INTERVIEW: Thomston

Finding comfort in the dreamy, vulnerable moments of life, Thomston has become an avid storyteller with a big heart. The New Zealand singer-songwriter is finally releasing his double sided EP ‘En Route London/Los Angeles’ on October 18 which is promised to be an emotional and cathartic experience.

His new single ‘Casual’ is a polished reflection on modern day dating and the idea that casual relationships are feasible. The reality for most people is that they don’t work, and Thomston beautifully and bluntly explains why during the chorus. “Because it’s hard to keep it casual when a heart’s involved, you know”. Layering the bright pop production with honest truths, there is a gradient contrast that immediately stands out. 

I recently chatted to Thomston about the light and shade moments behind his new single ‘Casual’, how now feels the right time to be authentically himself and we discuss the expensive side of touring and how he envisions his upcoming Australian tour. Check it out HERE; 

TB: Your new single ‘Casual’ is an atmospheric pop track that really compliments some of the production of your previous tracks like ‘The Heights’. So with your artistic vision, is the gradient contrast of light and shade something that has become important to you because I feel like there is a euphoric sentiment of hope shadowed with a deeper vulnerability within this track? 

T: I feel like that definitely hits the nail on the head. When I started writing these songs I wanted to write something that felt sonically good to listen to. I wanted it to be upbeat, I wanted to move people, but at the same time I find it really hard to write happy songs. It’s not that I’m an unhappy person *laughs*, I think the difficulty stems from trying so hard to not make it sound cheesy. 

It’s really hard to make a track that feels good that doesn’t feel like a jingle. So I find a good mechanism for me to make songs that make people feel good whilst also making songs that have a cool feel to them, needs to have a darker theme. And however I can make that sound fun is the challenge I like to set myself. 

TB: The lyrics “It’s hard to keep it casual when our heart’s involved, you know” very simply and honestly embodies the essence of the battle of wanting true love within the modern-day dating norms. Has this been something you’ve been struggling in your own personal life, or was it more a commentary on society as a whole?

T: I think it’s a bit of both. I wouldn’t say it’s something I’ve been really struggling with but I was with someone who we were doing the whole causal thing for a while. Instead of it panning out that way, I started to realise I was getting my feelings in the way. She would make me jealous and I would have a really strong response to that. It was really interesting.

The whole dating thing online and seeing each other in person is strange. Our baseline is online and then seeing each other in person is kinda this special future, which wasn’t the way it was before the internet. I think it makes very interesting inter-personal relationships and moments. 

TB: With ‘Casual’ having a romantic and hopeful touch to it, how did it all come together from the writing session to the recording and the finalising moments?

T: I wrote it in Sydney with Taka Perry who is a young little wonder-kid! He works really, really fast. We wrote two songs in the day that we wrote ‘Casual’, and that song was the one that just stood out to me from the session.

From there I took it home and changed up the vocals and the drums a little, and I took it to my friend Micah Japser, who has been kinda overseeing the entire record. He made it just way bigger and then we took it to a mixer called Sam Cohen who made it even bigger.

I listened to the first demo and the final master side by side the other day and it made me laugh because they were so drastically different. It was so cool to hear the way it had evolved. I think it’s so interesting because in the writing process you fall in love with these songs and you start to slowly fall out of love with them over time. I’ve had this amazing process where I’ve worked with these amazing people who have helped me keep falling in love with the tracks over and over again. 

I wrote ‘Casual’ over two years ago, so to hear it in it’s entire form two years later is a really rewarding experience and it’s really cool and rare that I still love it. 

TB: ’Acid Rain’ was one of my favourite releases of 2018, it just captivated me as a listener with its vulnerable storyline of knowing you had to let someone go and with it’s dreamy production it was so atmospheric. Another element of that song which was so captivating was the gospel elements. Where did that influence come from and did you know that you wanted to take that song to that sonical place early on in the process? 

T: Yeah I did! I grew up in church with my family and I have a love for choral based, hymn and gospel music, where the human voice is used to it’s absolute maximum capacity with harmonies and alternating melodies. It’s a really intricate and beautiful thing.

