You’d be forgiven for spying a link emblazoned with “New track from Tokyo Police Club!” and thinking you knew the score. After all, the Canadians have been purveyors of smart, succinct indie-pop encounters since mini-album A Lesson in Crime burst onto the scene in 2006. The likes of ‘Cheer It On’ and ‘Nature of the Experiment’ set a tone that subsequent albums Elephant Shell (2008) and Champ (2010) strictly followed. It’s rare enough that an act strays from their defined script, but Tokyo Police Club surprised just about everybody when ‘Argentina Pt. I, II & III’ emerged late last year. At eight-and-a-half minutes and boasting three interlocking sections, it’s quite the about-face. What’s more, it works. Though new album Forcefield ultimately reverts to type, it features some of the most considered songwriting of the band’s career, with frontman David Monks stripping things back, his voice finding new life along the way and dealing with the backlash that he saw considers followed Elephant Shell…
“A Lesson in Crime had a life of its own and did really well for us. Then Elephant Shell was quite sobering. It was like, ‘Oh yes, they’re a normal band, they’re not infallible, they are 19 years old’. I think it was more a plateau than a crash or anything. It’s our bestselling record now, though”.
Were you particularly focused on your own press at the time?
“It was clear sailing in the beginning, no negative press at all, so it was like, ‘Oh, I love reading press!’ and then after Elephant Shell, we learned not to take it to heart. Now, I like reading our Facebook fans’ comments but they’re so catty sometimes. People commenting on the Internet are just so… they’re like calling each other out or saying gnarly things about our songs and I’m like, ‘Jeez!’. Everyone’s a critic, so I try to steer clear”.
Anonymous trolling is ghastly enough, but it always amazes me when people put their face and name to heinous abuse online.
“Yeah, totally. It’s like it’s fair game. All’s fair in love and war on the Internet”.
You’ve never been tempted to bite back?
“No, I try to avoid that. Although I could probably get our band a serious amount of press if I started mouthing off on Twitter…”
With this new record, you’ve spoken of seeing trends come and go and not wanting to be a part of it. “We ended up rediscovering energy and guitars and simple, direct songs”. Is that an admission of sorts that you did tap into trends with Champ?
“Yeeeah, it was definitely like… we weren’t trying to tap into trends, we were just subject to them, you know? Our songwriting hadn’t developed enough that we had the, uh, what do you call it? Just whatever sounded cool had to be a song, because we didn’t have that many songs. So you get interested in this and that and it would turn into a song, and that was good. This time around, we had so much ammunition and material to work from that the first things to go were the ones that sounded ‘trendy’ or whatever, which I’m really glad about now. One of the biggest challenges is that when our band came out, the type of music we were playing at the time was really popular and really on trend and that’s why it was a quick rise for us, and that’s great. But then to try and transcend that and come out with something that stands alone in an age when all of that stuff is old and obsolete? Yeah, it’s hard”.
That record had a lot going for it but it also sounded like it could have been written in a short space of time. Forcefield feels more considered.
“Yeah, definitely. But we were going for the scrappy thing, a bit [on Champ]. They were just the 12 songs we had, you know? It was like, ‘We’re a band, this is where we’re at at this point in our career, let’s put out another record, here’s 12 songs, here you go’. With this one, we felt that there was no room for us as a middle class band anymore. We had to go big or go home and we really took our time with it”.