The beginning of Tate Tucker’s Shangri LA EP made me close my eyes and breathe. It felt like I was in one of those sensory deprivation tanks on two tabs, being transported into another world. That opening track is called “Transcendence” and the name is spot-on, it feels like an awakening. Like you’re leaving this place and seeing a whole new one for the first time. And while it lacks any vocals from Tucker, save for some ambient echoes and layered whispers, it’s the perfect way to begin his new project, setting the tone for a 5-song vacation.
It’s hard not to like this project. Who doesn’t like going to the beach? Who doesn’t like daydreams on a hammock? Who hates margaritas? They may not like this album, but for the rest of us, Shangri LA feels like the perfect day in LA — or maybe juuust a bit outside the City of Angels.
Tate Tucker is born and raised in Los Angeles, where most artists from around the world are trying to go. But now music is giving him the opportunity to trade places, as radio spins for his records have brought him to all sorts of new places around the country to meet his new fans.
I caught up with Tate Tucker before Shangri LA dropped to discuss how “big mood” his music was and what it means to him that people are responding in a positive way.
DUKE LONDON: Tell me about “Breezy.”
TATE TUCKER: The song was a breezy process. I was working with Tim Anderson, my A&R over at Harvest Records. Talented cat, kinda weird, kind of past his crazy days so he has it together. He brought in a young kid named Q and we sort of just vibed out. We wanted to do boom-bap beats and just some sort of smooth, meditative and beachy vibes. It came together in the chords of a session.
The video is tight.
I hit up my boy Damien because I got a lot of treatments through the label and they were pretty uninspired. So I was like if we have a budget let me call somebody that I know. And I just had to think outside the box. We took it to Bali and we got it approved. We were going up 500 steps carrying equipment, waterfall hikes, shit you wouldn’t do without a crew but we had to.
What did the song mean to him and how did he explain his vision for the visuals?
He made the last video that my dad got to see before he passed. There was just a bond that we had that was a bigger trust than just a transference of sonic idea into a visual. When I told him that this had to be different and it had to help people perceive the song on a more universal level he said we can’t do it in the States. We can’t fake it. He was really passionate about going there. He’s a well-traveled young guy from Wisconsin so he sees the world through a really cool light and it worked out.
What was it about Bali that drew you guys there?
After a year of processing a lot of shit with my dad dying and life kind of hitting me, I was hyped on everything, I was really grateful. It was a piece that I found in a lot of chaos. It was a spiritual journey to get there and Bali is like the land of the gods. It’s super untainted, undeveloped. We had serendipitous events the entire time. Near crashes. Near ruined cameras, just a lot of shit. It felt like there was a bigger force than just us there as corny as it sounds. It couldn’t have been anywhere else.
How has making music been since the passing of your dad? How has it affected your process? That didn’t affect it as much as signing a deal did. I learned a lot about myself through the process, it just got a little more complicated. It makes it more of a job. You have to jump through hoops to create things and get them approved and it kind of fucks your friendships up a little bit. “Breezy” was the song that was pretty cathartic for me. I’m good, Dad. I’ll be a young, handsome, black dude and figure it out and not be extreme about shit and not turn into those measures that you tried to keep me from. It’s hard to explain, it just got more complicated.
What is “Breezy” to you?
It’s like a state of mind. The EP is called Shangri LA which is terrible timing because Rick Rubin decided that this is his year to do his whole docuseries of the same title so our shit keeps getting pushed back. It’s supposed to be a place where you can reach inside that my dad always tried to tell me but it always sounded super corny. I’m super broke on and off. It’s an up and down world in music. The consistency I can have is how I choose to react to shit. It’s an old mentality but it’s supposed to be a place, a feeling.
What kind of tools do you use to stay positive even when shit isn’t going your way?
Breathing. Everyone is talking about Dr. Sebi now because it’s hot and because of Nipsey but I grew up with Alkaline diets. I didn’t eat dairy until I was in high school. I didn’t eat white flour until high school. I got rid of asthma through my diet and what I learned through that process was that my disease was mucus clogging my pipes. Oxygen is the ultimate life source over everything. It’s just the most important shit.
Do you try to translate any of the things that you’ve learned in the past like that into your music?
People are just going to take shit however they want to take it. I’m at the point where I finally learned that I can’t make shit for everybody. I don’t really write for people now because of that mentality. It’s tough to get into a room and be like how are we going to make this anthem for 17-23-year-olds in these cities and feel like it’s a euphoric and nostalgic moment that they’ll latch onto. I’m not really about that shit. I like navigating my life and trying to make this world a better place.
How do you make the world a better place in your current position and what would you look to do in the future as your career grows?
I’ve been doing it already. I started working with kids off the jump out of school. I really engage everybody that I encounter, I treat everyone as a human, I’m super open-minded, I travel, absorb the culture. I try to undo biases I have. I feel like the ultimate goal is to just really love thy neighbor. There’s so much I can learn from every other human. That’s how I try to lead by example.
Your music is bringing you to other places that you might not have been before. That’s huge.
My dad was a well-traveled person through the military but I think it’s the most important thing that you can do, help people to see there’s a bigger experience.
What are some other goals that you have with your music?
I want to use it to do the shit I was already trying to do in life out of Georgetown. I really want to build sustainable youth centers in places that actually need them. I was just in Mississippi with my mom and she’s in Bentonia, it’s a super small place. Pretty dilapidated but great. I just like to be able to establish resources and help train people to be assets in their own community in a lot of different ways. For me, using music to get resources to be able to build things.
What is Shangri LA to you?
The freedom you can find in your mind if you can’t fly to Bali. It’s a journey to get there and it starts with a guided meditation and then it kind of turns it up. You sort of descend through the consciousness back into this hectic reality. So it’s samplings of all the different shit I do.
Kind of a rollercoaster.
A little bit of a rollercoaster! Deadass I can’t listen to it with my eyes open. It’s just one of those projects. It was mixed and mastered by some legends, just touched by a lot of good people with a lot of intention behind it. I’m working on some other visuals and other projects getting some tours set up and things like that.
How did your music change stylistically?
It breathes more. I think there’s more of a duet between me and the producers. Out of the respect that I have with everyone that I work with and once you go through giving up the ownership of your music, you realize how precious that shit is to you. As awkward as that is, now it’s not mine.
So what kind of music do you listen to when you’re not making music?
Maxo to Flipp Dinero, just shit that’s amazing. Motown, Earth Wind Fire, a lot of Curtis Mayfield, Dope Lemon. This Australian sibling duo that makes psych-rock. They’re lit. I really fuck with them. A lot of weird shit. I’m picking up the guitar so I feel like that’s where my ear is at right now.
Photos Courtesy of Ben Shmikler