Newmarket, Ontario's Tokyo Police Club are a case study in this new age in music, where a young band can (to borrow a phrase) turn just a few words into sex. Barely a band in 2005, it didn't stop them from sending in an application to the Pop Montreal Festival that year and getting accepted. "The best twenty bucks we ever spent," they'd say. Their high-voltage, melody-driven songwriting got them signed to a small Canadian label, and when their first EP came out, clocking in at a blistering sixteen minutes, dripping with promise, critics and audiences were fixin' for more. By 2007, still in their infancy, and with a grand total of sixteen minutes of recorded music to their credit, they'd cut their teeth on the festival circuit: Coachella, Lollapalooza, Bumbershoot, Glastonbury, Reading and Leeds Festival (not bad training grounds, eh?) In 2008, their first full-length record (Elephant Shell), their first big tour (with Weezer), and even more harping on their potential.
Champ, their sophomore album boasts fleshed-out songs and more defined focus, like you are finally having a real eye-to-eye talk with this band and not just small talk and how-do-you-do's. The skinny-legged kid has bulked up a bit, logged some miles, and has some real stories to tell. And we're ready to listen -- we have been all along.
Below, the video for their new single, Breakneck Speed, and then a word with keyboardist Graham Wright, as he talks about the new record, the time they were robbed of hearing themselves on the radio for the first time, and life on the road.
Download this song on the TPC website.
JT.com: Tokyo Police Club -- there's something about a band name that you only need to hear once. Where did it come from? Who came up with it? I always picture a band meeting, someone goes, "How bout this?" and everyone goes, "Done, let's go get some pizza."
TPC: I always feel bad answering this question because the story isn't very exciting. We wrote a song (Cheer It On) that had the words "Tokyo Police Club" in it, and thought that it would make a pretty decent band name. I can't remember if we ate pizza after, but since most of our meetings end with us eating pizza I think it's safe to assume that it did. Delicious.
JT.com: Your new video for Breakneck Speed looks like alot of footage of you guys goofing off on the road. As you embark on a pretty big tour with your buddies Passion Pit, let me ask, do you act differently on the road than you do in your daily lives? Are you less inhibited? Or more business?
TPC: The road is my daily life! I'm the most like myself when I'm out on the road, and when I get back to wherever I'm staying is when I have to figure out how to behave myself. As for inhibitions vs business, I try to maintain a healthy mix of both.
JT.com: One of the first things anyone says about your band is how quickly you rose through the indie-rock ranks. And I have to admit, the first time I saw you guys 3 years ago at SXSW, I remember thinking how young you guys looked... Looking back now, does it feel fast to you? Did you realize it at the time that you were rising particularly fast?
TPC: It doesn't feel fast at all. This is my only experience, so as far as I can tell everything that's happened to us is perfectly normal. But people keep telling me that it's been fast, and I believe them.
JT.com: What was the moment you realized you were on your way?
TPC: There isn't one magic moment where I felt like we'd 'made it', and really I don't feel like we've made it very far at all compared to where we want to be. But along the road there are certain indicators that you're moving in the right direction, and the first of those I remember is going to the mall in Newmarket the day our EP came out and seeing it on the shelf, next to all the other 'real' releases. I have a tradition now where I won't take a free copy of our records, I'll always go pick one up at a store.
JT.com: What were you doing the first time you heard yourself on the radio?
TPC: We knew when it was going to happen, so we were all crammed into a car waiting for it. It was exciting, of course, though it lacked the element of surprise. I remember shortly after our EP came out the single was on the Toronto radio charts. We were ice skating (so Canadian) and they were playing the chart, and we were feeling excited and smug about the song coming on and all the other skaters enjoying it, unaware that we were in their midst. They changed the station right before we were due up.
JT.com: Let's go back to your first EP for a moment. Did you expect the reaction you got to your first EP? When you made it, did it feel too short to you, honestly? I mean, it could be a lot worse than everyone clamoring for more..
TPC: Our EP was a beautiful thing because making it had almost nothing to do with success or career or anything. It was just songs we liked recorded as best we could. It certainly didn't feel short to us - we actually added bits in the studio to make it longer. And yes, I couldn't agree more that people wanting more music is pretty much the best reaction you could hope for.
JT.com: What's on your iPod when you're traveling around?
TPC: These days i'm giving heavy rotation to Heaven Is Whenever (The Hold Steady), Say It (Born Ruffians) and Shimmering Lights (Meligrove Band). I'm also working my way through Springsteens catalog, which is both intimidating and enormously rewarding.
JT.com: The last song that you heard that made you say, "I wish I'd written that."
TPC: 123 Goodbye by Elvis Perkins. He has such a unique and brilliant lyrical voice, it's incredibly inspiring and discouraging all at once.
JT.com: Your favorite part of your job?
TPC: It doesn't happen often, but every once in a while there's a show where everything clicks on stage and off, and something magical happens that can't be described or quantified in any useful way. But there's no better feeling in the world.
JT.com: Something (not necessarily bad) that you didn't even consider when envisioning your life as a touring musician?
TPC: It's work! The days are busier than I would have ever expected, full of press and contests and practice and who knows what else. I absolutely love being busy, though, so it's worked out nicely.
JT.com: Your new album: What, above all, do you want your listeners to come away with?
TPC: I realize this is a cop out answer, but I really just want people to come away with exactly what they come away with. Hopefully it will connect with people and become a part of their lives, the way my favourite records are. Or maybe it'll just be something fun to play at a party. Or maybe they'll hate it. But it's the best record we could make and we're over the moon about it, so I'm happy no matter what.
Tokyo Police Club's new record, Champ, is in stores now via Mom + Pop Records.
The band are in the midst of a cross-country club tour with Passion Pit, and will embark on their own headline tour starting July 23rd. Full tour dates here.