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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 things.

First off, 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 excellent label...

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 beard.

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...

Greg – 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?

Greg – Yeah, maybe.

Graham – 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.

Graham – 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...


Graham – Yeah... touring...

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 that...

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 breaking down!

Graham – We just got the new van today actually. So hopefully those days are over.

How was van shopping in Jersey?

Graham – [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 live here.

And it's 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 recording.

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?

Graham – 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.

Greg – Yeah it would be just like lumping it in there

Graham – 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 change.

Graham – 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 best.

Hopefully that won't happen.

Hopefully not. I doubt it. Do you think you waited too long to put out a full length?

Graham – Yeah...

It's only been like 2 years, but it still feels like a really long time....

Graham – 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 like them.

Graham – 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 your trip.

Graham – Exactly! An EP.

Do you guys plan on releasing any more EPs down the road?

Graham – 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.

I'm always 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..

Graham – 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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