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SXSW preview: Tokyo Police Club (Burnt Orange Juice exclusive interview) March 5, 2008

Posted by rugwu in Indie Rock, mp3, Photo, SXSW.
Tags: , ,

[photos c/o Tokyo Police Club]

Being a Tokyo Police Club fan is like signing up to go sky-diving. You know you’re in for the thrill of your life, but first you have to get teased a little bit. Belly-flopping on to padded mats during training sessions is fun and all, but it really only whets the appetite. And when you finally reach your big day, the plane ride to 13,000 ft. is filled with angst and anticipation. << Get TPC’s new single, SXSW dates and more after the jump.

The equal parts punk and pop band from northern Toronto sprung up in 2006, after years of playing together in high-school, with the excellent EP/mini-album, A lesson in Crime. Tokyo Police Club have nothing to do with the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department, but A lesson in Crime – at a fast and furious seven songs and 16 minutes – felt a bit like being ruffed up and swept away to a distant, technologically superior land. A live iTunes EP and a few internet singles later, fans and bloggers both sides of the border are through with the taunts and teases and ready to take the plunge.

“I don’t think you ever really anticipate a reaction like this,” said Graham Wright, keyboardist and one of four Tokyo Police Clubbers (also including Dave Monks on vocals/bass, Josh Hook on guitar and Greg Alsop on drums) in an interview with Burnt Orange Juice.

“You can never really expect that it’s all gonna come together the way that it did. If we had finished the album a year ago, maybe no one would have liked it or no one would’ve cared.”

The band wrapped up recording their first full-length album, titled Elephant Shell, in January and plans to release it April 22 on their American label, Saddle Creek Records. If you’re planning on doing a wiki search for an explanation of the term “elephant shell,” don’t bother – it isn’t one.

“It’s just a song lyric,” Wright said. “There isn’t necessarily a deep philosophical or cryptic meaning to it. We like using one of Dave’s abstract lyrics for titles with no pre-existing meaning behind them. I think it’s pretty cool if the only association with the title is the music itself.”

In the run-up to their first album release, TPC have toured everywhere from Ontario, to Kansas, to, yes, Tokyo.

“It’s really different performing there,” Wright said. “No one makes any noise while you play… which is actually pretty awesome.”

And aside from the trials, excitement and occasional doldrums of playing on the road, TPC have navigated an indie public eager to label them with not-so-abstract terms like “precocious,” “post-punk” and “revival.” Although the music they’ve released so far has placed them squarely in an arena once occupied by The Strokes and friends, TPC never aspired to be associated with the P-word.

“I’m not even sure what ‘post-punk’ or even ‘punk’ is,” Wright said. “After The Sex Pistols and The Ramones I get a little fuzzy. We’ve never really considered ourselves to be that kind of band, you know? We just make straight-ahead, catchy pop songs that are two minutes long.”

For Elephant Shell, which took “a lot longer” to write and record than the precursor Crime, the band may have made some of their catchiest tunes yet. On the brand new single, “In A Cave,” which contains that famous titular lyric, all the familiar keyboards, fuzzy guitars and hand-claps are present, but singer-songwriter Monks puts forth softer, traditionally-sung vocals. A trend, Wright said holds true for most of the album.

“Dave was just sort of getting his confidence when we were doing the EPs,” Wright said. “Now, after two years of touring, I think he’s a much more confident performer and he knows what he can and can’t do as a singer. That’s definitely led to him being more melodic as opposed to shouty, which I think is awesome. He writes really great melodies.”

Wright thinks fans will appreciate the changes to the TPC sound, but admits to having been a little apprehensive.

“At first we were worried, because we finished the record and realized there wasn’t really the shoutiness and thought that maybe people wouldn’t like it. But we thought that the songs sounded great without it and we didn’t want to go back and add shouts just for the sake of doing it, you know?”

For their full-length debut, TPC believe they’ve achieved a more fully-fleshed-out sound with richer instrumentation and atmospherics.

“We wanted the album to have a cohesive feel, but also for each song to have something new to offer,” Wright said. “It’s really important for us not to repeat ourselves.”

One thing that hasn’t changed from the band’s earliest releases is song length. TPC songs have been consistently short bursts of energetic idealism, never exceeding three-and-a-half minutes.

“We never set out to write them like that,” Wright said. “We just reach the two minute, two-and-a-half minute mark and then feel like we’ve said everything we have to say. If we ever wrote a song that was longer we wouldn’t cut it, it just doesn’t usually work out that way. We’re big believers in trimming fat. We don’t think a song should be any longer than it has to be.”

Kicking off their Elephant Shell tour with three dates at SXSW, a new single out and the album release set for next month, Tokyo Police Club are poised to follow fellow Canuck’s Broken Social Scene, Arcade Fire and a swath of other acts who’ve made our frigid neighbor to the north the hottest spot for up-and-coming indie artists.

“I think we’ve always had some really great music here,” Wright said. “I’m glad people are starting to stand up and take notice.”

Check out Tokyo Police Club’s SXSW dates and download “In a Cave” below.

3/10 – The Onion/Barbarian Group party @ Mohawk

3/13 – The Onion party @ Emo’s

3/15 – Dirty Dog Bar @ 1 a.m.

Tokyo Police Club – “In a Cave”




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