William Phillips didn't know he was a homebody when he chose the name Tourist. It wasn't until he took his debut album, U, on the road last year that the London DJ and producer grasped the reality of life as a touring musician. "It can be awfully sad and disorienting," he tells NPR, citing homesickness, insomnia, anxiety, and an unshakable feeling of disbelief. "You're inside the fairy tale, and it's not quite what you imagined, and you don't know when it ends. It's a lot on a person."
But Phillips, long a wizard behind the curtain for acts like Jessie Ware and Sam Smith, kept it together by forcing himself to write constantly — in dressing rooms, hotel lobbies, festival trailers, and more than a few Ubers. His new EP, Wash, is a warm collection of found sounds and field recordings that he stockpiled along the way and mixed into four high-gloss, electro-pop singles. "Sleepwalking," his latest, is a vivid meditation on his out-of-office mental state, somewhere between happy and sad, asleep and awake, lost and found. Directors Sophie Littman and Saman Aminzadeh give it a whimsical treatment in the music video, which you can watch first on NPR.
The song begins with the sound of two birds singing to each other, a tender moment Phillips captured one morning on a pit stop in Los Angeles. From there, it's all digital, a slow surge of synthesizers and twinkling, Animal Collective-inspired drums that build on each other with each bar. The vocals, pitched-up toplines from Swim Mountain and Esther Joy, are used for rhythm and texture rather than melody. And the nearly indecipherable lyrics exist to drive momentum rather than shape a storyline. "Every ingredient serves the crescendo," he says. "For me, it captures that feeling of happy and sad." Eventually, the vocals blur together, mirroring the two birds from the beginning. "I wanted it to feel like listening to a choir, like one strange voice that's the sum of many."
Wash comes out Oct. 27 on Monday Records.