I just found that I loved ‘Ultralight Beam’ from Kanye West and hearing the gospel choir used with some slightly more left field production really struck a chord with me. So from the get go of writing ‘Acid Rain’ I knew I wanted to take it there. And it’s actually just me and one of my friends yelling hundreds of times into a microphone and it ended up sounding like a gospel choir which was really sick. 

TB: You’re releasing two EP’s titled ‘En Route’ with two parts ’London’ and ‘Los Angeles’ on October 18, which you’ve broken up to distinguish two different moods and environments. So how would you describe the two distinctive moods of the EP’s?

T: I kinda just think Los Angeles is extroverted and London is quite introverted, and I felt those two moods really blend themselves to the different soundscapes. Los Angeles is the big moments like ‘Acid Rain’, ‘Casual’ and ‘The Heights’. It’s got brash guitars, loud percussion and anthemic and gospel elements throughout. Where as London is darker. ‘Lightweight’ is actually on the London side but that’s definitely the brightest and poppiest track on that side. Everything is very angular, dark and there’s a lot of synths that are more interesting and moody.

It was really cool with how it all came together because I had the track ‘Los Angeles’ for a while and I knew I was definitely putting it out but I wrote this other track and it really felt like London to me. It was really dry and had The 1975 influenced synths and everything was super dark and grungey. It really felt like London to me and at the time I was really struggling with categorising the songs that felt coherent but then it hit me. I felt like these songs could very nicely be split between these two different side and moods. 

TB: Before the announcement of this project you addressed that some of these songs are about girls and some are about guys. So why was the transparency surrounding this release important for you to clarify? 

T: It was something that had been weighing on me and it was something I had been wanting to say but didn’t know how to say it in a way that wasn’t capitalising on what sexuality has become as a currency, especially in music. I know people who work in the industry for blogs and magazines and they get pitches for artists that say “the new queer artist” etc and for them to receive it they just roll their eyes and think that it feels exploitative and I was very wear of that. 

I probably thought way too far into it, I could’ve just said it earlier but I found that I over thought myself into a little hole. So I just decided to rip the bandaid off and try get across how I feel about it. And the way that people will receive it, is what it is. 

TB: You’re returning to Australia this September for a run of headline shows. So with these shows coming up in the pipeline and the new music abut to drop, how have you gone about establishing how your live show will look, sound and feel?

T: Honestly, and this is the real, real side of it, I’ve scaled down my show to just one person because touring is so expensive and I want to be able to do not just Australia and New Zealand but also do Europe and America. I’ve done Europe before and it’s just so expensive. 

I felt really bad about not touring as much as I would’ve liked to in the past, but I couldn’t really tour ‘Topograph’ because it was just too sad *laughs* but coming into these new EP’s I realised that this material was very tour-able. 

I have a pretty strong idea with how I want it to look and feel like. I want it to just feel like the opposing sides of the EP and I want it to really come across in the live setting with all the visuals and sounds. 

I’m going to split the show into two parts to represent London and Los Angeles and I’ve found the songs in my previous discography that nicely fit into those categories. So I’m really excited to show people the show I’ve been building for them. 

TB: Let’s play a little game of rapid fire questions where I’m going to ask you some questions that you just need to answer with the first thing that comes to mind…

T: Let’s do it!

TB: My pre-show pump up song is…

T: Superstar by Jamelia

TB: I love that, that was my go to Singstar song!

T: That is the ONLY Singstar song *laughs*

TB: The emoji that best describe my new single ‘Casual’ is…

T: The shrugging emoji

TB: Pineapple on pizza is…

T: Wonderful! For the refined palate 

TB: When I think of Australia I think of…

T: I think of snakes, but I love snakes so that’s a good thing

TB: Sometimes I Wish I Could

T: Teleport. All the time!! 

Thomston Australian Tour 

Thursday 19 September – The Lansdowne, Sydney

Saturday 20 September – Workers Club, Melbourne 

Sunday 22 September – Black Bear Lodge, Brisbane 

En Route London and Los Angeles out 18 October 

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