Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Members of Tokyo Police Club challenge themselves on new covers project, coming to Chicago this week

Photo by Chrissy Piper


The members of Canadian rock quartet Tokyo Police Club believe in constantly challenging themselves.

So they were more than up for the daunting task of covering 10 songs in 10 days taken from the last 10 years.

Tokyo Police Club, www.tokyopoliceclub.com, is sure to perform some of those songs when the group takes the stage at 11 a.m. Saturday, Sept. 10, at The Egyptian Theatre, 135 N. 2nd St., DeKalb, as part of the Middlewest Fest.

More information is available at www.middlewestfest.com.

Tokyo Police Club will also play at 7 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 11, at the A.V. Club Fest in Chicago. More information is at www.avclub.com/fest.

I had the chance to talk to keyboardist Graham Wright about the group's latest project and his own solo album, "Shirts vs. Skins."

Q - How did the covers project come about?

It was just an idea that had been floating around for a while. There's usually ideas floating around, but for whatever reason, this one sort of stuck.

It was just a matter of having some time to actually do it.

Q - How did you go about choosing the songs?

Well, we got out a bunch of lists of songs that were released, and then it was pretty easy at the get go to narrow the list to songs that kind of made sense for us to do.

But then we wanted to pick songs that we liked and made sense for us to do, but didn't necessarily make so much sense to do that they would be kind of boring and predictable.

Q - This isn't a totally new concept for you. You had worked on a project, "Novels," with a couple of other musicians. You guys wrote and recorded an entire EP in 24 hours.

It was actually more like 14 hours. We had allotted ourselves 24 hours to do it.

Q - What made you want to do that?

That was just an idea my friend Will and I sort of cooked up between ourselves. I've done some quick studio work before just because I didn't have a lot of time. I've done an EP of my own stuff sort of in an afternoon, and I really enjoyed how fast it had gone.

The natural progression was to try to get people together who had never worked together before and then to see if we could make something good really fast. It's fun to see what you are capable of, and see how you are going to react to different scenarios that you aren't necessarily used to as musicians.

Q - How do you think the songs turned out?

Great. I was thrilled. It's still probably one of my favorite things I've ever done musically. It was a really pure form of collaboration that sort of creatively flowed right out of all of us, and that was it.

Q - Tokyo Police Club recently played a cover of Kelly Clarkson's "Since U Been Gone." How did people respond to it?

People dug it. I think everyone loves that song. It's an undeniably good pop song.

And I think our band at heart is just a pop band. We're not as polished or mainstream as Kelly Clarkson maybe, but the music is coming from the same place at the end of the day.

People who like our music are going to like songs with catchy, good choruses.

Q - You also found time to release your own album in June, "Shirts vs. Skins." When did you record that?

I recorded that over a long period of time. I did it at whatever available opportunity I had.

I finished it right after Tokyo Police Club finished recording "Champ." It was like two days here, and two months later, three more days, that sort of thing. It was a very drawn out, extended process.

Q - And of course it's your debut album. What kind of goals did you have for the album?

Right now, I just want to make and release records. That what's I like to do. I like to write songs, I like to record, I like to be in the studio.

So if I could just do that, and play shows when I felt like it, that would make me very happy.

Q - So these songs, you don't think they fit within the context of what Tokyo Police Club is doing?

Just by virtue of the fact I wrote them, they don't fit into Tokyo Music Club. Early on, Dave and I agreed that it made no sense to have two songwriters in the band.

You have to be a really, really good band to have two individual voices and still somewhat sound cohesive. I'm happy to be able to do my stuff on the side, and there's no conflict.

Q - It does seem like Canadian acts like Arcade Fire and Tegan and Sara have found their way into the mainstream. Is it something about the Canadian music scene that is getting people's attention?

It always amuses me when people talk about the Canadian music scene. It's a really big country.

There's always been good music in Canada. I think it took a band like Arcade Fire to sort of bust out and people to say, "Oh, that's band awesome and it's Canadian."

It's sort of how Nirvana broke out, and everybody started checking out Seattle, and discovered there were other good bands there. It's the same sort of thing, where all it takes is one or two good bands to break through.