Tokyo Police Club

Tokyo Police Club

They’ve only been out for a short time, but Canada’s rising superstars, Tokyo Police Club, are killing the indie music scene. If you check out their MySpace, you’ll see that hands down, they’re probably the hardest working band in the music business right now. And with record labels in North America, UK, and major distribution with the biggest record label in the world (Universal Music Group), they’re probably the most strategic too!

I had the liberty of seeing Tokyo Police Club perform at the Virgin Festival in Toronto in 2007. What I observed by watching them was that they (particularly the keyboardist Graham Wright), deliver with this unbelievable intensity.

The Tokyo Police Club are merely doing what they love and that makes them refreshing. There’s nothing manufactured about them. And they pay respects to their Canadian grassroots with devout loyalty.

“It’s almost cooler to be a sloppy player and look really hip up there [on stage] with a tiny mustache or something.”

Format: Since you guys started in 2005, you’ve been working non-stop. It seems as though you’re in a different city, state, country every single day. Doesn’t it get tiring for you guys?
Greg Alsop: It gets exhausting. But not tiring in the way of ‘I’m bored of what’s going on’’ and the lifestyle. We’re still really excited to have the opportunity to do this together but [the extensive travelling] definitely wears you down. Like, you have to wake up at four in the morning at get a flight somewhere and then take a taxi to some city and then we have a radio show somewhere, a lot of things pile up and yeah, there are definitely times where we all just look at each other like ‘Whoa, is all this worth it?’ Hopefully it’s worth it!

Format: Exactly! Are you feeling that right now though? That is it definitely worth it, with everything that’s happening in your career so far and the speed that things are happening at?
Greg Alsop: It’s all leading up to the goal of being in a band, we’re releasing our full length album in a month and a half and that’s a major step, we never even knew that we would release our first EP, so the fact that it’s come this far is really surprising and gratifying. It kinda shows that, you know, it wasn’t all for nothing.

Format: You’re finally releasing the full length LP, The Elephant Shell. Just reading up on what people had to say about your previous EP’s A Lesson in Crime and Smith, the songs are just too short. In defense of the length of the songs, what do you guys have to say about that because they are short and what if your fans perceive that to be a bad thing when they’re getting into your music and then it suddenly just ends.
Greg Alsop: Yeah! In defense, I would have to say that it’s better that they perceived as slightly short then being too long for sure because I don’t have the patience for a lot of music.

Format: Oh Really?
Greg Alsop: Yeah because I find it, I don’t know, people aren’t critical enough and willing to play down their songs. Usually songs don’t need that extra verse in there, and it’s like ‘did you really write a good bridge?’ is that really necessary and a lot of artists do that. And it’s not really that we’re writing short songs for the sake of writing them short, or having that as some sort of gimmick it’s more that we really don’t feel the need to play a song for more than maybe three minutes. It’s just every idea that we have for a song is pretty much represented in that two to three minute time span, and it’s like ‘well I don’t know, why do it again? Why do another take on it for?’

For a CD I don’t think it matters as much. We definitely kinda extend our material a bit at live shows, because you can stretch things out a bit. In the past we’ve tried to time a song so it’s just bam, bam, one after the other, so you don’t really loose that in intensity or energy while somebody has to string a guitar or talk for five minutes about the story of writing the song. I’ve been to concerts like that as well and it just drags on.

Format: So it has absolutely nothing to do with like ‘Ah shit we gotta cut costs in the studio’ or anything like that.
Greg Alsop: (Laughs) It’s never had anything to do with our budget in any way!

Format: That’s cool. You mention you don’t really have a lot of patience for music, and I find that now with the state of music, a lot of artists themselves are not really listening to music anymore. Is that starting to apply to you as well?
Greg Alsop: I definitely listen to music. But I’m less inclined to go out there and discover brand new artists’ and get excited about that. From what I’ve found and what I’ve gathered from talking to people is that the music that you love and hold dear for the rest of your life is pretty much discovered from when you were like 15-years-old. I’m still really in love with the album Kid A by Radiohead, and the Yankee Hotel Foxtrot by Wilco, and bands that came out when I was still in high school. Just to have that nostalgic feeling for me, but I still do enjoy going out and finding new music and there is a lot of new music coming out that I really enjoy but [the albums that I first listened to are the] albums that I always go back to.

