lazyhome         reviews         hype         webboard                interviews

Tokyo Police Club band photo

Tokyo Police Club: Canadian Bacon

story by tim mcmahan



Lazy-i: May 22, 2008

Tokyo Police Club
w/ Criteria, Minipop
May 23, 9 p.m.
729 No. 14th St.
$13 adv., $15 DOS

Tokyo Police Club drummer Greg Alsop paints a rather dismal picture of what his life would have been like without his band.

"I would be in university right now and graduated," he said. "I guess I would be looking for a job, still struggling to pay the rent. I'm glad this worked out."

Instead of being unemployed and living in squalor, Alsop and his Newmarket, Ontario, band mates are following in the footsteps of break-out bands such as Modest Mouse and fellow Canadians The Arcade Fire as this year's "next big thing" in indie music.

Their launch pad? None other than Omaha's own Saddle Creek Records, who signed them a year after they were first approached by label chief Robb Nansel at New York's College Music Journal (CMJ) marathon in 2006.

"He said he liked our music and was interested in talking to us," Alsop said via cell phone before a show in Kelowna, British Columbia, last week. He said Nansel kept meeting with the band, seemingly trying to convince them that Saddle Creek was the right fit.



"It's such an exceptional label and has that hometown feel," Alsop said. "They've done so much with bands from that area that aren’t mainstream -- Bright Eyes, Cursive and The Faint -- while sticking to their own values. It seemed like a weird choice for us when we heard they were interested. We never thought of it as anything but an Omaha label. We didn't think we fit into the sound they're famous for."

Maybe that's because TPC has a sound all of its own. Formed in 2005, all the band's members except Alsop have been playing together since ninth grade. "I met them in Grade 12," said Alsop, who was a member of their previous incarnation, Suburbia. "It's one of the must unoriginal names ever -- we were suburban kids playing music." Though Suburbia didn't last long, the crew reconvened a few months later in guitarist Josh Hook's basement, this time calling themselves Tokyo Police Club.

They've had a brisk rise to the top of the indie music heap.  A year after forming, the band released its debut, A Lesson in Crime on Toronto's Paper Bag Records. The EP was a jarring 16-minute collection of New Wave-inspired indie punk that was quickly embraced by fans and music critics from SPIN, Rolling Stone and The New York Times, among others. An appearance on Late Night with David Letterman followed in April 2007. Three months later, the band announced during a show at Slowdown that they'd signed to Saddle Creek Records.

"We had been looking for a label that would move us into the states and give us more of an international presence," Alsop said. "It had to be a label that was easy to work with and didn't question what we were trying to do."

Saddle Creek appeared to be a perfect fit. "They don't make you compromise your artistic integrity in any way," Alsop said. "They just said, 'Go make your record and when it's done, we'll put it out.' It was great having that freedom and not having to answer to some A&R guy who's looking for a single and demanding changes."









Elephant Shell artwork

"They don't make you compromise your artistic integrity in any way. They just said, 'Go make your record and when it's done, we'll put it out.'"













"It's as if people thought we tried to sound like a Saddle Creek band, and that's why this (record) is poppier or less brash than the EP."

Alsop said Saddle Creek virtually had no input on what would become the band's debut LP, Elephant Shell, released this past April. Recorded in Toronto, the album pulls back on the band's jangling, brash racket in favor of more melodic, pogo-inducing pop that never overpowers vocalist/bassist Dave Monks' soaring melody arcs. Keyboardist Graham Wright rounds out the four-piece's feel-good cacophony.

Since its release, Elephant Shell has been both lauded for its obvious growth as well as criticized for its more approachable indie-pop sound by those who preferred the EP's more jagged moments.

Alsop said Saddle Creek has been incorrectly blamed for influencing the band's direction. "It's weird, because certain reviews seem to say that signing to Saddle Creek has contributed to the evolution of our sound," he said, "It's as if people thought we tried to sound like a Saddle Creek band, and that's why this (record) is poppier or less brash than the EP."

But Alsop said the songs were written without considering the record label. "If this came out on any other label, it would be the exact same record," he said, adding that their shift in style is a reflection of the band's maturity as songwriters and musicians.

That new maturity also applies to their live performances. "We've added a light show that travels with us," Alsop said. "It's a whole other element that makes for a complete experience. We can now bring ourselves to the stage and take over a venue for the night. Before, we showed up and banged out 15 songs and left. Now we play for 55 minutes on a good night. It's still really energetic; we're still the same four exuberant kids who enjoy what they're doing."

Back to  huge.gif (2200 bytes)

Published in The Omaha Reader May 22, 2008. Copyright © 2008 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.