Thomas Purcell, the man behind Wave Racer, has given us some zesty bites to eat in our latest interview with him. October 29 saw the release of his iconic album To Stop From Falling Off The Earth, fusing pop-punk and electro with forlorn introspection. The album sounds happy, but reads sad - a display of the master craft and lyricism flaunted by Wave Racer. With each and every release, he's racing bigger and bolder waves, and this one conquers a monumental tsunami of musical fury. Get your reading goggles and strap yourself to the mast, because there's a storm comin', Harry. And we all best be ready when she does:
Loved the album. What have you been listening to recently? I’m curious to find out the music behind the man.
Thank you! Recently I’ve been listening to a lot of contemporary indie pop stuff – artists like Clairo, James Ivy, No Rome, Phoebe Bridgers, Holly Humberstone. I’m also loving the album ‘fishmonger’ by underscores, and a lot of the music being made by artists like umru, Aaron Cartier, 100 gecs and Swardy.
You’re originally from Sydney, but I heard you made the move from Sydney to Melbourne. What pushed you to make the journey?
Yes, I moved to Melbourne in 2016. There were a few factors that went into the decision to move. Most pertinent probably being my relationship at the time, which was long-distance between Sydney and Melbourne. So making the move made logical sense in that regard. In addition to that, I was moving out of home for the first time, and I wanted to live in a fresh environment, a change of scenery. And I also needed to have a place with enough space for all my music making stuff. Melbourne just felt like a much more financially realistic and sensible option on that side of things as well, as opposed to Sydney. On top of that, Melbourne is just an awesome city and a really vibrant and creatively stimulating place to be. So I decided to jump in the deep end and just make the move.
How long have you been working on the tracks on To Stop From Falling Off The Earth, and what was going on in your life during it all? I can tell a lot of time & craft went into these beautiful songs.
Some of the initial song ideas for the album go back to around 4 years ago, maybe more, but I’d say the majority of the songs came together from around 2018-2020. Those 2 years came after a very serious dip in my mental health and my subsequent recovery from that. The songs reflect that recovery and that change in my life. Primarily, what was going on in my life was a kind of identity reformation, stemming from relationship breakdowns, geographical relocation, maturing through my 20’s, and a personal creative renaissance that came as a result. It was a period of deep questioning, introspection, learning and growth. And those feelings are the main driving forces behind the songs on the album.
I noticed some songs, like ‘Better Than This’ & ‘Dreaming’ lead into each other & go hand-in-hand. Is there an underlying thread throughout the album tying them all together? Which themes did you want to tackle on this release?
There are several themes that tie songs together on the album, most notably I’d say a sense of self-awareness and the value of introspection exists on most of the songs. Of course each song has its own themes too, and each track serves a slightly different purpose, both musically and thematically. Most importantly, every song is pulled directly from my own observations about my life and the world I inhabit - and attempts to offer some guidance or critical feedback for others in the same emotional and psychological spaces.
The latest single ‘Money’ has just dropped, it’s certainly more jangly-guitar driven than preceding tracks. What can you tell us about this song? What’s it about? Could you give us a glimpse into your headspace during the songwriting process?
‘Money’ is a fantasy about my imagined self-destruction and ultimate demise. Going out in a blaze of glory, spending all my money and using up all my good fortune in one grand gesture. It started as a song about joining the 27 club, but then quickly became about something much more sinister, eventually admitting that if I ever had the misfortune of joining such an infamous club, that nobody would notice or care about my contributions. It stems from imposter syndrome and not knowing how to overcome it. I had convinced myself that there was no future for me, that my creative contributions had reached their peak and that my success had reached its limits. So ‘Money’ ended up being an ode to this realisation; turning this into a celebration and allowing my downfall to play out in the most explosive way possible. Of course, I didn’t want the song to feel sappy or depressing, and I wanted this theme to also be represented in the context of knowing how silly it all is, and knowing that by virtue of this song even existing that I don’t truly believe what I’m saying, so it’s a bit meta and self-aware in that regard. I used the instrumentation and production to wrap it all up in a package that sounds very romantic and fun.
What’s your personal favourite track(s) on the album, or perhaps the one(s) which mean the most to you?
My personal favourite is track 3, ‘Tell Me The News’. It definitely means the most to me because it’s about where I am now, and is a really happy song for me. It’s about the joys of my current relationship, and how I’ve learned to have healthy and sustainable commitments based on mutual respect, dialogue and care. It’s about offering support when needed, and enjoying the benefits of that support being reciprocated. It’s inspired by my partner and is certainly the most personal song on the album.
How did the pandemic affect you, and how do you think the live music industry can bounce back from it? What advice would you give to an up-and-coming aspiring musician during these weird-ass times?
Obviously, like everybody else, the pandemic had a big impact. It came right at a time when I was beginning to re-establish myself in the world of live performance, and I was in the early stages of performing a brand new live show filled with new music and new style of delivery reflecting the tones of the album. So having the pandemic come and eliminate that from my life was certainly difficult and disruptive. I was luckily enough to be able to squeeze in a few performances here and there - but I also had my fair share of postponements, cancellations, e.t.c. just like everybody else in the industry. I actually used a large amount of pandemic time to focus on fine-tuning my productions, finishing songs, and focusing on myself and my health, so that was a silver lining for me. I’d even say that the pandemic helped me finish my album in some respects. But we will bounce back without a doubt. It seems to me like we are already bouncing back into live events! As difficult as it has been for so many people losing work and losing momentum in their careers, many of us have also found creative ways to flourish and maximise positivity and community even in the face of such a world-consuming disaster - e.g. live streaming, new types of content creation, focusing on recorded material / video e.t.c. and broadening our repertoires in other ways too. Creative people will never stop being creative. That’s something I’ve learned during this pandemic that has been encouraging for me. And I think that can serve as advice for aspiring musicians during this time as well – being creative is multi-dimensional, and using our creativity to interface with the world we live in is important. There will never not be things that get in our way, but there will always be creative solutions for things.
Do you have any live gigs or tour plans coming up to promote the album? What can we expect from you going into the future? I know it’s been weird recently with live music, but we’d love to groove to your tasty tunes!
Yes! I have two live shows coming up in December, in Sydney and Melbourne. These are going to be live shows with a 3-piece band, performing both old and new material with live arrangements. The focus will certainly be on the new album songs, but of course without forgetting the tracks from previous years that we love. This will be my first time playing songs from the album in front of a live audience. I’m very nervous but equally thrilled. I’m hoping to lock in more dates next year once we have a clearer picture on coming out of the pandemic, and how to navigate organising events in that context. But for now, Sydney and Melbourne in December will be a very good start. I can’t wait. Live music is important, so I’m really looking forward to finally getting that off the ground again. And of course using those experiences as inspiration for further music making next year.
Deep & insightful in his responses, it was a pleasure to interview Wave Racer. Thanks again to Thomas Purcell, and be sure to check out his new album, everyone! It spans the genres and traverses highs & lows, but always wrapped up in his patented fun & engaging music mastery.