“When we were writing songs for A Lesson in Crime, we were just hanging out, pleasing ourselves, not really thinking that people were going to hear them. Champ was a lot more like that than Elephant Shell.”
Latitude 2010, Suffolk, UK: Exclusive Interview with Tokyo Police Club
The journey up to Latitude Festival in Southwold was particularly cramped. Whilst being in my friend’s car, I ended up squashing all my backpacks and sleeping necesseties into the space where I would usually rest my limbs and breathe, but despite having my facial parts pressed up against the window for a majority of the duration, the journey was quite a jolly one. It was made all the better by some [The] XX-saturated playlist which went down particularly well when mixed with cigarettes and some festively warm beer.
I had heard great things about Latitude, a lot of them from brother Marcus. But I’m not sure anything could have prepared me for the weekend that lay ahead of me.
On the thursday night, the first night, we were extremely merry. We dropped in on Tom Jones, who disappointed many of the pleading youth by not succumbing to requests for Sex Bomb and other classics. Thoroughly disgruntled by Jones’ determination to play only his newest unrecognisable tracks, the masses skipped back to the various campsites and made Thursday night a pretty edgy event. I, in my own social situation, was enjoying my time with many old school friends, I was having a great drunken time. It was some time during the first hour of Friday, that I recieved the news from brother Marcus that I would be interviewing Tokyo Police Club.
Some 17 hours later, I was waiting outside a band-filled-caravan with wild nerves that could only be posessed by a 16 year old who’s about to interview his favourite band, wondering what quite exactly was going to be happening after the interview had officially started. You have to remember that the first I’d heard about this arrangement was some 17 hours previous. I had even brought my friend for support; just in case my lack of questions and preparation actually became a problem.
2 minutes of a blur later, I greeted Dave Monks and Graham Wright and gradually, with my friend’s iphone installed and recording, the interview started.
Interview with TOKYO POLICE CLUB:
APFOS: Is this your first ever experience of Suffolk, let alone Latitude?
Monks: Yeah, we’ve never been to this part of England before.
Have you been much around England before?
Monks: Yeah, we’ve done around like two solid tours of England… [to Wright] Where’ve we played? Erm… Manchester… Is Newcastle in England?
[realising this interview is going slower than expected, I hastily change the subject to the band’s newest album ‘Champ’]
APFOS: A Lesson in Crime and Elephant Shell were two very different records, the latter being a bit more reserved, where would you say Champ stands in comparison?
Monks: I don’t want to say it’s a mix of the two, because its not… [pause]
Graham Wright: [butting in heroically] I think it’s weirdly closer in spirit to A Lesson in Crime in a lot of ways. Just in terms of the headspace we were in while writing it. Although I mean, A Lesson in Crime, you can’t duplicate that: we were all just hanging out and we didn’t even know we were writing anything, we were just making songs and that was fun. Obviously you can’t do that twice after it’s begun. But, in terms of..*thoughtful sigh* … I don’t want to say ‘self indulgent’ because it sounds bad… When we were writing songs for A Lesson in Crime, we were just hanging out, pleasing ourselves, not really thinking that people were going to hear them. Champ was a lot more like that than Elephant Shell; just in terms of doing things that immediately seemed exciting and interesting to us, and not really worrying what people were going to think when they heard them.
So what kind of songs will be on your set list when you’r on your big North American Tour which is very soon upon you?
Monks: The main focus is of course on Champ, but then again we’re playing about half of A Lesson in Crime and some from Smith…
Wright: Elephant Shell is really the record that’s getting the..err..short shrift…err..in terms of set-listing…not on purpose though!
Monks: Our songs are so short, we end up putting about 20 songs on the set list anyway.
Ok… Of course, there’s the official video for ‘Wait Up’ on your official website which you can donate money for in order to download. That’s one awesome video… with all the dogs.
Wright: I think it’s the best video we’ve ever made.
Monks: For videos, we have the creative aspect of the band but we don’t really have the skills to guide it. So you just find someone to direct it and say “you’re the director” and you trust him…
Wright: Which is very difficult… I would never do it just because these are people’s creative ideas and I don’t want to make light of them but… I would love just to show people some of the video treatments we’ve gotten, ’cause you get some doozies. I mean, first of all it’s really hard to put down on paper, what the video’s going to look like. We’ve made videos that I love, but on paper sound like the worst ideas ever. It’s really hard to find someone who gets the spirit of it: the spirit of the songs, the spirit of the band, the spirit of us as people and what we want to get across. There’s a lot of intangeable things and it’s difficult because we never quite know what we want but it’s very obvious what we don’t want..
Monks: [pointing at my friend’s phone grinning] Text message from Mum!
Wright: We were really fortunate with this one that the director; Mike Juno who’s a friend of ours, had this brilliant idea waiting to be used and we sort of jumped on it.
<<HERE IS THE VIDEO WE ARE TALKING ABOUT>> (you probably need to see it in order to understand the dog question)
Tokyo Police Club – Wait Up (Boots of Danger)
You can download this video for a donation! Just head to the Tokyo’s official website and donate however much you like (minimum 1$), you’ll get this seriously awesome video!
