Thursday, June 9, 2011
ARRESTING YOU WITH COOL MUSIC: THE TOKYO POLICE CLUB IS CALLING
Suave men's magazine GQ paints their sound in alliteration, attributing it as a “Strokes-caliber catchiness." Women's fashion publication Elle describes one album as “a smart, furiously played sugar-rush debut." Finally, legendary music reporters Rolling Stone crowns them “poised to become the biggest Canadian export since Molson." Of course, they're all talking about the Tokyo Police Club, who consists of the following: Greg Alsop (drums), Josh Hook (guitar), David Monks (vocals, bass) and Graham Wright (keys/percussion). Hailing from Newmarket, Ontario - the wholesome town up north also relished for bringing up Jim Carrey - the band scores big city (and country) success, releasing an EP (2006's A Lesson In Crime) and a debut album (2008’s Elephant Shell) in barely 2 years time. Breakneck Speed came shortly there after. Let's not forget their musical performances on The Late Show With David Letterman and The Late Late Show With Craig Ferguson. Or their acting performances on an episode from the hit show Desperate Housewives (remember that group playing against the husbands of Wisteria Lane at a bar show)? Fast forward to 2011, and their single "Wait Up (Boots of Danger)" is up for a "Muchfact Indie Video of the Year." Over a week before the MuchMusic Video Awards, Graham Wright gave me some deets in our exclusive phone interview.
V.B. So, you guys were born and raised in Newmarket, Ontario?
V.B. How did you get started?
G.W. We were all friends, and we all loved music, so we thought - why don't we start a band?
V.B. Your debut EP is titled after one of your songs "A Lesson in Crime." Any particular reason why you called it that?
G.W. It's actually a song about the mafia, and yes, we realized that after we (ironically) named our band (The Tokyo Police Club). We liked the title of that song, so we used it as the title for our album.
V.B. Many of your songs have interesting names i.e. "Favourite Food," "Favourite Colour," "Frankenstein," etc.
G.W. Songs have meanings - deep or shallow - whether you intend to give them meanings or not. Alot of factors influence a song's meaning. Dave (the singer) writes the songs, but I'm not content in asking him. You wanna draw your own meaning from it. The experience is so much more valuable that way. Everyone can identify with the song in a different way (from their own experiences), even just based on the title.
V.B. So then, how do you find the muse to write?
G.W. We don't write alot. It's impossible to pin down what our muse is, because when we try to chase a muse down, it backfires. You have to somehow position yourself to take advantage of that opportunity, but not in the sense that it's a job by itself. If we get together and jam everyday...
V.B. Why was the song "Not Sick" most difficult to create?
G.W. It was actually easy to write but difficult to record. It was more of a technical reason, really. The groove of the song was really precise, and when we played it live, there was this different energy that made the song better. When we were in the recording studio though, you need to bring that feeling back without it being there. The instruments and timing have to be in sync.
V.B. Your debut full-length album is titled Elephant Shell. Does this title metaphorically represent you coming out of your shells as a band?
G.W. We picked "Elephant Shell" as our title, because it doesn't mean anything. There is no known instance where the words "Elephant" and "Shell" are put together. So if someone says it now, we know they're referring to our album, and that takes on a whole new meaning.
V.B. You guys have travelled extensively for a few world tours. You've visited big cities as well, including Toronto, LA, NYC, and San Francisco. What have you learned about those towns that you would've never expected?
G.W. We go into cities one at a time, sometimes 12 hours at a time. Even if you visit the same city twice, you will go to different venues in different seasons of the year. So, you will learn something new every time you go.
V.B. You've appeared on The Late Show with David Letterman and The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson. And when were you on Desperate Housewives? How was it like filming and meeting all these celebrities?
G.W. Crazy! TV is a whole different world, vibe, language - from our's, in terms of music. The lighting guys were talking about lighting, and we couldn't understand a single word they were saying. We just thought - when we talk about music, it's the same thing. We have our own lingo. We met Letterman; we shook his hand. We didn't meet Ferguson; we performed on his show, though. We could've met him, but then we had to make our flight. We hung out with Paul Shay though who is actually a fellow Canadian from Thunder Bay, Ontario. We met all the men who played the husbands on Desperate Housewives; they were interested in our being a band. We were too afraid to approach any of the women (laughs).
V.B. Publications like GQ, Elle, and Rolling Stone have described you in a very elegant way. How would you most creatively sum up your band in words?
G.W. I'd rather leave the descriptions to those (who write for a living). I'm so close to our band that I cannot objectively describe and sum it up. Every verse or song has a different vibe. (Who knows) what was happening in my life when I wrote it? Maybe I could use the terms "pop music" to describe it, because hopefully, it's at least part of a long, beautiful 3 minutes (length of a song) in your life. It could mean something to you even when you were a teenager.
V.B. You were nominated for "Muchfact Indie Video of the Year" for your single "Wait Up (Boots of Danger)." How do you feel about that?
G.W. It's great! I'm happy that Mike Juno, the director, gets credit for this award. He's still getting started, and this is a way for him to get even more recognition. He did a great job. For someone who hasn't done that many music videos, this is a great honour.
V.B. Any last words?
G.W. Happy Listening, everybody! We're taking a little vacation right now. We may write some songs over the summer that will hopefully be released in 2012 - early 2012 (laughs). Have fun, and hang out!