Propos recueillis par Christophe Labussière en mars 2024

Version française de l'interview

If the "child of" status often proves to be as much a handicap as an advantage for an artist, because it supposedly undermines the individual’s qualities in favor of privileges related to their famous lineage, the case of Topographies and Gray Tolhurst offers a very different example. While the youngster is, as his surname indicates, Lol Tolhurst’s son, the eminent founding member of The Cure from 1976 to 1989, he made a rather discrete debut into the post-punk scene in 2020 with his first album "Ideal Form". The self-produced record released on his own Funeral Party Records label, offers a rather singular sound, akin to a dry cold wave whose ambiance eerily echoes the more ethereal vibe of The Cure's "Faith". The recent release of his second album, "Interior Spring", and the band's imminent arrival in Europe for a series of concerts, including an appearance at Le Klub in Paris on May 11th, led us to chat with the young man who, much like his music, appears incredibly humble. And although I refrained from asking him whether the origin of his first name had anything to do with the color of "Faith"'s album cover or the one cats have at night, I naturally discussed the musical affinities between the sound of his own compositions and the one which characterized his father's records when he was even younger than Gray is today.

Can you introduce yourself?
Hi, I'm Gray Tolhurst and I sing and play synth for Topographies, we're a San Francisco and Los Angeles based coldwave group.
How old are you?
Topographies was started in 2017 but I personally am 32 years old haha.
I read that you live in San Francisco, so are you American or have you lived in England?
I do live in San Francisco where I've lived for the past 10 years. I was born in England but we moved early in my life to Los Angeles, so I guess I am Britsih-born but American raised. I have an American accent for example but apparently (according to my father) some British mannerisms even though I didn't grow up there.
If I'm not mistaken, one of the members of Topographies is French. How did you meet, and what is his musical background before Topographies?
Yes, our guitarist Jeremie is from Brittany but we met in San Francisco where we both played in an indie-folk band called Gentle Spirit. Jeremie played in groups in Paris before moving to the US a decade or so ago.
I read that you like Asylum Party, that they are part of your influences. How did you come across this band? They have always been a very underground group in France. Confidential and important.
I think Jeremie was aware of Asylum Party because of their role in French underground music. But honestly I probably discovered them because I read someone cite "French Coldwave" as one of their influences and I was like "What the hell is that?" and googled it and Asylum Party came up. So I guess I discovered it in a very unhip and contemporary way!
You can imagine that I can't not talk to you about your father, Lol, and The Cure, as one cannot listen to your music without thinking about it. For you, is it an inheritance that "carries you", helps you in your personal motivation, or is it burdensome?
It's just a fact ultimately. I didn't grow up listening to his music but I was deeply informed by his musical taste and education. So I grew up listening to Joy DIvision, The Fall and Wire and kind of skirting around The Cure so as not to be too directly influenced by it. I only really listened to it in my late 20s when we started Topographies on Jeremie's suggestion that I check out "Faith". And I found that I loved it, that it hit on things I had long been interested in musically. If my father wasn't in the group I would've been obsessed with it 10 years prior but alas. I think we have come to a similar style of music based on our similar artistic preoccupations with grief, loss, and existential pain. I think that my father introducing me to Kafka and Sartre as well as Can and Kraftwerk were more influential in a sense than the Cure which I now view as part of my history like a family shop or childhood home. I love that that is what I come from.
The sound of your compositions reminds me of the sound of "Faith", albeit less cold wave, let's say... more clinical, more mechanical. Which makes your sound distinctive. This musical kinship, it's not just an influence, it's a deliberate choice. Why this choice? Are you extending your father's work? Addressing an audience of fans who are already predisposed?
I guess this extends on my last answer. I think that since our preoccupations or themes are similar the tools we use are also similar. I am a fan of the mechanical, the industrial, the repetitive, the droning. So we gravitate towards textures that elicit this somatic feeling with drum machines and synths. But I also a product of my time and upbringing in sunny California so I have a love for hazy washes of guitar, psychedelic flourishes. It seems to me that I am working in a lineage of sorts but that was accidental. I gravitated naturally towards these sounds. So I don't know if I hope to extend or improve or anything I kind of just have an obsession with the darker aspects of the human psyche and want to provide an outlet for that and maybe a mirror that allows others to see that their feelings are shared. That's what music does for me and I just wanted to be a part of that exchange.
Does your voice remind me of Robert Smith's because I know you're Lol Tolhurst's son, or because you are Lol Tolhurst's son?
I don't know if I can answer that question! Maybe its psychosomatic or maybe because we come from the same part of the world. I know that people can't shake the impression and frankly I am unconcerned.
What is your favorite album by The Cure?
"Faith" with "Pornography" a close second.
What are you waiting for, hoping for, wishing for? What could happen to Topographies for the better tomorrow, next month, in a year?
I move hopefully all the time and truly everything that has happened thus far has been a tremendous surprise to me. We're heading to Europe for the first time in May and I am very excited about that. I just hope we get to keep making albums, getting better, challenging ourselves, playing as many places as possible and sharing the music. I don't have any specific goals beyond making a better record every time.
Where do you see yourself... in 10 years?
In my home studio still. But I've made more impulse synth purchases and there's even less room than there is now!
"Interior Spring"
[Dark Entries]

sorti le 2 février 2024

1. Night Sea
2. Arch
3. Cleanse
4. Chain Of Days
5. I Never Understood
6. Interior Spring
7. Tied
8. 1959
9. Red-Black Sun
10. Face Of Another
"Ideal Form"
[Funeral Party Records]

sorti le 4 décembre 2020

1. Mirror
2. False Desire
3. This Evening Also
4. Image
5. See You As You Fall
6. Lonely Figure
7. Rose of Sharon
8. A Wine Dark Sea
Prochain concert
Paris, le Klub le samedi 11 mai 2024