The mid-00s saw a wave of alt rock bands form in the GTA, following in the footsteps of some of the trailblazers of the scene like Metric and Broken Social Scene. Over the next decade and a half, of those that found success, some have remained active, some have broken up, gone solo, or even reformed. Few can say they’ve managed to do all of the above, especially in a matter of a few years, but such is the case for Tokyo Police Club.
Over their tumultuous past few years since the 2016 release of the pair of Melon Collie and the Infinite Radness EPs, the band has been through significant turmoil, with a proposed breakup (3/4 of the band were ready to walk away) narrowly averted in 2017, which then led to a creative reunification while writing and recording their new album TPC released last year. They’ve followed up the success of Top 30 hit single ‘Hercules’ with their newest single ‘Single Dude’ released this past week.
We caught up with keyboardist Graham Wright on the road last week to chat about the long and winding road that led to this new phase of the band.
Apt613: It’s been a little while since you guys came to town.
Graham Wright: Yeah I guess it has! The last time we were there was the Hopped and Confused festival at the Mill Street. It was a weird one – the generator busted and our set time got pushed way back, but I seem to recall it going ok in the end.
In terms of catching up on the timeline, Tokyo Police Club have had quite the eventful two years since the EPs. Piecing together the timeline, you essentially fast forwarded through the traditional ’10 years together, break up, then reunite’ band phase.
Yes, we’ve often joked that there’s been a number of opportunities in our careers where, if we were smart, we would’ve told everyone we were breaking up, and then get back together. Apparently that’s what the people want these days. Unfortunately we just kept our heads down and worked hard like good boys and so no breakup for Tokyo Police Club yet.
Writing and recording this album sounds like it was a lot different than the last couple in terms of the process, including a retreat to a secluded rural church.
It certainly set the tone for how we were going to work together throughout the entire thing. Doing the EPs, we did those extremely remotely, so just being in the same room again on this, doing the band thing and playing instruments together, and being able to say “hey, what if the bridge went this way instead of that way” and then just trying it. I know it seems intuitive, and probably used to be intuitive to us, and then somewhere along the line your nose gets a little too close to the work and you start making weird decisions. So just doing it that way and having the space to be loose about it was extremely critical and we tried to bring that with us as we went into a more traditional studio to record.
For this album, you went back to Rob Schnapf, who produced 2010’s Champ. How was it like working with him again?
Oh my god it was amazing! When we were in Ottawa for that Hopped and Confused gig, there was a producer we were thinking about working with, and we all just sat down to have a drink before the show and catch up, and Dave said “ah man, I just got bad news, the dude we were going to record with can’t do it – it fell through”. We were about to go to Nashville and make this record, now we have to make a new plan. We were sitting there for like five seconds where it felt like a catastrophe, and in the sixth second, someone said “I don’t know… what about Rob?” and we all went “oh hell yeah”, and by second #10 it was perfect, and it wound up being exactly what we needed.
I think the songs themselves this time around seem to ask for a little bit more room to breathe. Or maybe we’re just older and are a little more confident in letting the songs breathe.
I wouldn’t say it’s a complete 180, but your sound on this record is quite different from the last album and EPs, in that the layer of post-production or glossiness is completely stripped away.
I mean, I guess. There’s also more guitars. Keyboards tend to code as glossy, and there’s no keyboards on this record which helps it sound more raw, at least superficially.
Even albums with keyboards, depending how many layers you’re adding onto it, it starts getting muddled. But this one, because you’re going back to guitars and it’s more straightforward, the songs tend to resonate more.
I think the songs themselves this time around seem to ask for a little bit more room to breathe. Or maybe we’re just older and are a little more confident in letting the songs breathe. We were just playing ‘New Blues’ in soundcheck, and that’s one that when it was being played on acoustic guitar, it was pretty clear what the bones of the song were, and what about it was exciting. We didn’t feel the need to try to gussy it up with keyboard hooks or a big riff. We figured “let’s just play it”, and that was kind of the theme of the record – “just play the songs”, and usually that turned out pretty good.
Rob does a good job of making sure that stays prominent and isn’t hidden behind layers production.
Rob is a real guitar genius. He records everything well, but in particular, I don’t know anyone in the business that records guitars better than Rob. Considering it was an all-guitar record for the first time, we were lucky to be working with him again.
I know you guys have quite a few more dates on this tour, but what else does 2019 hold?
We have gigs all summer, a weekend here and a weekend there with festivals, and then we’re planning a tour for the fall out west. In terms of making new stuff, there’s nothing in the calendar yet, but it comes up out of nowhere, you don’t have plans and then one day there’s a few songs floating around and you need to do something about them. So I don’t know what the timeline is, but we’re feeling loose, everyone is psyched about being in the band and going forward with it, and the last thing you want to do with that is get all gung hu and set a deadline that we have to have a record done in the next three months. That’s exactly how you make yourself stressed out and make it feel like a job. We’re just going to let it take us where it takes us.
Tokyo Police Club is playing the Bronson Centre April 18, at 7pm, with support from Oshawa band Dizzy. Tickets are $29.50 at TicketFly.