an Interview with Tokyo Police Club
DOWNLOAD: Tokyo Police Club – Be Good (live on Daytrotter) (MP3)
Montreal’s BrooklynVegan Mike sat down with Toronto’s Tokyo Police Club at a show they were playing in Montreal in early April. They talked about such topics as how the band got their start, Pop Montreal, Daytrotter, Pitchfork, Cold War Kids, NME, and they may have even started a feud with UK buzz band the Horrors. Full transcript below…..
(BrooklynVegan Mike in BOLD…)
I read the bio of the band on the website, and I had a couple questions about it. If you read enough one sheets, you get a romanticized view of how a band comes together. On yours, it mentions how when you first formed, no one was really into your stuff at all, and then this Pop Montreal invitation came about. Is that accurate?
Graham: Yeah. I wrote the bio. I was trying to copy one-sheets as much as I could. I was trying to be pro. That’s entirely true.
Josh: It wasn’t that no one was into it, just that we weren’t playing at all.
Graham: Right. And then playing Pop Montreal was the only thing that made us be a band. In all seriousness, if it wasn’t for that Pop Montreal festival, we wouldn’t have done anything. Ever. I cannot overstate the importance of Pop Montreal.
Josh: Before Pop Montreal we played a few low key shows in Toronto, for other bands, you know? Pop Montreal was the first time we played to a crowd, at all, that was there to see us.
So how did you get the invite? Did you know someone?
Dave: We just sent our application and twenty bucks in the mail.
Graham: We had always talked about applying for things like CMW and North By Northeast and other stuff around Toronto but we never got around to it. We are lazy guys. For whatever reason, the Pop Montreal thing actually got done. I don’t know why. We actually had to do work for it. I guess it was just the hand of fate.
Josh: It was the best twenty bucks we ever spent.
So this show is kind of a homecoming, of sorts.
Graham: We have a weird connection to Montreal. Dave used to go to school here. Just because of how important that show was and just hanging out. Every time we come here…we’ve played here four or fives times, but this time feels real special.
Not to do the cliché journalistic question…
Graham: Go for it.
…From that show in October 2005 to now, does it seem like things are moving fast?
Graham: From the outside, it must look like things are moving fast. For us, we’ve been there for every step. To most people it seems like one month we were point X and two months later we were point Y. But between that, there were a hundred phone calls and all of this work. We’ve seen all the work we’ve done for every step of the ladder. To us, it doesn’t seem that fast. I know it is happening to us faster than it is for a lot of other bands, and we are fortunate, but it doesn’t feel that fast.
I saw you guys at Osheaga (in August), and maybe it’s just because that’s the first time you guys appeared on my radar, but from there to here it just seems very fast.
Dave: It has been accelerated. I totally see the progression and the hard work we have put into it. Sometimes, though, weird things will come up and you’re like “we’re playing Letterman? Really?”
Graham: It’s amazing to think we have gotten where we are on an e.p. We call it a mini album, but it seems such a strange thing. People keep mentioning it to us, but we have treated it like an album. We’ve done the promotion, toured behind it.
Not to jinx it, but are you anticipating the wave the NME are going to give you? What they have written about you so far is has been super positive and you get the feeling you are being groomed by them.
Graham: The NME loves to ink bands and put them on a pedestal. But as much as they love putting them on that pedestal, they love knocking them off it, too. I’d rather things progress naturally. I’d like the NME to like us. I’d like everyone to like us, be they media or not. I don’t want to be popular because the NME tells us to like us.
Dave: If you just build up your popularity through touring and good records, nobody can knock you off that.
Josh: The NME can hype it as much as they want and people might come to a show based on that, but if they really like it, we’ve gone past that.
Graham: If the NME tells you to like The Horrors and you go to a show and don’t like them, the NME is not gonna convince you unless you are one of those people. If you go to the Horrors show and you think they are the greatest thing since sliced bread, for some reason, then…
The Horrors are not that good.
Graham: No they’re not. I mentioned them because they were the last band I saw on the cover. But if the NME tells you to hate the Horrors, but you love them, you’re not gonna be like “fuck The Horrors.”
