Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Getting to Know: Tokyo Police Club

Hey stupid, keep it simple! A lot can be said for innocence and a casual approach to your craft. Take Tokyo Police Club, a four-piece Canadian garage-punk outfit whose name has no deeper meaning than the fact that it sounds cool and whose seven-song, 16-minute EP, A Lesson in Crime, might just be one of modern indie rock’s most gloriously unintentional concept albums. And now with a debut LP in the works, the future has never looked so bright for these four kids from the suburbs of Toronto.

“Operator! Get me the president of the world. This is an emergency!” screams singer-bassist Dave Monks on the EP’s opening track, “Cheer it On,” before the band kicks in with sharp, painfully catchy guitar riffs powered by the sheer velocity of ’70s punk. As each song on Crime is unveiled, so is a clear dystopian view of the future—a world in ruins, an aging republic plagued by civil war and dominated by robot masters, a place where the kids aren’t all right because they have microchips implanted in their hearts. But should we, the citizens of tomorrow, take heed of this ominous vision?

“It wasn’t intentional, is the thing,” says Monks, 20. “I’d make up stories and anything I thought was interesting in a book or a course I was taking, I’d find a way to put into a song. And then accidentally we made this global warning record.”

The band formed while Monks and his bandmates—keyboardist Graham Wright, guitarist Josh Hook, and drummer Greg Alsop—were in high school and, as Wright puts it, the band was just something fun to do on Friday nights. So when the boys graduated in 2005 and Monks and Alsop left for college while Wright and Hook entered the working world, it wasn’t a breakup in any traditional sense. It was more or less a pause from something that was never supposed to be all that serious.

But when the Club’s casual performance at Pop Montreal, a weeklong citywide music festival, went better than expected, fate intervened and one of their demos wound up in the hands of Toronto-based Paper Bag Records. By January, the band was reunited and signed, and just like that, Tokyo Police Club was legit.

Spending three days and $2,000 in the studio, A Lesson in Crime was soon sent to just about every member of the music press and industry, and despite the fact that the EP was only meant to be released in Canada, what followed was a reception nothing short of ecstatic. Even without a proper stateside release, Crime’s popularity was enough to land T.P.C. spots at U.S. festivals like Coachella, Sasquatch!, and Lollapalooza, not to mention plenty of European dates and even a headlining tour.

“I think the only way to go about being in a band,” says Monks, “is to enjoy it while it lasts and give it your best shot knowing you can’t really count on it that much. I’ll do this for as long as I can and if that brings me to 45, then that’s cool. If that takes me to six weeks, then that’s fine too.”

But at the very least, this accidental success should carry Monks and the others all the way to their highly anticipated full-length debut, targeted for a February 2008 release on Saddle Creek Records.

“We’ve matured as people, and because we’ve played 200 shows since we wrote the EP, we’ve matured as musicians,” says Wright, 20. “When you make your follow-up, you have to turn off your brain, because it’s really easy to get caught up in this idea of having to mature. Eventually we stopped thinking about it and just wrote songs. If you like it and it excites you, then that’s all you can look for.”
Citizens of tomorrow, consider yourselves forewarned.

This article originally appeared in FILTER's Fall '07 Issue.



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