A Conversation With Tokyo Police Club
by - Tom Gilbert
Last month Tokyo Police
Club played a sold-out show at Maxwell's in Hoboken, NJ. The band
put on an amazing performance that had the whole club moving and
singing along. With a nice mix of new songs and “old”
favorites they proved why they were sought after and eventually
signed by the great Saddle Creek Records.
Rewind a couple hours
earlier and I am meeting up with Graham Wright (keyboards/vocals) and
Greg Alsop (drums) as they returned from replacing their dead tour
van. We sat down at a nearby bus stop and talked about their upcoming
full-length, their recent addition to the Saddle Creek roster, the
formation and future of Mean Beard Records, and a number of other
congrats on the Saddle Creek deal.
Greg – Thanks very much. Thank you.
What made you
ultimately decide on that label? I'm assuming there had to be a
fairly decent bidding war for you guys?
Graham – We
talked to a few people, yeah. It's hard to say, there were so many
different factors at play, but ultimately it's the one you feel best
about. I mean, of all the labels we talked to, I could have made
really -and we did, over and over again- made really good arguments
for every single one. We basically were in a situation where it was
completely win-win and Saddle Creek was one we just kept going back
to. We got a one record deal from Saddle Creek which is really rare
and it's amazing for us because we like to keep our options open as
best as we can and that really puts us in a position to do so. The
other cool thing about Saddle Creek is that even though it's only a
one record deal it really seems like we will want to work with them
again after that... they are just the greatest people... they're
doing wonderful things...
Yeah it's an
Graham – Yeah
and I think they're really poised to really break out of the Omaha
scene and they are right on the brink of doing something big, which
is exactly what we want to do as well.
Now, what is the
deal with Mean Beard?
Greg – The
story behind Mean Beard is just kind of... it's with a friend of our
manager, his name's Paul. They've known each other for a while. We
didn't get the official story about it but he has a really ferocious
Graham – Though he is really a gentle guy.... so I think it's a...
Greg – Yeah!
So there's a bit of a... I don't know... irony.
Graham – You
know, when we decided to create our own record label we were just
like a kid in a candy store...
Greg – We
didn't have any name idea and since he was part of it we were like,
“Mean Beard Records”.
Graham – Yeah.
So are you guys
handling the Canadian side of it? I know it's based out of New York,
LA and Ontario...
Yeah, we aren't entirely sure how far we are going to go with this
label, like if we're going to try and release other things or like
maybe do our full-length on it... it's still up in the air.
Like a vinyl
version on it?
Our distribution right now is our manager walking around New York
with a backpack full of 7”s asking stores if they want to sell
them, so... [laughs]
So are you
planning on releasing any other 7”s on there?
Greg – Eh,
maybe. We've thought about approaching other artists and groups if
they want to do just a one off 7” or anything like that. I
don't know, right now it's just like something to do for fun, we'll
see if we really want to get serious about it.
We have lots of grand plans, but we always have lots of grand plans
and it remains to be seen if they'll pan out or not.
Greg – Our
time is limited right now so...
You guys have
been pretty much touring for 2 years, pretty constantly...
Graham – Yeah, we've had a couple months off here and there, but it feels a
lot more constant than it's actually been. You’re also
catching us at the tail end of a 2 month long tour with another 2
weeks to go, so any answer that you're going to get about touring is
going to be pretty bitter.
So with the
recording sessions coming up your going to get to take a break from
Graham – Well, we're not going to be recording in Toronto, where we live, so
it's kind of just like another kind of tour, you know? I don't get to
sleep in my bed, I don't get to see my girlfriend. It's going to be
nice to be in the same place everyday though. That's an improvement.
And, no Vans
We just got the new van today actually. So hopefully those days are
How was van
shopping in Jersey?
[laughs] Van shopping was fine! Van purchasing was a
horrific ordeal. We sat in that dealership for 4 hours yesterday and
2 hours today.
So you guys are
heading to Massachusetts next and then coming back down here to NYC?
Greg – Yeah,
we finish off in New York. It's not too bad. Once you get on the East
Coast every drive is just a few hours. People are really lucky to
basically just one road up and down really.
Greg – yeah,
it's not too bad.
When will the
elusive full length album come out?
Graham – Hopefully in early 2008... February-ish. We are going in the
studio in September and hopefully we will finish it then. And then it
takes 2 or 3 months to go through it all... so I'm sure you'll be
able to listen to the record by November, but... [laughs] buy it too!