Not to continue down this line of questioning, but to counter that, the U.S. Equivalent is Pitchfork. Now they dug your e.p., but if they decide they don’t like someone, they can really affect that band, like Travis Morrison from the Dismemberment Plan, a Pitchfork-approved band. His solo album got a 0.0 and college radio effectively dumped him.
Dave: [Tour mates] The Cold War Kids are a band Pitchfork has given the cold shoulder too. It’s cool to see that they are on this tour and crowds are big and people like the music. Pitchfork is good at what they do. It’s good writing. But it’s good to see that people are thinking independently.
Now you guys mentioned the length of the e.p. At any point in time, be it a specific song or when the album was done did you think “maybe we should add a second verse here” or “repeat the chorus?”
Graham: Actually, “Nature of the Experiment” …you know the part at the end where it goes (sings guitar line after last chorus)? It goes six times at the end and then the tremolo guitar comes in. Those last two times weren’t in the original song. Our label, the Paper Bag guys, are real cool. They sat in the studio but they never tried to change anything. We finished the song and we’re mixing the song and they’re like “the song is a minute and fifty seconds. This is kind of a single, guys, but it has to be over two minutes if its gonna be played on radio.” They didn’t strong arm us or anything but I remember us talking about it for a long time. There was other stuff we were gonna add that we decided not to. We did add those two repetitions. In retrospect, I think it makes the song way better. That was really the only thing we added.
So, the song “If It Works” is supposed to have that start/stop, long pause?
Dave: I was sitting in the studio. That was the second song they laid down. Greg and Dave in the room recording. I was sitting behind John, the producer, and when they cut out he was like “what the fuck is this?” I kept telling him “it’s gonna make sense later.”
Dave: When we were working on the song, we were thinking what should we do here? Let’s-
Dave + Graham just stop. [laughs]
Talking to fans, and being a fan myself, it seems “Citizens of Tomorrow” is your most popular song. Is there any reason why “Nature of the Experiment” was picked over that?
Graham: “Citizen” is one of the fan favorites. We find when we play it, that gets the biggest reaction. We are picking “Cheer It On” as the second single, actually. Obviously, most of the people who are coming tonight have heard the record. But there is a whole class of people, like the radio listening public. And when you’re releasing singles, the point is to get it played on tv and radio so people will buy your record. In terms of a song that will grab someone when they hear it for the first time, its gonna be the big drums and the opening “Operator, get me the president of the world.” That’s what they are going to remember, not the eerie song with atonal chord progression and the hand clapping.
Graham: Daytrotter was so much fun.
Not to get sidetracked but let me ask you, I’ve been a fan of that site for awhile. How does it work? Do you go in and are given fifteen minutes and they record on an eight track?
Graham: I didn’t look at their recording set up, but as I understand it, it was pretty rudimentary.
Josh: They told us “this is tape guys, just so you know that.” [laughs].
Graham: Take the CBC session. It was very professionally done. They had the amps facing the wall to prevent bleed and there were big isolation walls and Greg is playing in another room. We’re looking at him through glass. At Daytrotter, they set us up in a room, Mic this, mic that. We’re like “do you want us to turn our amps around?” and they’re like “just play. We’ll mix it later.” It was like jamming or rehearsing in a basement but more fun. And I think it comes through.
Josh: We even tried new shit. We didn’t go in there planning on recording the songs but we just kind of felt it and we said “why don’t we record this song?”
Graham: If it makes sense, I want to go to Daytrotter and do a track for track live recording of the album as a world premiere or something. I haven’t talked to anyone about it. I don’t know if its feasible, but I would like to do that.
What’s interesting about it is the concept isn’t new but their approach and how it’s presented feels very fresh and original And they’ve already got some great acts, like Will Oldham and Sunset Rubdown.
Graham: It’s very artist friendly. It’s small time right now, but I think as word gets out it will grow. As more bands hear about it, I think more bands will want to do it.
My original question was going to be on the new album? Is it done? Are you working on it?
Dave: We are in the very, very preliminary stages of working on it. We have a few songs done.
