Tristan, which was self-released in early May, marks the first above-ground release by No Name Hotel, the nom de guerre of singer-songwriter, producer and multi-instrumentalist, Farahd Abdullah Wallizada. Comprised of four songs, Tristan showcases the artist’s distinctive compositional approach and unique sonic sensibility, merging emotional songcraft with evocative soundscapes, drawing from memory and experience to create music that’s consistently haunting and resonant.
A first-generation American born of Afghani parents, Wallizada spent his early life in Jacksonville, Florida, having little access to pop culture. That changed in his early teens when he began pirating songs off of library computers, sparking an intense and sudden infatuation with music. Soon, he was employing demo-versions of music software to construct his first, rudimentary tracks.
In his mid-teens, as he dealt with a period of severe anxiety and depression, Wallizada began to seek out music with a darker, grittier focus. He eventually found solace in rock music, taking a particular interest in the grunge and alternative rock of the early-to-mid 1990s.
Now in his early 20s, and facing an uncertain future following his parents’ divorce, Wallizada decided to pack up and move across the country to Los Angeles, hoping that the experience would serve as the shock to the system he needed. However, the move initially proved frustrating; not knowing anyone in the city, he grew more isolated than ever, and his initial brushes with the music industry were less than encouraging.
In the summer of 2017, Wallizada began work on what would eventually become Tristan, working in isolation in his studio apartment, and recording only at night. Following a period of experimentation via trial-and-error, he began to find his creative footing, tapping into a new, promising wave of inspiration.
Ghettoblaster caught up with Wallizda to discuss the record.
When did you first begin writing the material for Tristan?
August of last year, but these initial songs are really the culmination of a decade of trial and error on my part. Mostly error until quite recently. It took me a while to find an angle that felt uniquely mine.
Where does that title come from and why did you choose it?
I went through a lot of would-be stage names, ‘Tristan’ was one of them. Identity was something I grappled with a lot growing up. I’m from the South and I had a funny name and a different look compared to most of my classmates. In that environment, you’re told one story about who you are from your peers and another from your family. The truth, it turns out, is something you have to discover for yourself, but that takes time and experience.
I spent many years dreaming up the perfect character to use as a vessel for my work. In the end, I realized that the perfect character was really no character. So the name ‘Tristan’ came to represent a period of confusion and searching for me, which really spoke to a lot of the themes I was working with at the time.
How does this release differ from your debut, True Moon? Is True Moon available anywhere?
I don’t quite view True Moon as a proper debut. It was a prototype. I had many of the same concepts floating around in my head, but the execution was wildly different to what I did with Tristan. That first EP was a lot less focused and the sense of self just wasn’t there yet. Also, on a technical level, my production and engineering skills were lacking. It used to be online but I’ve since made it private. I think it’s more a personal memento than anything else at this point, but it does hold a special place for me as stepping stone to what I’m doing now.
Why do you think Los Angeles was so tough for/on you?
My hometown is quite large geographically but small culturally and socially. It feels very much apart from the big, bustling metropolitan hubs of America. So when you go from an environment like that to somewhere like Los Angeles, you’re in for a bit of a shock. I was alone with no contacts in the city, and many of the people I met initially turned out to be pretty untrustworthy and opportunistic. That put me in a rather dark headspace that took some time to work through.
There are a lot of great things about L.A., though. It’s certainly not all bad. But all large, modern cities come affixed to a certain sense of disconnection and social paranoia that you just sort of have to live with.
Do you have any plans to make any videos from Tristan?
Definitely. There’s one for Blood on Sky that we’ve just finished. It might be out by the time this is published. The intent with that was to elaborate on the visual and sonic themes of the project—organics against synthetics, melody against dissonance, clarity against distortion. I think it’s really cool. There’s some weird shit in there. Videos are tough because if you get it wrong, you’re stuck with that as a visual representation of your song forever, but I’m pretty happy with this one.
What’s next for No Name Hotel? Touring?
I’m currently working on my debut album, hoping to expand on the ideas from the EP while also extending the sonic palette and refining my process. I’ll definitely be playing out once it’s finished. That’s something I’m quite excited for. It’s been a long time since I was on a stage, my personal viewpoint is so much different now than it was then. It’ll be really interesting to find my sea legs within the context of NONAH and what it means to translate these songs to a live audience.