Tokyo Police Club

Format: Do you guys have a broad taste in music, or do you stick to the indie-rock genre.
Greg Alsop: I’m not gonna limit myself to a genre just based on being cool. I mean, we definitely appreciate a lot of things, but yeah there are certain bands, I guess you can call them rock that are my top favorites.

Format: Can you tell me of a time when you actually had a day off and you went to a concert and the performance was really satisfying for you? Has this happened recently?
Greg Alsop: I did just go to a concert and I wasn’t impressed at all with any of it.

Format: So you’re not gonna tell me who?
Greg Alsop: No I don’t want to bad mouth Toronto’s scene! I’ve seen the people before and I kinda like the band, but I don’t know it might have just been the venue, it on really long. But I think my favorite new band coming up right now is Will Currie and the Country French.

Format: I’m definitely gonna look them up!
Greg Alsop: Yeah totally go look them up, they’re an amazing six-piece band from Waterloo Ontario. They all go to Wilfred Laurier. Are you based in Toronto?

Format: Yeah I’m based in Toronto.
Greg Alsop: They’re playing tonight with Sloan at the Supermarket for Canadian Music Week. They’re kind of the least indie-rock/indie- band I’ve heard. They infuse Rock ‘n’ Roll from the `70s, without any sense of irony at all. They’re really worth check out checking out I think.

Format: It’s kinda hard to find that talent now-a-days aside from what gets on the front page of so-called indie-music publications. Because when it comes to indie, they still push for what the masses are already listening to, like Crystal Castles. It’s harder to find that band that’s gonna deliver because they just don’t get that exposure you know?
Greg Alsop: It’s almost cooler to be a sloppy player and look really hip up there [on stage] with a tiny mustache or something. Yeah when a band does come out and they actually have the chops to deliver, people are very weary of it I find.

Format: Music Journalists still do dictate an artist’s success. When it comes to publications like Rolling Stones for example that release their ‘Artists’ to Watch for 2008’ and then you see the generic bands that make the cut. What is your opinion on music journalists and them trying to dictate who will be the next big thing in music?
Greg Alsop: Well I disagree with a lot of it, but it could be either way it’s either they like something and you agree with it and you have an opinion already based on your own experiences or it’s something brand new and you’re like ‘Oh maybe I will check them out.’ And they (the journalists) are totally off and you’re like ‘man how do these people like them? Like, why are they new hype band at all, I don’t get it.’ But maybe I’m just growing old. It’ s weird that it can dictate that, but I think it’s even weirder that it can happen without that I’d say. Like anyone with a computer and Internet access can start up a blog and express their opinions clearly enough then people will go out there and believe every word of it. They’ll have as big an audience as those international publications.

Format: So for your album debut, you’ve cosigned your own label Mean Beard Records with Saddle Creek Records and your major distribution will go through Universal. Plus you’ve got a label, Memphis Industries, in the UK.
Greg Alsop: We have a record label in major territory where our album is coming out. It just kinda works better that way to have people who know the market and that territory, there’s just a better understanding to do it that way.

Format: Wow artists’ that have record labels in every territory.
Greg Alsop: It’s a nightmare for our manager to organize things. Working out everyone’s schedule is really, really difficult. But it works better in the end. People are that much more devoted to work their craft that way.

Format: Are you guys actually put new talent under Mean Beard records?
Greg Alsop: We’d like to at some point. It would be kinda difficult right now, but there’s definitely music that I see out there and maybe we can consider that because we have a label and we have resources. But I wouldn’t want to try and try and sign an artist and not be able to devote myself to them. You hear a lot of horror stories about bands that are signed to labels and it just sits on the shelf because they don’t have access to anything. But it’s definitely something we would like to consider when we’re ready.

Tokyo Police Club

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