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Posted May 13, 2019 by Jeff in Tunes
 
 

Tokyo Police Club Opens Things Up

Photo: Mimi Raver
Photo: Mimi Raver

Written over the course of 2017 in a church in remote, rural Ontario, TPC marks a fresh beginning for Tokyo Police Club. The band formed when members were still in high school but now that band members live in different cities in North America, it’s harder for the guys to get together in one room to record. For this album, however, they wrote the tunes while working in the same room. Producer Rob Schnapf, the guy who produced the band’s 2010 album Champ, helmed the project. Guitarist Josh Hook spoke to us via phone just prior to the launch of a spring tour as he was “packing and doing laundry and taking some gear over to storage.” 

What kind of music did you listen to while growing up? 

We grew up in a regular suburb just about 40 minutes north of Toronto. My parents were really into music. My mom played piano. Going through school, we were all interested in music, but since it was such a small town, we didn’t know anyone who played instruments. In eighth grade, we decided to be in a band. We decided to do that before any of us knew how to play our instruments. That was our first band. It was the same four guys plus one extra guy. We started from there. Newmarket, like all suburban cities, had a good punk and hardcore scene but not really much else. There were some coffeehouses that would do singer-songwriter stuff, and we found that we fit in better with that crowd than the full-on punk/hardcore crowd. From there, we started playing shows in the city because it was more accommodating to our style of music. 

You played in a band prior to forming Tokyo Police Club. Why did
that group not stick?

It was a big shift. Our previous band Suburbia was more influenced by the Beach Boys, the Beatles, Rufus Wainwright and bands with sprawling arrangements. We were just kids who didn’t know how to play our instruments. A few of us would jam and play whatever we felt like. We realized it was something too, and we decided to do it. It was a natural takeover.

Talk about the songwriting process for TPC. How’d you wind up working in a church in rural Ontario?

It was cool. Before this record, our singer Dave was living in Brooklyn, Greg was in Los Angeles and some of us were still in Toronto. That necessitated the songwriting being different for the whole middle of our career. We relied on Dave to come up with the structure and ideas and everything else. We wrote by email, but it wasn’t conducive for everyone. It didn’t allow us to make changes until we were in the studio and at that point the ship had already sailed. We’re not made of money and we couldn’t add another month of studio time. This record was really great. We got together for weeks at a time. Dave would come in with a kernel of an idea or fully formed song. We would play it over and over again. The church was a great spot for that. A friend of ours had used it for their band. The sound of this open, airy room had an influence on what we wanted to do. Playing big, loud instruments in a big, empty room really expanded the songs. We wanted to be a little more simple and a little more open and the room was key.

How’d you wind up working with Rob Schnapf on the disc?

We worked with him in 2009 on Champ and we worked with his engineer Doug Boehm on Forcefield. We had fond memories of working with Rob. He’s hands-off but he’s instrumental in shaping songs. We knew he would be the perfect guy to take these raw songs and shape them.  

We made the decision to work with people we really liked and would wait if they were busy so that we could get it right the first time.

What was his Eagle Rock studio like?

It was great. We did drums at 64 Sound, which is a really cool original late ‘60s, early ‘70s studio. This sounds earthy/crunchy, but it was the vibe you wanted. It was a great place to start the recording part. We moved to his studio, which is a cramped space but in the best way. It’s utilitarian. It’s the most insane collection of instruments you’ve ever seen, but it’s not luxurious. It’s just what you need. It was easy to be hands on in that room because you’re literally working so close together. It was great. You could really zone in. It was very rejuvenating.

“Hercules” has a great, Strokes-like feel to it. Did something in particular inspire that song?

I remember Dave coming in and having that main staccato-ish riff. It came together really easily. The DNA of the song was already there. It wasn’t overthought at all. As for the inspiration, I’m not really sure. I think Dave has a story about it. When we first started playing it, we thought it sounded like a straight-up Strokes song. In the past, we would have shied away from that. Early on, we often got compared to them and they are one of our favorite bands. We would have wanted to change it, but we were like, “Fuck it. Let’s just keep it as it is.”

“Simple Dude” has such a great intro. Talk about the decision to have a simple spoken word intro on that track.

That wasn’t very overthought at all. At least structurally when Dave played the first part, we knew it was the intro. With the snare hit and the chorus, it’s like a Sixpence None the Richer song. It’s unashamedly a ‘90s influence. We just wanted to let it be and not wrangle it into something else.

Talk about making the music video for “Ready to Win.”

The video itself is really cool. Anne Douris did that. She’s done props for a bunch of videos. Because the song is about how we’re not perfect people, we thought it would be cool to open it up to other people and have them submit their fuck-ups. We were on a label maker kick. Anne animated it and did so much work on it. We had fun reading the things people submitted.

What’s the story behind “Daisy Chain”?

It’s been kicking around for like two years before this record. When we first started thinking about working on it, we wanted to shy away from it being this epic ’90s Oasis-style song. We realized it fit perfectly on this record. It was really nice to bring that one back into the fold and have it end the record.

What is the live show like?

We’re really excited to do this leg of the tour. Instead of doing larger venues, we’re doing smaller rooms and doing multiple nights in some places. We want to enjoy ourselves more. We’re not young any more. When you get to spend two days in a city, it provides more of a breather. In the smaller rooms, the songs have gone over really well. We often joke that we got older and more comfortable playing songs that are more conventional in structure [so when] we go back and play the old stuff and it doesn’t make any sense because it has such a weird structure. It’s great to see fans respond to the new stuff.

Photo: Mimi Raver


Jeff

 
Jeff started writing about rock ’n’ roll some 20 years ago when he stood in the pouring rain to hitch hike his way to see R.E.M. on their Life’s Rich Pageant tour. Since that time, he's written for various daily newspapers, alt-weeklies, magazines and websites. Feel free to comment on his posts or suggest music, film and art to him at jeff@whopperjaw.net.