Tokyo Police Club | Stories From Now

“For this album we definitely had an idea or a vision. We knew what we wanted everything to sound like—drums, guitar, vocals—and Rob master-produced it the way we saw it or heard it in our heads.”

 
 
Recall Scott Pilgrim vs. The World and one of its underlying plots: The title character’s band constantly struggles to break out of obscurity, playing in band battles to grab the attention of anyone they possibly can. Toronto natives Tokyo Police Club were once in Sex Bob-omb’s place. Luckily, the Canadian quartet’s persistence paid off, and since their first EP A Lesson in Crime was released in 2006, there’s been little time to look back. Two years after the EP, Saddle Creek Records released the band’s first full-length album, Elephant Shell. In support of the record, TPC set off on a seemingly never-ending tour during which the band conceived their 2010 release, Champ. Again, a massive tour has ensued. Singer and bassist Dave Monks took time out of his hectic schedule (meaning he put Jurassic Park on pause) to speak with me about touring, the release of Champ, and his writing process.
 
 
It’s been a busy eight months for you since Champ was released; you’ve not had a lot of down time. Between then and now, has the album’s release, reception, and the insanity of touring sunk in? How does it feel?
 
We have been so happy with it all. There was great response to Champ. We’ve had lots of amazing shows and we would really just like to keep the momentum going that we’ve had throughout the tour.
 
After touring as much as you have, does it get any easier? How do you keep it from getting stale and keep it new and exciting?
 
It goes in cycles every tour; it can be fun. Obviously, the less stress that’s put on us or that we put on ourselves makes shows go really well. Last tour everything was great; touring felt fresh throughout the summer but near the end of the year it was wearing thin. To avoid getting stale on the road we’d kind of test new songs out; the new songs add a bit of a mix for us as well as people coming out to see us. Last time we went out on the road we jumped at every opportunity for shows, and that left us a very narrow window for downtime.
 
Recently you said you don’t want your albums to merely be touring tools. How do you avoid that?
 
We want the records to gain their own momentum, but we also wanted to keep coming at records with a new angle, let the album take on a life of its own. We also wanted to take our own sound but present it to a new audience while still keeping hold of our regular audience. You know, like having someone share a record with a friend who hasn’t been introduced to us yet and then bring them to a show, then they can do the same thing next time.
 
While you seem to be molding your own identity, your records have unique qualities that carry over from album to album. Champ is definitely Tokyo Police Club, only beefier. Was this intentional?
 
Well, first of all, thanks. I appreciate that. Champ was so much hard work, for all of us. Our golden rule, especially for Champ, was to have fun while doing it, so that is what always came first. For this album we definitely had an idea or a vision. We knew what we wanted everything to sound like—drums, guitar, vocals—and Rob master-produced it the way we saw it or heard it in our heads. This album, when we recorded it…everything was so natural, it was a very organic process. Nothing was forced and we just had a great time making it; it all came to us because we knew how we wanted it to sound.
 
What are some influences that go into your writing? Other critics have pointed out that you use a lot of nostalgia and “days gone by”-type of scenery in your songs. What do you think?
 
Lyrically, I get a lot of what I write from just day-to-day life, stories from now, you know? A lot of the feedback I received concerning my lyrics was wistful, which is fine with me. I just try to find things to write about that everyone gets. It’s like Seinfeld: That show was so successful and timeless because the shows were always about things that happen to everyone, types of things that we will always remember. It’s hugely popular to write about things that happened from your childhood, I love that old stuff. It’s so timeless, though. It’s like the Beatles with “A Hard Day’s Night.” I’m of the firm belief that if they released that now it would have the same effect on people now as it did then. The sound is timeless, and they wrote about stuff that happened to them, and it still happens to people today. That’s the kind of stuff we want to draw from, the everyday or the childhood memories.
 
Are there any specific bands you are influenced by?
 
Well, we always used to get [called] “Canadian Strokes.” Everyone said we sounded like a Canadian version of them, which is fine—I really like them, a lot. Sometimes people would say Arcade Fire. I mean, when we really started off in 2005, 2006, people just made comparisons to Arcade Fire because of the Canadian thing, and The Strokes because I guess that’s what we sounded a lot like back then. We keep those kinds of bands and those influences in our hearts, but we wanted to go in our own direction.
 
Are you writing as much as you did between Elephant Shell and Champ? What can we expect from you next?
 
As for writing, we’ve got a few things. There’s a handful of new songs we have yet to really dig deep into, but hopefully we’ll get to do that in the spring or summer of this year. I’m thinking maybe an EP or something is in the works. We don’t have enough songs for a full-length album but an EP might be something we do. If we have songs we’ll put them out, but I don’t think it’s at all ready for a full record. Not just yet. | Jenn Metzler
 
Toyko Police Club land at the Firebird in St. Louis on February 8. Tickets are $15, for more information visit www.firebirdstl.com.
 
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