INTERVIEW: Tokyo Police Club on their new album, taking back control and their current tour
Two weeks ago, I headed out to The Sinclair in Cambridge to chat with Canadian royalty Tokyo Police Club. Just a few hours before their sold out show to kick off their tour, I sat down with guitarist Josh Hook in a corner of the Cambridge, MA venue’s restaurant to chat about the band’s new album, TPC. The album is something clearly special for the band considering it garners the self-titled label despite the band having several full lengths under their belt. Hook gave me an inside look into the writing/recording process for the album as well as having it be the album where they fully took back control.
The band is coming up on fifteen years together, launching their career while in their early high school years. The dedicated fan community that’s been here since the beginning came out strong on this night. With several sold out shows to follow, it’s clear the band has maintained their staying power and fans in Boston are fully here for it.
Purchase or stream the band’s latest studio album TPC by clicking HERE.
Tonight’s the kick off for this new leg of the tour, with the first leg of of this album tour last year. With this full length, it is the first one in about four years. How did you prepare for these sets? What was your plan for these shows?
Well it was interesting. In 2016, we had two EP’s that we always meant as an album and the way that they came out, we were humbled and we learned by it. Everyone’s been like ‘Oh, so you haven’t released anything since ‘Forcefield’ and we’re like aw shit.
I do remember the EP’s with like ‘Not My Girl’ and ‘PCH’.
You’re totally right that it wasn’t a full album. So we won’t make that mistake again. But no, this one was fun because much unlike the EP’s that were very disjointed and written wherever we had time, this one was something where we’d get together around a show. Get together for a week and kind of retreat to this place in Ontario that we did a lot of writing in and just kind of live with each other for weeks at a time and write batches of songs. So it comes across as a much more cohesive statement then a kind of hodgepodge grab bag of whatever we had going. So it was cool and then preparing for tour came super easy. That part you never have to worry about. That part’s just get in the van and it works.
I think you guys have it down by now.
I would really hope so. It would be a lot of work if it didn’t.
When did you start working on this album? When did it really start coming together after the EP releases?
I guess it was probably mid 2017 that we started. And then we did five or six trips, it was this old church out in rural Ontario, so it was this big open space. We did those five or six trips out there writing and sort of demo-ing, rehearsing and stuff. So we probably started mid 2017 and really started writing, I’m sorry, earlier than that. What year is it? Sorry 2016. We recorded in January of 2018 so yes the preceding summer.
Even though you guys have been playing together for so long, Tokyo as we know it formed in 2005, but you guys played with each other before that even. Do you feel that the songwriting still changes? Maybe something in the recording studio that really changed on this album or has it fallen into a pretty steady rhythm with the four of you?
It’s a very comfortable spot. The recording process while we’re in the studio has definitely changed over the course of us being a band. And I think that’s a good thing. As much as the touring machine is nice when it’s oiled, there are no surprises. Or there are surprises like we get free beer tonight. In the studio, it’s kind of nice when you have those little bits of friction here or there because more often than not, something cool will come out of that that you wouldn’t have thought about. If it all just works and it’s like there’s the part, down, it’s easy but I always like it when there’s something that pops up. Something that goes different. You’ve got to improvise and you end up making something a little bit cooler. Capturing the actual true moment. Some texture!
On this record, even though it’s far into the discography, it’s the self titled record. It’s become something lately where bands are choosing to do it on a later record, where a lot of bands do it on the first one. What was it about this album, like a moment maybe, where you realized you were going to make this one the self-titled?
Yeah we finally did it! We did the self-titled. We liked it too because TPC, it’s an easy short form but after meeting fans and everything, in the social media messages it was TPC. They would always refer to us that way and we kind of took it from that. And for this record, it was the first one we had really taken back control and really wanted to write at our own pace. We never had a meeting with anybody about what’s going to be the single, what’s the focus of the record. It was like no these are the songs that are there, there’s twelve of them that are going to be on the record, and that’s it. No further questions. So it felt more of a statement for ourselves. Taking things back and being like we’re actually still driving this. And there’s a lot of wonderful advice out there but a whole lot of shitty advice out there too. So it felt nice to put TPC on it, the most true to us statement.
Then this album is being really well received. It just got nominated for a Juno for Alternative Album of the Year. It’s not the band’s first time being nominated but you talked about how this is the first record again where it’s you guys controlling everything again. How did that help the creative process considering you didn’t have anyone looking over your shoulder?
It helped the creative process immensely because it was just so much easier. It was nice to just run full steam with an idea when we had it. Whether that idea was for a song or the album art or a video or anything like that. We were able to look at the four of us and say, ‘we like it, let’s do it’. So the record was great, the album art, we did it ourselves. The videos have been ideas that we’ve had. Just said we have friends of ours that are much more talented than we are, let’s have them do the videos.
Like you said, the Juno has been amazing. To have that nomination now, for this, was an extra ‘wow’. Thank you. It’s such a cliche but I honestly don’t care if we win, I would actually pick Dizzy to win. They’re my pick in the pool right now. Dizzy, the band who’s opening for us, is nominated in the same category. So this is our Juno tour of the States. So yeah, to have that recognition for this album, it’s great. It’s really, really cool.
And then speaking of Dizzy, obviously a younger band just getting started. It may be cheesy but maybe any advice to them on this debut US run?
I’m always terrible at giving advice. At least for younger bands too because we had such an amazing, lucky start. It was followed by a lot of hard work. Just being able to get out and playing shows was how we started. Them, I don’t know, just any opening band of ours, watch your backs. That’s the only thing I can say. Is watch your backs! Especially if you win a Juno, that will make it real awkward on the second leg. I’m kidding, it would be great. They deserve it but watch your backs.
Then looking at you now, you’ve been in this band for so long but you’re still in your very early thirties. You started this band so young. Maybe the first moment for you where you realized Tokyo could be something? Obviously like you said you started off really well.
It was probably just hearing people at shows saying, ‘I’ve been listening to you since middle school’. They’d have seen us in 2006, saw us on the first time we went through somewhere, and they still come out to the shows. And knowing that there is that really cool, tightknit, die hard fan community has been really cool to see. I got over hearing someone say ‘I listened to you in middle school’ because initially it made me feel old and now it’s like that’s awesome that you had a band that you liked like that. Because I had those bands too at a very formative part of your life and a few bands played a very important part of that. To even think that someone might think that way about us is amazing. Every time you hear that, it kind of gives you that feeling where you’re like I can do this for another week now. You just talked off my life.
Then to end it off, you’re starting off strong with this leg on a sold out show tonight. I know from social media there are a lot more sold out shows to come. The album is still so new. What are some focuses or goals for Tokyo Police Club over these next few months?
The next months, it’s just to have a great tour and then we’re doing Ontario in April. Just to kind of finish strong and then start writing in the summer is the next thing. We learned our lesson again, not to bring it up again, but with the EP thing. And between “Champ” and “Forcefield”, there was four years as well, so we learned our lesson that you can’t go away forever and expect that people still care. So we’re going to try and get something together as soon as possible. And have it out and do this whole thing again. That’s the rest of the year for us.