APFOS: How did you get all those dogs to do that stuff?
Wright: They’re actors.
Monks: They’re actor dogs. They all know eachother, there’s like an alpha-dog and stuff…
Wright: Yeah, they said if you want all these dogs, you need like a pack… The thing is, if you just put 12 of your friends’ random dogs together, apparently all they’ll do is suss each other out and they won’t do anything else because… that’s how it works, they’re animals.
Monks: It’s kinda like Apple – if you want the Apple warranty, you’ve got to buy loads of Apple parts.
Wright: [bemused] Yeah, so you get these actor dogs and already you know ‘this is your alpha dog, this dog is this, this dog is that’. So you get the alpha-dog to do it and the whole pack will do it.
[slight pun question alert] – Would you say like on tour, you also suss yourselves out? Do you have an Alpha-Dog in the pack?
Monks: I sometimes like to sniff Graham’s ass out on tour… It’s a bit of an issue, we’re talking about it…
[I laughed slightly akwardly at this, starting to wonder if my gloriously well improvised question was actually very cheesy and also slightly weird… thankfully, after the long pause that presided my awkward yelps, Graham saved the day]
Wright: Well, we’ve know each-other a lot longer than we’ve been in the band together. I think any inter-personal issues that could be a real issue, we probably worked out before we played in a band together… We’re a very functional band I think.
Monks: We’re pretty solid.
That’s good… With the current music scene turning ever more into one cyber-machine of hype and blog trends, can you guys recall on how it happened for you, that you just went so big so quickly?
Monks: I feel like before we even had any prospect, we were working really hard at this thing… What you do is you just kinda work as hard as you can, so when an opportunity comes, you’re just ready and you’re already running. We just made that EP and it was just chance that it happened to sound not shit, it was just chance that we got a show at Mercury Lounge in New York… But if we hadn’t have been working so hard, these chances would have never have come in the first place.
Wright: It was around the time when people were excited to see Canadian bands! and also excited to see bands with short songs! We didn’t calculate it, it just kinda worked out-
Monks: [excited] Blogs were kind of a new thing too, relatively… I guess it was kind of a time.
You played Coachella again this year, how was that? Any comparisons between english and american festivals?
Monks: Coachella is really … [pause in search of a word] … sceney. It’s big, but it’s not laid back. ‘Cause there’s like loads of crazy huge celebrities and stuff… I dunno.. it’s just like… [more discontent Coachella mumbling]. Don’t get me wrong, I had the best weekend ever there. It was amazing.
Wright: [pleasingly animated] UK festivals are generally very organised. I think it’s been a thing over here for a long time. I mean, they don’t really have festivals in the States. Coachella was the first big one, and now there’s a bunch, and they’re fantastic. But you know-
Monks: You get some shit show festivals…
Wright: Yeah, I mean, you get the oldest US festivals that are institutions who are maybe say 10 years old. Still you know, it’s hard to run a festival, I can imagine, there’s so many different things that have to run smoothly. But here in the UK where they’ve been doing it for so long. It’s you know, for example, we noticed as we were driving up today: on the other hand when you drive up to these US festivals looking for a place to park, they’re like I dunno, drive over there and ask that guy! and generally no-one really knows what’s going on. Whereas here, the first person you ask – they say Oh ok, take that left, take that right, that’s your parking-lot, you’re gonna walk to talk to Tim, Tim’s your production manager, Tim’s gonna tell you this, he’s gonna take you there, there, you’ll get all your envelopes, in your envelopes is everything you need, what time you’re on, what time you’re not. etc. etc. … It’s brilliant and it’s nice and easy for us.
That’s good to hear. Lastly, I was just wondering if I could pick through some lyrics… namely,“it’s good to back” from the song Breakneck Speed. I’m getting the vibe, but it would be interesting to know what it’s exactly depicting?
Monks: Erm, we had just finished recording Elephant Shell at that point; like literally I had just got home. So I guess that’s kinda where the feeling came from. Sort of a “It’s good to be back motherfuckers!”…
Tokyo Police Club – Your English is Good
And so with “mother-fuckers”, the interview came to a natural end. I thought generally it went well. It was fascinating to hear from Wright so honestly that Elephant Shell was sort of a pressurised record filled with self-conscious worries about how it would be received, a worry that dwarfed the band’s actual spirit. The newest album, Champ, is serious fun, every track is awash with a revitalising edge that makes you want to move. No-one can criticise the spirit that these guys posess for the music they make. The long friendship between these people, that stems far before this band began, creates a unique chemistry; so giving them instruments will only end in some pretty awesome fireworks. Some pretty awesome mother-fucking fireworks. Later that day, I turned up to the Sunrise Arena to catch their glorious set. The tent was full to the edge with dancing wide-eyed and excited people. Tokyo Police Club were commanding their limbs with yelps, drums and soaring guitars. They had to hurry though; they’re back off for North America, about to take the world by storm all over again.
Did I say nothing could have prepared me for the weekend that lay ahead of me at Latitude?…
…More episodes to come!
[photo courtesy of Black Gold]