colour. So with Parodia Flare I would create loads of thick ambience and melodies then get a really echoed-­up microphone and perform some distance vocal spiel over the top. With this album I would sit down at the piano, write the base melody and vocals on there then carry it through to my production software to develop it. I’ll probably try a new technique next, I’d like to go back to using guitar to make weird sounds.

TMN: The lyrics on Rapture stand out as somber creating a powerful juxtaposition with the warmth of your production. What was your songwriting process for the album and is that fusion something you were conscious of in creating the project?

Tropics: It was quite subconscious at the time but the chords I was playing sounded right, it was a feeling that opened my mind up to writing that on top of them. I just started singing / mumbling it then the words came quite quickly. Its a juxtaposition that represents the feeling well, its shouting for a change and feeling positive that it’s going to happen.

TMN: Through out your career thus far, you haven’t done too many collaborations. Given your sound, it seems like there would be room for your style in anything from hip- hop to alternative rock. Are there any contemporary artists that you’ve been listening to lately in any genre that you’d want to work with?

Tropics: Yeah there’s some hip-hop and rap artists I’d love to work with! I actually have a couple of these things in the pipeline. Some more psychedelic rock stuff too! I love so many different styles of music and feel its important to use my production and this project to introduce my fans to new genres and solid styles.

TMN: I can imagine a spectacular live performance with a full band coming from this album. Can you describe what your live set up is like? Are there some backing
visuals as well?

Tropics: Thank you! We’ve been working on it and its coming along nicely. I just programmed the lighting for our London show on March 11th. There’s three of us on stage; myself, guitarist and a live jazz drummer, but we all do a couple of different things. I don’t think this is an album that can just fit into any live venue of a saturday night, it’s something that needs to be nurtured and carefully planned live. We set up the show, evoke the right setting, ambience and feel of the album then invite you all to hear it how it should be heard.

TMN: On a similar note, your music seems to lend itself well to visual accompaniment, are you working on any music videos for Rapture and what’s your role in that process?

Tropics: Yeah so we’ve just put out the video for “Rapture” which is a heavily cinematic, British realism story filmed on 35mm. I’m currently planning more videos, I love the thought of some particularly cinematic and atmospheric sections of this album accompanying video.

TMN: 2015 has the makings of a big year for you. Anything else you’d like to let people know about that you’ve got coming up?

Tropics: I think i’ll keep my cards close to my chest but Im packing this year out with creative content alongside and following this album, it’s opening doors for me to explore all elements of being an artist and I’m very excited.

TMN: If an extraterrestrial came down to earth and asked you what music was, what song would you play them?

Tropics: I’d be sure to self promote! Haha, no I think I’d play them Jimi Hendrix or Bowie… And then sneak a copy of my album into the cargo hold before they return to their planet.

Special thanks to Tropics for taking the time to speak with us and, of course, for putting out some great music!

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