Last December, an unassuming but polished young man stepped onto the stage at L.A.’s Lyric Theatre and slowly, before a crowd of about 50-60 people, single-handedly built a live electronic soundscape rooted in house music but firmly thrust into the future. Soon it became clear: Those witnessing this dance-inspiring production would be telling their friends about how they heard Tourist first, before he blew up.
Now, Tourist, the alias of producer and self-taught pianist William Phillips, returns stateside with a few more releases under his belt (including single “I Can’t Keep Up”) for a proper tour that kicks off at Brooklyn’s reputed Output on March 10.
As with Disclosure, a Tourist performance is a live production, not a DJ set. And like Disclosure’s Guy and Howard Lawrence, Phillips is in his early 20s, and too young to have enjoyed the heyday of UK house music’s first wave in actual nightclubs, though it still became a key musical influence.
“You know a venn diagram," Phillips asks. "My left circle would be electronic music and the right circle would be emotions, atmosphere, honesty. It’s not straight up dance music. It’s maybe influenced by the fact that I always played the piano when I was a kid. I just experienced dance music as a kid who listened to it and heard it in a completely different way. So it’s dance music for people who don’t like to dance.”
Phillips’ work first came to broad attention in the US last summer when he signed to Disclosure’s then-brand new Method Records and he released a string of remixes for indie bands Haïm and Chvrches as well as his friend Sam Smith. While he previously released two EPs of his own, the zeitgeist behind house-inspired electronic music had to yet to materialize until mid-2013, affording Phillips a certain degree of freedom through anonymity.
“It’s quite a nice position to be in,” says Phillips. “I can do what I want, nobody has any expectations of what my sound is. There’s something dangerous about getting big because you make your success on certain defining records. Early on you can be risky and I always want to be risky."
Phillips cites influences like LTJ Bukem, Roni Size and Destiny’s Child (“‘Bills Bills Bills’ is the most audacious pop record that I’ve heard,” he gushes), and talks about the world of UK garage and drum’n’bass as being a bedroom headphone escape for him as a kid growing up. While he seems utterly at home on stage (his slightly awkward dancing behind the nobs and keyboards is not only endearing but comforting to an audience who is equally unsure how to dance), it’s clear that Phillips has no problem holing away in his studio either. Tourist is the result of a millennial music geek gone wild.
An EP, “Patterns,” had been scheduled for release late last year, but it was pushed to April 2014 allow Phillips time to tour more first. With several dates at SXSW and appearances at festivals like Ultra, Sasquatch, Movement and Governor’s Ball, he’ll have an opportunity to reach the as-yet unconverted, like his brethren in the UK house revival have before him – not that Phillips sees himself as part of a scene.
“I don’t feel like anyone really knows me,” he admits. “I feel like an outsider most of the time. I never meant to be, it’s kind of a weird self-fulfilling prophecy.”
Despite how he feels, his relationship with his friends-turned-label bosses Disclosure and forthcoming collaborations with Sam Smith and Jimmy Napes position him as part of a trend, as surprising as that might be for a bedroom producer.
“I’ve never been someone to go out and go clubbing and get really mashed,” he confesses. “I listened to club music in my bedroom to get away from my three sisters who didn’t want to play video games with me.”
Tourist’s US tour starts in March. His “Patterns” EP comes out on Monday Records in the US on April 22.
Tourist Tour Dates:
3/10 - Brooklyn, NY @ Output (Annie Mac presents)
3/12 - Austin, TX @ Empire Control Room & Garage (Gov Ball x Eventbrite)
3/12 - Austin, TX @ Waller Creek Boathouse (Soundcloud SXSW)
3/13 - Austin, TX @ The Blackheart Bar (Hide & Seek Showcase)
3/14 - Austin, TX @ 219 West (The Air Up There)
3/14 - Austin, TX @ Hype Hotel
3/15 - Austin, TX @ Holy Mountain (Laneway Festival Party)
3/15 - Austin, TX @ The Blackheart Bar (AM Only Showcase)
3/16 - San Francisco, CA @ Folsom 1015
3/17 - Santa Ana, CA @ The Observatory
3/18 - San Diego, CA @ Bang Bang
3/21 - New Orleans, LA @ BUKU Music & Art Project
3/22 - Chicago, IL @ Schubas Tavern
3/24 - Washington, DC @ U Street Music Hall (w Classixx)
3/25 - Philadelphia PA @ Boot & Saddle
3/27 - Miami, FL @ Grand Central (HARD Miami w/ Boys Noize etc)
3/29 - Miami, FL @ Ultra Music Festival
4/09 - London, UK @ Basing House
4/12 - Nottingham, UK @ Stealth
4/25 - Rome, GA @ Counterpoint Festival
5/23 - George, WA @ Sasquatch Festival
5/24 - Winchester, CA @ Lightning in a Bottle Festival
5/26 - Detroit, MI @ Movement Electronic Festival
6/06 - New York, NY @ Governors Ball Festival