Of course! Now,
you've already laid down some tracks for it though haven't you? Or
was that just some preliminary stuff?
Graham - No, I
mean, we've demo'd a bit in various ways. We did some rehearsing in a
studio at one point and recorded that, and Dave's recorded some stuff
at home, you know we've done some really lo-fi stuff in our rehearsal
space but there is not a single track that will end up on the
Are we going to
see any of the older material, like “Your English is Good”
on the new album?
Graham – The only one that could conceivably end up on it is “Your
English is Good” and I wouldn't want that to happen.
Greg – Well,
I would say that just in case it does happen [laughter]
Graham – Yeah, it could happen, but at this point I am leaning towards no.
Well, it is a
fairly limited release; there is what, 1000 copies?
Yeah. It's weird 'cause it's older than most of the songs on A
Lesson in Crime. So with all these batches of fresh, new material
we are writing all the time to me it would feel really uncomfortable.
Yeah it would be just like lumping it in there
But at the same time ... you know we say that now. We'll probably
come up one song short and use it [laughter]
Is there a fear
going into it? You know, with this going to be your longest release,
you guys are kind of known for putting out these really short
releases... your longest release is something like 16 minutes and
Yeah, I think I really just stopped worrying about that stuff. We've
never set out to make short songs, we've set out to make good songs
that we liked. And the good songs that we liked were short. And now
if we put out a longer record of good songs that we like, you know,
that's all we can do. We are going to do what we do and if everyone
decides it's the worst piece of crap imaginable, then we did our
Hopefully that won't
Hopefully not. I
doubt it. Do you think you waited too long to put out a full length?
It's only been
like 2 years, but it still feels like a really long time....
Yeah, it's basically just been circumstances have dictated... I mean
it was impossible to do, we couldn't possibly have done it before
now. I wish we got it out sooner just because I like new songs better
than old songs, so it would have been nice to get it done, but we did
what we had to do. We took the time we needed to get it to a point
where we felt comfortable doing it.
I mean, we've been
lucky in that it's not that we blew up huge right away and now
everyone's sick of us. We've really been building slowly... there's
plenty of people who've just heard of us. To lots of people we're
still brand new. We're not wearing out our welcome quite yet.
I read in an
interview, Graham, that you had something about EPs and that
retailers don't like them and I got the impression that you didn't
No, I didn't mean to give that impression... Making an EP, or
releasing an EP, business-wise, is a bad decision to make. And, yeah,
retailers don't want to buy them and everyone who looks at them in
the stores probably think “oh, I'll just wait until their full
length comes out and it will have all of these songs on there and it
will be a better value,” which in our case isn't going to
happen. But, that was never a factor, when we made our EP we weren't
thinking about selling records, we were thinking about just writing
songs and getting them out there. I'm thrilled with our EP. Let me
set the record straight on that. I don't think it should be any
longer, I think we put out exactly what we needed to put out at the
time and obviously people have agreed with us.
Personally, I'm a
big fan of EPs. I am somebody who likes to listen to a whole album, I
don't really like to listen to a couple songs randomly here and
there, I prefer to listen to the whole thing. And an EP is nice
because if you’re driving in the car, 20 minutes is normally
Exactly! An EP.
Do you guys plan
on releasing any more EPs down the road?
The thing about us is our songs are so short, I mean a full length
album judging by the songs we are writing is going to be a half hour
long [laughs]. I certainly wouldn't rule out putting out EPs in the
future, but we're really slow songwriters so there's lots of bands
that I love, bands like Okkervil River, that was the first one that
sprang to mind, but uhh there are lots of bands who put out a record
than they put out an EP – then another record... and I think
that's amazing they have so many songs to work with. We have to
cherish every single thing we write. It's taken us two years to get
to the point to write a full length and we are still not even done
writing songs yet. And after that if we have a burst of creativity
and write 25 songs I would love to put out another EP, who knows.
surprised when I see comments on like last.fm about you guys, where
someone has just heard “Your English is Good” and is
amazed... I'm always surprised that people are still just finding out
about Tokyo Police Club..
It's weird to think, you know.... to me it feels like, not that we've
made it big, but that we've done so much. But then I think about it
and two or three years ago, I never would have heard of our band.
Really in the grand scheme of things, we are nothing. We've sold
not-that-many records, we've got some favorable reviews, which is
great, we've played some cool shows, but in the overall grand scheme
of things we are absolutely at the zero point. I think if you start
off in the negative numbers and you push your way up to zero, and I
feel like we just about got there, now we are ready to start climbing
into the proper world.
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