Tokyo Police Club Enter Indie Big Leagues With Champ
Though Ontario indie-rockers Tokyo Police Club might still technically be considered wet behind the ears in terms of age, their notable résumé and relentless work ethic speak a different story. Forming in 2005 after disbanding their previous group, Suburbia, the foursome, then between 18 and 19 years old, played songs in their basement for fun, before gaining some buzz around their hometown.
TPC's full-length debut, Elephant Shell, was released in 2008 to favorable reviews, many citing the band's knack for penning quick, post-punk pop tunes; but it was their sophomore release, 2010's Champ, on which the band, though still fresh-faced and youthful, reveal they are climbing out of the confines of ageism and expectancy and stepping into a spotlight all their own.
The band, currently on tour in support of Champ, plays tonight at Warehouse Live, and Rocks Off spoke with the TPC guitarist Josh Hook about their journey and future plans.
Rocks Off: I've heard the band refer to Champ as having been recorded with "more feeling than thought" when compared to Elephant Shell. Was this a conscious effort, and does it imply that Champ is a more personal record for the band?
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Josh Hook: The main difference between Champ and Elephant Shell was the writing process; when we were writing Shell, we were still getting offers off our previous EP, it led to a fragmented writing and creative process for Shell. When we'd come back after a week of touring and try to write the song again, we'd forget where we were and have to pick it back up in a more "thinking" way - as in, "This is where we are, this is where we want it to go...".
Whereas for the writing process for Champ, we just said we don't want to do anything except write and grow with each song and see it from inception to completion and move with it, and that's where the "feeling" comes in; when you have an uninterrupted time to complete something, you feel it grow and mature. We didn't have that with Shell; Champ is a result of us taking our time and having the ability to see its recording through all the way to its maturity.
RO: Speaking of maturity, TPC formed when you guys were quite young. Do you consider your records are showing the natural maturing of the band in general?
JH: Oh, definitely. We might be too close to the music to look at it objectively, but I'd agree that we've become more comfortable in how we work and play and that's the maturity we've seen.
RO: Are there pros and cons about forming a band so young?
JH: People sometimes dwell on our early upstart, or say, "These kids have a long way to go," but I don't necessarily think that's a bad thing. I would rather have started young than to not have even started yet. People tend to take notice of young musicians, so that spotlight gives us a stronger push than we maybe wouldn't have felt had we started a band at 25.
Tokyo Police Club opening for Passion Pit at Warehouse Live, June 2010
RO: How's the tour coming along?
JH: Great! We''ve played some nice rooms on the East Coast. We're now playing shows with Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin; they're awesome guys. We actually listened to them on our first American tour, so we're fans.
RO: Can you tell me about the TPC zine you've been selling at your merch booths while on tour? When I first heard about it, it reminded me of that '90s-era DIY Riot Grrrl ethic.
JH: We were going for more the 2"x2" Justin Bieber stocking-stuffer books.
RO: Yeah, I got one of those for Christmas this year.
JH: You got a Justin Bieber book for Christmas?!
RO: Sadly, no, but I'll put it on my wishlist for next year.
JH: The zine is something we wanted to put together to give fans directly from us. e make albums and design T-shirts, but this zine seemed like another legitimate outlet... we hope to make a connection with fans who receive the zine.
We asked ourselves, "What would you want as a fan of a band?" and I can remember all those years as a kid, I would have been stoked for something like this, so hopefully there are people out there who'd agree.
RO: Can we only find them at shows at this point?
JH: Yes. One of us is always at the merch booth. We wanted to be sure people didn't consider the zine as something that was made up behind-the-scenes; this is something we created hands-on, so we'd like to be available if anyone has questions about it; we'd like to make that connection with fans at our show. We'll likely continue to sell them at shows as opposed to selling them online or something.
RO: I also wanted to ask you about the new Champ Deluxe Edition on iTunes. What can we expect to find on that that's not on the EP?
JH: There are a few remixes and acoustic tracks on it. But if you're one of the unfortunate people who bought it too early, you can expect to see a bunch of mislabeled tracks, so it's a rare gem.
RO: We're looking forward to TPC's Houston show this week. The last time you played Houston was opening for Passion Pit at Warehouse Live last summer. Do you have any favorite Houston-area spots?
JH: I think we went to a bar across the street from Walter's last time we were there with Ra Ra Riot [in 2009]. A band is very rarely the best source to ask the best local food - rather, we ask ourselves, "What's the fastest and closest place to eat?" The Walter's show was great, we had a great crowd. We've played Houston, Austin, Dallas, and San Antonio, and Texas has always been a pleasurable state to visit while on tour - even if it's a pain in the ass to drive across.
RO: What can we expect next from TPC after the tour?
JH: After tour, we'll take a month off and then tour Canada again, since we haven't toured our home country in a while. That leads us to April or May, and then we'll start slowly moving back to songwriting. Following in Champ's footsteps, we'll take some serious time off and maybe play some festivals, then put our heads down and start thinking about the next record late this year.
RO: Never a dull moment.
JH: Yep. If it's not one thing, it's another.
With Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin and Roky Moon & BOLT, 8 p.m. tonight at Warehouse Live.
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