Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Sound engineering by Patrick Stolley
Oh, to be young and skeptical of angry robot masters again. Or maybe it's for the first, exhilarating time - when Ray Bradbury's crazy, futuristic symbiosis of man and machine rears its galvanized head, bringing to life the same frightening condition that George McFly was faced with in "Back to the Future." With Marty McFly dressed up in a radiation suit, impersonating Darth Vader from the planet Vulcan and threatening his future father with ear-bleeding heavy metal music, the comic books had come to life. What those comic books then and now neglect to have, however, is an unflappable backbeat to help all those sci-fi junkies dance just a little bit. Canadian foursome Tokyo Police Club, denizens of the young side of things, should be college (sorry, university) students somewhere, getting into bars legally for the first time and mastering the fine art of term paper procrastination.
Instead, they find themselves never-endingly out on the hard road with the likes of Art Brut, Cold War Kids and others, continuing to develop a sound that capitalizes on short bursts of energy, fast-twitch muscles and lyrics that gravitate toward a future that involves children handcrafting spaceships by fluorescent light when they should be sacked out with their stuffed animals hugged tightly. The band's debut EP A Lesson In Crime is infuriatingly too brief. It zips by like a hummingbird, with just a swift trail of gusty, extra strength rock and roll that could set a pot of water boiling on contact. Their songs throw flares of power in every direction - but mostly into your kitchen - like flash floods. They swell as a calm day cooks up a weather event, then pour out and overflow the banks of the songs when the heavens are cracked open like eggs. Dave Monks sings with the agitation of a young man with the world still to beat and hogtie, but also with a blade of sensitivity and intelligence that belies his and the rest of the band's age. Graham Wright's sweet synthesizer frosting, Greg Alsop's bright and punchy drumming and Josh Hook's dicey, silvery guitar lines lay the format for a mural that is all bright colors, thunder and ideas that are split down the middle: half concerns about the rendezvous of life and love and half concerns of the budding world filled with artificial intelligence that's as close as 2009.
Monks sings about the world being overrun by computers and machines and on "Citizens of Tomorrow," the emphasis is placed on the perception of scary uncertainty involving the world once we've blown it to smithereens or decimated it so badly that it's unlivable. More so than most indie rock bands, young or old, there's an interesting attention paid by Tokyo Police Club to how things might become, not how they were or how they currently are. These are not songs about the girl that they're smitten on, how specific people might look our on a dance floor or the mornings that over-drinking brings. One would like to believe that they sing about what's really important: What's to become of us? What's to become of the world? How will we go down? They take the extreme road with their lyrics, suggesting that it's not going to just get worse, but it will get much worse, much quicker. I mean, 2009 is the year kids will be making spaceships and the universe will be ruled by robots. That's a bit soon. It sounds like we'd better prep ourselves for having those microchips and detonators planted in our brains. We could all just be walking around, carefree as a lark and through the rueful actions of an evil genius, we could share the same fate as Keri Russell in "Mission Impossible III," where her brain's cleanly blown up from the inside. Monks wrote a song for his mother that's about wanting to dig graves on both of her sides and lying down in them. It's one instance where he's thinking more about his future than one of complete fiction. He sings, "We're leaving as we came/Our bodies are one and the same" and it's just one of those more human instances where the robots are swept behind the curtains and he's just another young man interrogating the potential future before it gets to him first. Either way, if the robots get us, if we get incinerated by our own foolish actions, there will be dancing.
*The Daytrotter Interview:*
*How's Denmark? Doing any sight-seeing?*
Graham Wright: Denmark was lovely, but we hardly ever get to do any sight seeing, and this time was no different. The most interesting sight I saw was the back of our van as we tried to push it out of the snow in which it was stuck.
*When did people start falling all over you guys? Do you remember the first night when you realized things had changed?*
GW: It's really difficult to say. Things have changed so much in the last year or so, but it's tough to pinpoint a specific point when I really looked at it and said to myself, "Wow, we really have made it." Recently, we sold out two nights at a venue in Toronto called the Mod Club, which was really incredible and I was very taken aback by it.
*How much shit do you guys take for not being from Tokyo? NME really analyzed the band name in the review they just wrote.*
GW: People don't usually mention it. It's good for the standard dumb, "Hey, these guys aren't from Tokyo, they're from Canada!" joke, which I personally think is getting a little tired, but who am I to say? We've actually asked a few Japanese people and they thought the name was cool, so I think it's cool.
*What did you guys pack for light reading on this tour? Graham, did you ever finish The Children's Hospital?*
GW: The Children's Hospital is sitting on my shelf at home, with the bookmark in exactly the same place as it was last time we spoke, I'm afraid. I'll get back to it one of these days. I've actually been very bad on this tour and not brought any reading material. I just got a laptop, so I brought that instead and I've been writing and watching episodes of The Office (which is my new favorite show).
*Would you take orders from robot masters should they assume control? What are your predictions for the world of 30 years from now?*
GW: I'd like to say that I'd join John Connor in fighting SkyNet and the Terminators, but I usually try to avoid confrontation so I'd probably end up bringing them oil and lug nuts.
*Are you computer guys?*
GW: Yes and no. We all stick to our computers as though they're our lifelines, and I in particular spend a lot of time playing with mine, but none of us can claim any substantial level of technical competency.
*There have been a lot of swell tours for you guys in the past year. Do any of them stand out more than others? Are you looking forward to the Cold War Kids tour? Was it special for you guys to open for Albert Hammond Jr. at CMJ?*
GW: All of the tours we've done have been amazing, luckily. We have yet to run into any bands that are anything less than wonderful. My personal favorite tour would be Art Brut, just because they played really nice venues and all of the shows were all ages, which we don't often get to do. We're really excited for the Cold War Kids tour as well, though I'm told that they're incredible live, so we'll have to bring our A-game.
*Is there a love of science fiction for anyone in the band? Dave?*
GW: Dave is a science fan, and I'm a science fiction fan.
*Any road illnesses or injuries to speak of?*
GW: We're all battling colds right now, and I am losing pretty badly. Getting sick on the road is bad news, because you don't often have a chance to rest and get healthy, so I'll probably be nursing this particular malady until we get home in April. What a lovely thought...
*If Tokyo Police Club voted on the Oscars, what would you guys have been picking?*
GW: I didn't see a lot of movies this year, to be honest. I just saw "The Prestige," and it was pretty cool. I don't even know who's nominated... My girlfriend loves "Little Miss Sunshine," so I'll say that and hopefully earn some points.
*On "Be Good," there's a cover-up. What have you tried to get away with, but failed?*
GW: We get away with everything we attempt, we're master criminals. But don't tell the CIA or we're all screwed.
*What are the new tunes sounding like? What are the plans for a full-length?*
GW: They're sounding pretty cool. A little bit denser and more complex than the EP, but still keeping the same brevity and poppiness.
*Do your parents miss you? You're never home. They never see you. Do they give you grief for this?*
GW: I think they must. I certainly miss them... But they're very good about it. The way I see it, if I wasn't in the band right now, I'd be away at school and away from home nearly as much, so it's not so bad.
*How was my floor and couch when you were here? Will we see you guys again?*
GW: Very comfortable and very welcoming. I seem to remember having a very difficult time waking up. We had an amazing time at Daytrotter, and we'd love to come back as soon as we're going in that direction again. Thanks a lot for having us in!