The year 2005 was an interesting time for rock music. Punk purists were still trying to get over Green Day putting on makeup and falling into the emo teenie bop realm. My Chemical Romance tested classic rock blasphemy with their operatic release The Black Parade. The garage rock revival was alive and well with The White Stripes releasing Get Behind Me Satan, The Killers’ “Mr. Brightside” invaded the charts with constant FM radio play, and The Yeah Yeah Yeahs and TV On The Radio became leaders of New York City’s art-rock movement while Franz Ferdinand the Bloc Party were repping guitar-rock the UK. Included in the mix, rhythmic post-punk was also making a comeback, and one band from that era not so long ago is still going strong.
Newmarket, Ontario’s own Tokyo Police Club plan on making the kids and new adults dance at the Paradise Rock Club on Monday, a date that kicks off their spring tour in support of their new EP Melon Collie and The Infinite Radness (Part 1). Ahead of next week’s show, Vanyaland had a chat with frontman Dave Monks about spontaneous songwriting, his 2015 solo EP All Signs Point To Yes, what has changed most for the band over the past decade, and what Tokyo Police Club’s plans are after this current tour.
Rob Duguay: This past Friday Tokyo Police Club released Melon Collie and The Infinite Radness (Part 1) as part of a two-part EP series. What made the band use a name influenced by The Smashing Pumpkins along with splitting up an album into two parts?
Dave Monks: Well, we were in a new spot as a band. I had moved to New York, Greg [Aslop] moved to L.A. and Josh [Hook] was still living in Canada. We knew that we were going to be doing a record in a new way than we’ve had before. It was a time of transition for us at Tokyo Police Club. We had stuff that we were excited about although we only had a little bit of time together to record some stuff. We did some really short recording sessions that were totally charged with energy and it was also seeing your old buds again. We were all like “Hey, how’s it going? Let’s record a song” and then these songs were popping up in a really spontaneous way.
There was no looking back on them, we were really just trying to capture lightning in a bottle and do something that was exciting to us. We started putting these songs together in a collection and it didn’t really feel like a full album to us because they all came from different places and sessions. The idea of doing two EPs got put on the table because it let us keep the creative juices flowing by putting a batch of songs together, keep working on the next batch and release them over the course of a year. It was great, it was new uncharted territory for us which kept everything feeling fresh.
The name came about because I had this photograph of a watermelon smashed, I showed it to the guys and somebody came up with the idea of having the title be melon collie with one l and then someone else cut in cartoon style with the infinite radness. Of course joke album titles happen with every record but it just felt fitting for this moment. This little snap shot of our band in time to go with something spontaneous and to keep that mood going of improvising and trying to keep everything fresh.
On the recording, you and Greg have noted that you didn’t want the process to be the same as when you guys were making your previous release Forcefield that came out in 2014 and you wanted it to be more improvised.
As a musician do you prefer to be out of your comfort zone when writing new songs?
Yeah and you always have to be there. I think that it keeps people awake and I think that after our first record we just kept doing the same thing with the same people in the same place. You’ll end up trying to recreate something and trying to rehash the same tricks. I think in reality things are always going to change, you have to embrace that change and choose new situations to put yourself in and not letting your old habits deteriorate and wear out over time.
Along with Tokyo Police Club’s latest release, you put out your first solo EP this past June. Most of the tracks on the EP are based off of you strumming an acoustic guitar along with other instruments being played such as drums, bass and piano. It’s a bit of a departure from the post-punk style people usually affiliate you with. What made you want to go this route with your solo record?
I think labels like post-punk and all that get thrown around a lot but in some way in every Tokyo Police Club song there’s me and chord progressions and lyrics and all the songs start on guitar that way. I think that’s what gives our band the freedom to play stylistically around the music. I always have a familiar creative voice coming through all the songs. At the time I was making the EP I just moved to New York and I was really excited about experimenting with doing something on my own. Seeing for myself how that would feel and it wasn’t a matter of choosing to play the songs on an acoustic guitar, it was just a matter of letting everything else go.I mean naturally that’s just kind of how my stuff sounds.
I listened to it the other day and I liked how stripped down it sounded.
Yeah I listened to it too recently and I liked it. I felt I was looking back on it for the first time retrospectively as we were doing the Melon Collie stuff and I feel that it was a totally successful and fun project for me.
Tokyo Police Club has now been around for 11 years. What would you say has changed the most for the band since you, Graham [Wright], Josh and Greg were playing for fun in a basement in Newmarket back in 2005?
I think the way that we think about time is different now. We’re all living in different spots so when we see each other we’re all old friends and instead on being on a continuous loop of hanging out and writing it’s more like “Hey man, what’s up? What have you been up to?” and it gives our band a new energy.
It’s like you said with everyone feeding off the spontaneity when you’re recording together because you all live in different places now.
Summer has been creeping up bit by bit, before you know it the weather is going to get warmer and there are going to be festivals going on all over the planet. So what are Tokyo Police Club’s plans for the next few months after the upcoming tour?
There is some music that I want to work on, we have a tour in June with We Were Promised Jetpacks that everyone should definitely come to when it hits their particular town. We also have Melon Collie and The Infinite Radness (Part 2) that’s coming out, there’s a couple of songs we’re recording for it that just popped up so that’ll be out in the summer.