In 2006, Tokyo Police Club released their debut EP: A Lesson In Crime. The EP lasted just over 16 minutes, was released when the band members were all between 19 and 21 years old. The foursome began writing and performing music together as high school students with no expectation of ever making music their full-time jobs. Now all in their thirties, most are married or have children and all have been working in music for over a decade. Their newest album, TPC, reflects the purity and joy of returning to your passion, when there are no expectations or restrictions. The album has been described as self-reflective, examining what it means to start a new chapter while holding space for the memories made along the way.
Arthur spoke with Greg Alsop of Tokyo Police Club about TPC and their upcoming show at the Red Dog.
Zoe Easton: You’ve been at this for 13 years now. What have been the most significant changes? Do you feel older and wiser?
Greg Alsop: Well, I certainly feel older. We started this band when we were in our teens… my first tour was on my 21st birthday, so we’re definitely in completely different stages of our lives now. But it’s still a band with four of my best friends that I’ve known forever and we still feel lucky that we’re able to make music together. I think the intention behind the band and our music is still the same… even right now, I’d say it feels more true to the source than ever. We started the band right out of high school and we got a lot of success early on and even though we never felt obligated to do it, we definitely felt like it was something where we lucky enough to be able to achieve success without doing anything other than making music which we really believed in… and how could we not do that, why would you stop? Why question something that’s going so well? So I think for about 10 solid years we did the band without questioning it.
ZE: I’m assuming that your approach to touring has changed between being a 21-year-old and who you are now. Does music feel a bit more like a job now?
GA: Oh, definitely. I mean, it’s still a great job, don’t get me wrong. Now it’s a conscious choice to keep touring and to keep doing the band. I have a kid and I’m married now and we all have these other responsibilities that we didn’t have at 21, so it’s a conscious choice to make music a priority.
ZE: At 21, did you think that you’d still be making music 13 years later?
GA: No… I felt like I always had a back up plan. I was always prepared for this [music career] to end… not prepared well, but I did things like try to take correspondence courses while we were recording albums or trying to make the “responsible” choice while also doing this thing that’s totally irresponsible by trying to make music my career. I left school three semesters in when the band got signed and started touring, so for a while I was trying to finish my degree while we worked on the music. In the back of my head I always thought I would go back to it if the band slowed down, but it never really did.
ZE: I heard that you wrote songs while living in different cities, so the writing took place via email. What was that process like?
GA: Yes, during our last couple of EPs [Melon Collie and the Infinite Radness (parts one and two)] we were living apart. We had an email thread, and different ideas, parts or demos would show up and we’d comment or add to it. If we were all together we’d go to the studio and try to get two or three songs done in that time. This kind of songwriting has always been a possibility but it’s not great… you don’t get the same kind of energy of instant collaboration. It’s so much better to be in a room with people.
ZE: I also heard that you wrote a lot of this album from inside a church in rural Ontario. How did that compare?
GA: The church we wrote in was out near Kincardine and Lake Huron… There’s this sculptor’s studio inside an old church that’s been converted into an arts space, and he rents it out. We were recommended this space by our friends Born Ruffians, who had done some rehearsals there… That’s the exact opposite of writing over email. We’d be there for a week at a time and bring up air mattresses, coffee and beer and set up in this big open space with lots of sunlight and huge loft ceilings… We’d spend this completely uninterrupted time making music together. It was the first time since we started the band that we’d been able to do that. The nice thing about a space like that is that you can just make music for as long as you want and as soon as that inspiration starts to wane, you can go for a walk or go jump in a lake… You can clear your head and the music will be waiting there when you get back, even if it’s three in the morning when you get back.
ZE: By comparison, what was your time in the studio like?
GA: We had already worked with Rob [Schnapf] in 2010, so we had this relationship already. We did our recording in two three-week stints. There was a deadline on either side. There are some songs [on the album] that are really close to our original demo versions. Even though it’s a bit more of a business arena, there’s still a lot of breaks for things like tacos and beer. If the song writing process is about creating a rough sketch, then the studio is about putting everything under the microscope.
Alsop says that with age, the band has become better at “saying what they really mean,” noting the directness of the lyrics on this album. The album has been described as “a new beginning and a culmination of experience all at once”. When asked what the next chapter for Tokyo Police Club looks like, Alsop said that the band is trying on all kinds of possibilities for the future, looking for the right fit.
TPC is an upbeat, emotionally honest album filled with dance-y rock tunes and catchy hooks. Songs like “DLTFWYH” (Don’t Let Them F*** With Your Heart) are just as fun to listen to as they are reflective of the band’s journey. It’s about learning from your lows as much as it’s about celebrating your highs. Alsop says that even though a lot has changed, the band still just wants concert-goers to dance and have a good time.
Tokyo Police Club is playing at The Red Dog Tavern Friday April 19. Advance tickets are now on sale for $25.