Canadian post-punks Tokyo Police Club may have only formed five years ago, but they have an impressive CV for such a young band. Two well-received EPs in their formative years led to a deal with Conor Oberst’s Saddle Creek label to release their début album, 2008’s Elephant Shell. Unfortunately for TPC, Elephant Shell wasn’t quite the success they hoped for, but the band re-grouped and have returned with the critically acclaimed Champ. Early signs point towards the group fulfilling the potential they’ve always shown. Add this to a busy touring schedule and it seems that 2010 could truly be Tokyo Police Club’s year. In the middle of their busy summer, Greg from the band found time to email a response to No Ripcord’s questions.
How are you finding the reaction to your new album and what are your hopes for it?
The first reactions have been really positive so far. I haven't read a lot of the reviews, but we've been getting a great response from fans at our shows every night. It's really satisfying to go out on stage and break into a new song and have people start dancing and singing along to it. It's really the best reaction you can hope for.
General consensus on this record is that it’s a step forward and you’re making good on the promise shown earlier in your career - would you say that’s a fair assessment and do you feel you’re continuing to develop as a band?
Yeah, we are all definitely really happy with this album. I hope that if people in 2006 who liked our EP could listen forward to what we're doing now they'd be happy and not feel like we've veered off in some disappointing direction. I think we've learned to just trust our initial gut instincts more and not second guess what our first ideas are for a song. They're usually the right way to go, so it was a lot less of "start, stop, re-write, go back to what you had" process with this record and more of just a constant flow of ideas forward. It feels like a more natural progression for us, and I hope people can hear that.
What was the thinking behind setting up the Champ Championship and what’s the best challenge you’ve had so far? [The Champ Championship is a TPC invention where fans can challenge the band to a competition of their choosing with the chance to win prizes]
The Champ Champion contest is basically just a way to have some fun and meet new people in the cities we travel to on tour. It's really often that you get to a town in the mid-afternoon, setup, find some mediocre food in the area and then have a few hours to do absolutely nothing till the show begins. I think we all got tired of just having "laptop circle parties" in our dressing room, where everyone is just staring at their computers, surfing the internet, completely bored, and wanted to actually have a chance to do something in our time off before we play. With this contest, we get to pull into town and then ask the people there, "What do you guys do here for fun?" and instead of them just giving us an answer, "Oh, well there's the pencil museum and the miniature tea set collection in town square...", like you would get from a travel site, we get, "What do we do here? Effin’ Three-Legged Races! Backwards! And Blindfolded!" Done! Let's do that! In Baltimore we had a couple come out and just challenge us to clean and eat steamed blue crabs. What kind of amazing people offer that up as a challenge? And if you've ever seen The Wire, you'll know that was definitely the best way to spend an afternoon in Baltimore.
You have several special packages for fans available on your website. Why have you decided to do this and do you think it’s important for bands to try and connect with your fans in such a way?
I think it's important to give your fans a chance to connect with you in as complete a way as you're willing to offer. We're all huge fans of music and we love it when you get to see some behind the scenes shots or video of a favourite band of ours rehearsing, or just goofing around. I think that extends to the album and the music on it. Like, how with some of our CDs you get a collage that Dave made of all his lyrics and notes he made while writing them. It just gives an insight into our creative process and mechanics as a band that I know with bands I love, I'd be really interested in seeing.
You seem to have a pretty heavy tour schedule for the remainder of 2010 - what are you particularly looking forward to?
Honestly, right now we're all just excited to be playing live again. We stopped touring almost completely in early 2009 to start work on this album so we'd been off the stage for almost a year and a half before we began playing live again recently. You can get pretty exhausted by life on the road and there's definitely always a point on tour where you realize you just need to get home soon or you're going to go crazy. But being away from it for that long you really begin to miss just being on stage together and you remember why you started playing music in the first place. It's a real rush again for us to get on stage every night, so I think we're having more fun now than we've had since we started touring back in 2006. It's a blast to be a band again.
What bands and artists are your main inspiration when writing songs and looking for ideas?
We all love the Strokes and Radiohead, but I'm not sure if they'd be where we draw ideas from. Bands like that constantly remind us that we've still got so much room to grow as song-writers - it's always really humbling to put on a record like Is This It or Kid A and just be blown away every time. I think we draw a lot of inspiration from our contemporaries; bands that we know and love and play shows with who are growing up and developing their sound around us. I get really inspired by just hearing what new exciting music is coming out each month and then dissecting it and figuring out what they're doing and learning from it. It's really great to be able to just look around you for inspiration and find it everywhere. It's still a really exciting time for music and I'm glad to be a part of it.
What new bands coming through do you think are worth watching out for?
We just played at a few festivals with this band from Australia called The Middle East and I think they're amazing. I really loved their sets each night and everyone in the band is just really talented and puts out such an intense performance where they’re playing at peak level all the way to the end. If you get a chance to see them live soon, do it!
Finally, How did you end up appearing on Desperate Housewives and how did you find it?
Desperate Housewives was a fun experience. Our friend, Paul Bullock, is a writer on the show and it came up that they needed a band for a story arc they were working on and he suggested us. The only strange part is how, since the show exists in it's own "universe" apart from our reality, we couldn't be called Tokyo Police Club and they had to change our name to Cold Splash. So, now there might a large contingent of 40-something women out there who are Cold Splash's biggest fans.