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Be specific: Publicist's Sebastian Thomson on European touring


Publicist - aka Sebastian Thomson - makes a rare trip to the U.S. for some shows, including one Friday the Velvet Lounge.

Sebastian Thomson, drummer for synth stalwarts Trans Am as well as the one-man funk force that is Publicist, lists D.C. as his home. You wouldn't know that by his touring schedule, though. As Publicist, he's played only a handful of shows in the U.S., instead spending most of his time flying and motoring around Europe, bringing his late-night party music to foreign locales. Thomson has a British passport thanks to a grandparent, so he "decided to spend a little bit more time [there], because I could. And I kind of got used to it." He called from London the day before he flew back to America for a handful of shows, the first of which is Friday night at the Velvet Lounge.

So what are some of the main differences between playing shows in Europe and America?
Well, I've been playing so much in Europe. I've only played a handful of shows in America. I'm kind of excited to be coming back and to see how well it translates to America. Because I think Americans are just a little more into rock music than Europeans. Even though, of course, half the classic rock bands that Americans listen to -- the Stones, Zeppelin, Sabbath -- they're all English.

It's completely normal for people in Britain and Europe -- in any scene, in any demographic -- to go out clubbing on a weekend. I think for Americans that's kind of weird. Clubbing is kind of a subculture in America. It's not in Europe, at all. I spend a lot of time in London. And I have to tell you that I was a little bit underwhelmed by the music scene here. The other thing that the British love is the four cute white guys with guitars. What they call "indie rock" here.

(Explain to me this "indie rock," after the jump.)

They kind of love it over here these days, too.
Well they really love it in England. And it's bizarre. If you're not 20 years old and have a cute haircut, and if you're lyrics aren't about what it's like to be a young person in the U.K. -- that's the only thing they care about! The lyrics have to "speak truth" about English youth or whatever. It's the only subject matter. There are a lot of weird musical subcultures in Europe.

For example, in France, I've experienced this really bizarre infatuation with post-rock. Trans Am is still around, but remember in the '90s there was Trans Am, Don Caballero, Tortoise, Slint and June of 44, right? It was all a little bit mathy. And it's not mainstream in France at all. But because of my Trans Am history sometimes I get booked with these bands. And it's really bizarre to me. Because all those bands -- like Trans Am, Tortoise and Don Caballero -- none of us thought we were part of any scene. We were just doing the kind of music we thought was weird and different and we liked. Now 10 years later in France, these people have misinterpreted it as some sort of cohesive scene that they want to continue.

Are the bands any good or are they just bad imitations?
I would say in general that they're just bad imitations.

U.K., France, Italy ... I think most people, even if they haven't been there, can get a general feel for those places. But what about countries like Albania or Slovenia?
I've played in Slovenia and Croatia. I also played those places about eight years ago with Trans Am and I can see the change. Culturally and geographically there is a little bit of a difference. Eastern Europe has definitely changed. Slovenia is, I believe, now an EU country. Croatia, at this point, has become a total vacation hot spot for Europeans because it has such a nice coast line.

Do you have expectations for American audiences?
We'll see. I'm really curious. I'm really curious about the show in D.C. I do not know what to expect. What I'm doing is a little bit bizarre, even for Europeans. I'm trying to get the club people to listen to live music and see somebody actually playing an instrument that requires muscle action and sweat. And I'm trying to get the live music people to relax a little bit and not stare at the stage and maybe dance a little bit. I've played some shows in Baltimore and those went pretty well. Baltimore's always had a bit of an electronic music scene and a club scene that D.C. doesn't really have. But I find that if I play late and people have been drinking, that helps. The lubrication. (Laughs.)

By David Malitz  |  December 18, 2009; 1:00 PM ET
Categories:  Be specific  | Tags: Publicist  
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