Tash Sultana: A DIY Attitude That Is Conquering The World

2 August 2018 | 2:54 pm | Uppy Chatterjee

"Everything you're doing in life you learn, so... why don't you learn the shit that you really wanna achieve?"

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Five years in the making, the sun has finally set on the writing and recording of Tash Sultana's debut record, Flow State. "It's fucken' done, Jesus Christ. It was an ordeal," she sighs. "I just kind of assumed that I was gonna get in there and record songs that I'd wanted to for ages and it was gonna be easy but it was testing. Like, I can't believe that I've done it all. It's done. It's seriously just sitting in front of my face on vinyl."

Imagine this: the stage lights are swinging purple and blue. Flying through the air is the multi-instrumentalist's backwards cap, revealing a head of brown tousled curls, as well as a couple of dreadlocks. Her feet are bare, her eyes are shut with concentration and she - and the sea of people in the crowd - appear to be in a trance, thanks to the multi-layered wall of reverb-laden loops Sultana has created.

In fact, she creates everything on Flow State. From playing an assortment of instruments (around 15 at last count) like trumpet, saxophone, pan flute, piano and guitar, to writing all her lyrics, arranging her loops and producing the album, Sultana has the sort of can-do attitude that most of us wish we had, but find difficult to tap into. We let self-doubt, negativity and our own insecurities stop us from achieving our best. We find excuses for why we can't - or shouldn't.

Sultana emits a rare laugh. "Eeeevery time I give an interview, someone comes at me with a different number of instruments that I play. It's about 15, but sometimes people say, 'She plays 32 instruments!' I don't even think I could fucking list 32 instruments.

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"Yeah, I play a bunch of stuff, because I saw people doing that and thought, 'Well, if somebody else can play five or six or ten different instruments and they're good at all of them, I can. Like, I can.'

Tash By Numbers

Here's the astronomical numbers Sultana has clocked up in just the past 18 months alone. Check out these figures, and feel the awe.

  • 20 countries visited, including the US and across South America, Europe and the United Kingdom

  • 245 shows played

  • 414,187 kilometres travelled

  • 1: the number of trips to the Moon Sultana could have taken

  • 8: the number of times Sultana could have circled the earth

  • 7,400 tickets sold to her iconic Margaret Court Arena show last December, the venue’s biggest ever crowd

  • 55,000 tickets sold for her upcoming European gigs in September

  • 10 crew accompany Sultana on the road to roadie and maintain her audacious technical setup

  • 200,000,000 streams on Spotify of her Notion EP (to date)

"Everything you're doing in life you learn, so… why don't you learn the shit that you really wanna achieve? That's my thought process behind trying to learn as many instruments as possible. And you know, you can produce your albums and shit, you don't have session musicians to come in because you can play all of that stuff yourself and you're only self-limited."

It's a real 'fuck yeah, I can do it' ethos.

"I can do it. I don't really complain about how I wish I could do things - I'd rather just do it. My whole career, for instance, was based upon the fact that I thought that I could do it. I thought that I could tour around the world, do all of the things that I'm now doing, because I said I could do it. People would say, 'You can't do it, that's not realistic,' and all of that shit, but it was realistic."

Sultana's got a relaxed, confident air about her - albeit with a strong personality - like she doesn't say stuff just to please you. She's got nothing to prove because the truth is - at 23 years old - Sultana's already toured 20 countries, pooled millions of streams and YouTube views, sold over 55,000 tickets in Europe and made history by selling out three shows at London's Brixton Academy without even an album released. Her show at Margaret Court Arena last December made history as the venue's largest-ever gig, selling 7,400 tickets, and she's performed on the stages of Seth Meyers, NPR, Coachella, Bonnaroo and Governors Ball.

And at every single show, she gets lost in her lush, complex, psychedelic music the same way - she's in her flow state.

"That's why I called the album Flow State, because it's about accessing your point of flow, in your state of mind where everything just becomes one continuous flowing cycle of passion. If I'm having a bad gig, then I feel like I can't really tap into being completely centred with the performance. Then I beat myself up about that, when I can't fully get into it. You have good gigs and bad gigs and GREAT gigs as well. But that's what makes the good ones so good," she admits.

And the bad gigs? Well, she's got words for the meatheads that start fights at a Tash Sultana show.

"If people wanna start fights in my crowd, shit, I'm gonna start permanently banning people from my gigs. Because you don't come out to gigs to experience the night to be in a fight in a crowd, and it's happened a couple of times and it's like... Maaaan, why? Like, WHY?

"That's not what I'm about, whatsoever. It happens and you can't control people, but it's like adults acting like children. I'm like, 'Bro, you don't need to fucking punch someone else in the face.'

"I don't tolerate that stuff and I'm gonna start putting [a ban] in place. If you're gonna be in a fight, I'm just gonna ban you. Every single fucking show. Like, you will NOT be able to buy a ticket. It's not people tripping, it's people that drink alcohol. You get the trippers and stuff like that but they're spacing out in their own worlds and not being aggressive. It's the people that are sooo drunk."

These meatheads will only have Sultana's stripped-back social media feeds to get their fix. She's a pretty private person, though - you won't see "candid" photos from the world's coolest cities on her Instagram feed, though she's been to them all. So how does she deal with the Instagram frenzy at festivals like Coachella?

"I don't. I don't deal with it," she says bluntly. "I just… I don't do many interviews, I don't do photos for people, I don't do meet and greets, I don't do like, YouTube things or Instagram stuff because I don't actually have to. Because I'm not actually obsessed with myself.

"There's just this thing going on at the moment with people that are like, I wanna say 18 to 30, just being incredibly insecure but also self-obsessed to kind of balance it out? Social media has just got everything to do with that because you compare your life to a hundred different people in the day. It's like, why? You don't have to put it online, but other people like that shit! That is fine, but that is not me."

Now, she's got a fair bit of international touring ahead of her, but one has to wonder if she's already thinking about music beyond her debut.

"I'm kind of at the point now where I'm ready to do some collabs. I wanted to be a bit selfish with my album and not have any features or anything like that, but I kind of have a little list of people that I'd wanna work with. I'd love to do something with Flume, Matt Corby, Angus Stone and Bonobo. I'd love to do something with Erykah Badu and… yeah. I like funk and hip hop and reggae, it'd be cool to put two fusions together. We'll see."

Flow State (Lonely Lands/Sony) is out this month.

So what does Tash Sultana do in her downtime?

When she's not touring the world almost constantly (can you get your head around the fact that she's done 245 shows in 18 months?), you have to wonder what Sultana does in her time off. It is few and far between, of course. Is it writing more music? Jamming with her mates?

"I surf more than I play music, I reckon," Sultana reveals. But… you play music A LOT. "I do but I don't at the same time, you know? I have little moments where I don't really wanna listen to any music, I don't wanna play any music and I don't wanna talk about music. I don't wanna fucking hear the word 'music'. But you can't do that when you're in the ocean."

A recent hobby of Sultana's also includes pouring resin art to create startling depictions of the earth and the ocean with marbled paint. But as it turns out, it's been a little while since she's picked up the resin. "I got into resin a little while ago and I haven't done it for a little bit, actually, because we used to live in this house that wasn't even. So every time I'd pour resin to set the painting, the paint would come off the piece because the house was uneven. I haven't done that for a little bit because it would get frustrating!"