Tocaio Interview: “I Get Lost In Recording And Arranging For Hours”

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tocaio interview

Debut Album Pointillism  Out This Autumn/Winter.

As soon as we read the term ‘organic electronic’ Overblown was intrigued. Probably due to our love of oxymorons but also as a result of years of listening to wonderful artists that meld the organic with the electronic seamlessly like Helios, and Jon Hopkins. ‘Organic electronic’ is the term that Austin, Texas native Carlos Ramirez uses to describe the music he creates as Tocaio. The music is a soothing and wonderfully ambient affair incorporating field recordings of crackling fires, delicate beats along with live instrumentation. In parts, it sounds like Vangelis with a soul.

Carlos took some time to talk to us all about his upcoming debut LP as Tocaio, his song writing process, and how his life in Austin inspires his musical creations.

Overblown: You call your music organic electronic. What is interesting for you in mixing the organic with electronic?

Carlos Ramirez: I think it’s really fun to play around with the idea of “organic electronic” because the term itself sounds like an oxymoron. I feel that a lot of people associate electronic music with heavy synthesizer / drum machine and computer use, not that I don’t use those tools, but I try to incorporate those elements along with an assortment of acoustic instruments as well.

The computer, for me, just ties everything together for the purposes of live performance and recording. When I first started out creating electronic music, I sampled heavily but have since moved to playing and recording everything myself. So, although the music is electronic in nature, I feel that “organic electronic” is a more fitting term for Tocaio’s sound.

O: You’ve just released your latest track ‘Indigo’. For me, there is something wonderfully nocturnal about the track. Could you tell us a little bit about the inspiration for the track?

CR: It’s funny that you describe the track as “nocturnal” because that’s essentially how Indigo came to be. At the time, it must’ve been about late March or early April, I was working a job that required me to wake up at odd hours. I remember taking my “lunch break” which would usually be around 5 or 6 am, and just trying to get some extra sleep in my car.

A lot of the times, I would be parked with a perfect view of the sunrise. In those moments, I would always get these melodies stuck in my head that I hadn’t written yet. ‘Indigo’ was one of those melodies. Working on the track was very straightforward. It has the least amount of production from the collection of songs on the record so it didn’t take me too long to create. Something about the way it turned out though, made me feel like there didn’t need to be anything extra or over the top about the way it sounded.

O: Where does the name Tocaio originate from. Is it Portuguese?

CR: Tocaio comes from the Spanish word tocayo, which is a phrase used when two individuals share the same name. Tocaio was originally known as “Tapes.” The intention behind Tapes was to just create simple production tracks as a way to destress. After awhile though, some of our friends found the music and wanted us to play live more. We did and eventually cut an EP. At that time, we started noticing how many other bands were called “Tapes” already. It was a hard call to make, but the name had to be changed. I thought “tocayo” was fitting because of our situation. The off-spelling of the word just makes it a lot easier for friends to find our music online.

O: I see you are from Austin, Texas. Does the city or your background affect the music you create in any way?

CR: Absolutely. Austin is a really great city to be a musician in. There’s so much talent, positivity, and collaboration that flourishes throughout Austin. That support system has affected my music entirely. Like I said, Tapes/Tocaio wasn’t meant to be heard by anyone but myself, but because of the support system from my friends, I began taking the project seriously and tried putting it out there. I don’t think I would be where I am today if I hadn’t decided to move to Austin, and I’m sure my sound would be a lot different too.

O: What is your songwriting process? It sounds to me like there are field recordings involved?

CR: I’m really fascinated with loops and how you can build a song around one or two loops. That’s usually my first starting point. After I create a loop, whether it’s on a guitar, Rhodes, synth, or Kalimba, I begin picking out other sounds I think would match the tone or vibe of the song. From there, I focus mainly on melody, and the rhythmic section will fall into place naturally. For the first time, I began programming drums and playing acoustic drums for the purpose of this record. That changed the writing process for me because I think it allowed me to focus on the song as a whole, instead of trying to build the music around drum samples, which is what I used to do.

When I start vibing with a track, I can get lost in the recording and arranging of it for hours. I’ll usually spend about 12 – 13 hours in my room figuring out how to build sections of a track, and then realize that a lot of time has gone by, haha. Field recordings is something I enjoy doing, and something I picked up from film school. These days, we all have access to very high quality microphones right in our pocket, so when I find myself in nature, I take my phone out and start recording. It’s sort of like an audible diary, in a sense. Now, I have a whole library of field recordings, and they’re always fun to throw in to help build the ambience of a track.

O: Do you have plans to release an EP or and LP at this point?

CR: I will be releasing an 11 track album (9 originals, 2 remixes), titled Pointillism, later this fall, if not early winter. I will definitely release another single or two before that point though.

O: How has the music you’ve created been received live?

CR: I think seeing Tocaio live is an entirely different experience than hearing Tocaio on a record. In a live setting, Tocaio is a lot more upbeat. The set usually involves a live drummer. I run around switching off between bass, guitar, synthesizer, and live programming. It’s very hectic, but fun to watch. In Austin, Tocaio has been received really well when it comes to our live performance. This fall, we plan to take our live show out on the road for a fall tour, so we’ll see how other places receive the performance.

O: What is your favourite record of 2016 and why?

CR: I’ve been vibing to No Reality by Nosaj Thing a lot this year. I feel like the darker undertones really coincide with my nocturnal work and sleep schedule, haha.

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