From the sessions, I’ve heard “New Song,” “Graves,” and “Your English.”
Josh: We are planning on writing as many songs as possible in the next few months and see where it goes from there.
In the last few years, many bands have embraced the e.p. Cold War Kids and Voxtrot jump to mind, of bands who released a series of eps before any full length. Do you think that is a model that will gain more traction?
Graham: From a strictly business standpoint, ep’s are a dumb thing to do. Record stores can’t sell them for much money, meaning they don’t make as much money, so they don’t want to stock them. Theoretically, we could have thrown three more songs on there and called it a full length and we probably would have sold more records. But ultimately, we felt we wanted to put our best foot forward. An e.p. is just a good way to start.
I like albums and bands that make big statements on albums, but for us and other bands, musically speaking, e.p’s make more sense. We think of the e.p as an album. The songs are short so the album should be short. People listen to our e.p and get really into it and then it’s over, and they want to put it on again. Adding more songs runs the risk of people looking at track numbers and wondering how many more songs are left.
I won’t get too much into the lyrics because I know people have been picking them apart.
I’ve noticed a lot of the songs have references to family, if not directly then to other people’s family. Was that a self conscious decision or was that something that just came about when the songs were done?
Dave: It’s just another hyper relationship people don’t explore as much. There are a lot of songs about guys and girls, relationships. I think there’s some really good stuff there to be explored. It’s a really good part of my life. Sometimes it’s conscious and sometimes there’s reference to it without knowing. I think every song we have put out has at least one reference to family or a family member.
Does it bother you that people only want to talk about the robot aspect of the songs?
Dave: Yeah. It’s weird. It’s only one song. The robot and the futuristic part was only a vehicle to talk about something else. Graham suggested “you should write a song about robots.”
Josh: It just so happened that the guy who did the artwork only heard that song so he was like “yeah, I get it. I’ll put a robot in there.” Then people looked at it and they are like “oh, a concept record.”
Dave: Robots, emergencies, a song about an experiment, rebuilding our city, factories. Their mind was made up.
It seems whenever I read anything about the band, people assign you guys like ‘sci-fi pop-punk band’ or some weird label.
Graham: Yeah, but I must admit if I read about a band that was labeled science fiction punk rock, I’d have to check those guys out [laughs].
More interviews by BrooklynVegan Mike in the archives. See TPC live in a town near you…..
Tokyo Police Club – 2007 Tour Dates
5/27 – Sasquatch Music Festival The Gorge, Washington
6/21 – Hoxton Bar and Grill London, UK
6/22 – Glastonbury Music Festival Glastonbury, UK
6/23 – Hurricane Festival Scheessel, Germany
6/24 – Southside Festival Neuhausen, Germany
6/25 – Cookys Frankfurt, Germany
6/28 – Hove Festival Hove, Norway
6/29 – Accelerator Festival Stockholm, Sweden
7/3 – Barfly London, UK
7/4 – Barfly Birmingham, UK
7/5 – Barfly Liverpool, UK
7/17 – The Intersection, Front Room Grand Rapids, MI
7/18 – Birdy’s Bar & Grill Indianapolis, IN
7/21 – Larimer Lounge Denver, CO
7/23 – The Independent San Francisco, CA
7/25 – Troubadour West Hollywood, CA
7/26 – Beauty Bar San Diego, CA
7/27 – Anderson’s Fifth Estate Scottsdale, AZ
7/29 – Emo’s Austin, TX
7/30 – Meridian Red Room Houston, TX
7/31 – Cambridge Room @ HOB Dallas, TX
8/1 – The Republic New Orleans, LA
8/2 – Vinyl Atlanta, Georgia
8/4 – Lollapalooza Chicago, IL
8/7 – Rock & Roll Hotel Washington, DC
8/8 – Sonar Baltimore, MD
8/9 – Johnny Brenda’s Philadelphia, PA
8/10 – Bowery Ballroom New York, NY
8/11 – Maxwell’s Hoboken, NJ
8/12 – Middle East Downstairs Cambridge, MA
* more posts about Tokyo Police Club