English songwriter, producer and multi-instrumentalist William Phillips’s music as Tourist is aptly named. For the past decade, he’s taken a solo journey across electronic music in search of the perfect beat.
Growing up in London and Cornwall, he fell in love with rave music played on pirate radio transmissions and club sound systems: Daft Punk, The Chemical Brothers and Goldie turned him onto a whole new world. And later, as his own musicality developed, he gravitated towards the melodies of house and synth pop, which have shaped the Tourist sound.
Across several EPs, he’s remixed a striking variety of artists; from Christine and the Queens to Churches and Deftones, to Wolf Alice, Swedish House Mafia & The Weeknd; Sofia Kourtesis, Flume and Caroline Polachek. After winning a Grammy Award in 2015 as a co-writer for Sam Smith’s massive hit single ‘Stay With Me’, he released four albums as Tourist - 2016’s U, 2019’s Wild and Everyday, and 2022’s Inside Out - all on Monday Records.
During the coronavirus pandemic, the death of a close friend and the birth of his daughter changed his life. To express his interlocking grief and joy, he made Inside Out, a tender, uplifting album of swinging garage grooves, chunky bass, and French filter house melodies. And when he hit the road once again - touring the UK and Europe as a headline act, and as a support act for Bonobo - he had a revelation.
“I love that the people who come to my shows do so not for my brand new album, but for what their idea of my music is,” he says. “I realized that each album in my career is the chapter of a book; some are more interesting than others, but you only know how interesting they are when you finish them.” And so, in 2023, he releases his next chapter.
Tourist’s fourth album, Memory Morning, is due for release on Monday Records in early to mid 2024. Made with the same, simple home set-up he used during the pandemic - an OP1 synthesizer, a laptop, a smartphone - Memory Morning moves away from explicit autobiography and towards a mood-based, instinctive style of electronic song-writing and composition.
Drawn to the lush strangeness of shoegaze and psychedelic music - through his love of Slowdive and My Bloody Valentine, Cocteau Twins and Beach House - the collagist nostalgia of his “utter heroes” The Avalanches, and the award-winning 2022 film Aftersun, Tourist wrote Memory Morning in a stream of consciousness mode, focusing on scene-setting and the intensity of the private listening experience.
“Shoegaze hints at feelings and hides what it’s about; you want to swim around in those records,” he says. “And in Aftersun, I saw that we are just the sum of the stories that we tell about ourselves - and in a way, these stories are often wrong, and that we behave in certain ways because we believe our false memories.” Pulling these ideas together, “I wanted Memory Morning to be disorientating in the nicest possible way; to sound like a memory of the music you love.”
On ‘A Little Bit Further’, Tourist draws out 70s folk vocals into a subtle, rhythmic track; with sparkling synth lines and a blend of analog and digital drum patterns, it all crests to a wave of the nostalgic, ‘hug-your-friends’ style of melodic house ambience that’s become Tourist’s signature. Mark Fry’s “Song for Wilde” is the sample for A Little Bit Further, whilst he uses Grizzly Bear’s ‘About Face’ on ‘Second Nature’.
Elsewhere, tracks like ‘Second Nature’, ‘Light That Shines’, ‘Blink’, and ‘Lifted Out’ draw from a tonally sympathetic palette; string-and-piano riffs, harmonic vocal swells and fuzzy downtempo electronic beats melt into one another, allowing for an immersive listening experience. This is at the heart of Tourist’s latest chapter. “I’m attracted to repetition because that's the mood in itself - you can't escape it, look at it in a different way to think about it,” he says.
With Memory Morning, Tourist has traveled to a faraway point on his musical map, in his constant search for what the perfect song could be. He no longer makes tracks indebted to the rough ‘n’ ready dancefloor jams that defined his youth, designed for booming rave sound systems, but “wordless songs” inspired by his fond memories of them, for closer listening: “I want Memory Morning to be a place you go and visit often, and where you find new, little things in it every time you go