In a more predictable timeframe, NME reportedly spoke to Wave Racer on the occasion of his debut album possibly in 2016: a year or two after the future bassist and electro-pop artist capitalized on the momentum of his 2014 single ‘Streamers’ and his EP 2015 ‘Flash Drive’, both defined by a cheerful, neon-tinged bounce amid sparkling production and seemingly limitless drops.
But we are talking to Tom Purcell about ‘To Stop Falling From the Earth’ in 2021, almost a full decade in his career – including a few years where he was not sure he would continue to make music in his. as a Wave Racer. “I was trying to live up to my own standards, as well as everyone else’s,” the producer said of this period of stasis.
“By constantly trying to please everyone, it has become a bit of a mess for my sanity. I was quite young when this project took off – I was still living at home with my parents and was still enrolled in college. I was not prepared. I had to walk away, and there was certainly a time when I wondered a lot about the future. “
After three years in limbo, Purcell finally bounced back in 2019 with the slow-mo hyperpop single ‘AUTO’ (which also appears on the new album). He released it as the Wave Racer anyway, although he briefly considered changing his artist name to reflect a stylistic change from his earlier work. “It took me a while to figure out what my path would be,” he explains. “During that time I landed on the sound you hear now on this album.
“I decided it was time for me to start using my real instrumentation – using guitars, playing keyboards and ultimately incorporating my own vocals into my work. I took a risk doing this because I knew not everyone would be staying on board with this big stylistic change. So far, however, a lot of people have really supported us, which is a very pleasant surprise. “
“I no longer need to fill the space with a sparkling, pointed element. Now I can just say whatever I want with my voice “
The warm reaction to his new material also helped Purcell gain awareness of his work to date: people loved the music he made because he did it. “It wasn’t like I was creating music in a vacuum,” he said. “They liked the idiosyncratic elements of it and the injection of my own personality. For me to throw this out completely, it felt like it would [been] detrimental. “
For Purcell, playing guitar as a Wave Racer – as one hears on the colorful and upbeat single ‘Look Up To Yourself’ – meant going back to his first instrument: now 29, he first took a six-string at the age of 12, and put that aside after becoming interested in music production in high school. “It wasn’t until I left it behind – I had just discovered so much more,” he explains. “Once I got Ableton my producer brain lit up – I wanted to learn how the drums worked, I wanted to learn the keys, I wanted to create my own synth patches.
“Eventually, I wanted to see if the guitar still matched everything I had learned – and once I got it on, I knew it did. It’s another way of making exciting sounds: it’s something I’m good at and something I love to do.
Although Purcell had a long history with the guitar, he had never had one with vocals until this point. ‘AUTO’ largely enveloped her voice in robotic effects and AutoTune, but the human behind Wave Racer began to emerge more and more as songwriting progressed. When Purcell describes learning to add his voice to the Wave Racer Toolkit as “a learning curve,” he really means it.
“It took a long time,” he says. “Not only was I learning to record vocals, to interpret them correctly and to design them, but I also learned to write lyrics. Making sure that the voice I sang them with, the tone and the context were all appropriate. … These are the kinds of details in vocal performance that you don’t really think about, but are actually very important.
Developing the vocal side of Wave Racer was “probably the biggest hurdle in producing the album,” Purcell says. But he became a better songwriter because of it. “It was a huge fundamental change in the way I approached songwriting. The whole way you build a song changes, as I no longer have to fill the space with a sparkly, pointy element. Now I can just say whatever I want with my voice, and it’s a whole new level of songwriting.
“Never really exposing who you are becomes kind of a game, and that didn’t interest me at all.”
What did Purcell mean? In terms of lyrics, “To stop falling from the Earth” details “the process of maturing into your twenties,” he thinks. It’s often introspective and honest, as Purcell sings about his mental health issues and the end of his relationship. This open book approach is not always common in electronic music, where some of its greatest figureheads literally go faceless (Daft Punk, SBTRKT, Marshmello, Deadmau5), masking humanity with artifice.
“There is certainly a shield rising,” Purcell agrees. “It becomes kind of a game – never really exposing who you are – and that didn’t interest me at all. I was like, ‘if I want to put any lyrics here, they have to be taken from my own life experiences and the lessons I have learned in the last few years of my life.’ This album is about the important things I got out of it, but also about the struggles that went through this process.
“I had to destroy this barrier that I used to hide behind, being an electronic musician. It was basically being a destruction of the ego – the thing that protects my sense of well-being and my sense of self. I am brutally honest about things that I have been through that I think are worth sharing.
This is evident from the opening of “All I Can Do”, where Purcell describes his generation as “revolutionary cannibals” who “Take a picture with it / Then we let it burn”. Elsewhere, on the lover ‘Dreaming’, Purcell lingers in the wake of a failed relationship: “I’m drowning in dreams, if I’m honest“, he sings. “I have feelings that need to be ignored”.
Purcell was also inspired by The 1975, which is one of his biggest inspirations – to the point where he performed their song “It’s Not Living (If It’s Not With You)” on Like a Triple j’s version earlier this year.
This track appears on the 1975 album “A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships”, a record that Pucell considers “extremely revealing work”. “For me, I think their ability to weave honesty and irony in a convincing way is so hard to do. They do it with art and so well, ”he says.
“Matty Healy explained how he blossoms [on using] simplicity of form. People are not challenged by what they hear out loud, but the words he throws at them are quite confronting: he sings about opioid addiction, world wars, identity crises, climate change, all that. . He invites people to consume his message, but not blindly. I found it really inspiring – this particular album was kind of a way for me to shape and learn as I made my own discovery of myself.
It’s hard not to love “To Stop From Falling Off The Earth”, with its sticky pop melodies, crystal-clear production, and thoughtful Purcell lyrics. But any artist who embarks on significant sonic changes is bound to face detractors. What does Purcell say to those who just come after the drops, who might not want a side of introspection with their bangers? “Take it or leave it,” he replies.
“You can laugh at me, you can say it’s stupid, or embarrassing, or tearful. If you don’t like it, that’s fine. I just had to stop worrying about it. When I started doing that, I realized that everything I say on this album made sense. I can articulate the things I am trying to say, using the words I would use to explain it to a friend in a private conversation. I no longer hide behind anything.
Wave Racer’s “To Stop From Falling Off The Earth” will be released on October 29 via Astral People Recordings /[PIAS]