The Harrowing Adventures of Tokyo Police Club
A couple of years ago, in a land not too far away, four high school boys decided they'd form a band. Sure, it wasn't the most original idea in the world, but these guys seemed to make it work. Rather than seeing the band as a get-laid-quick scheme, Tokyo Police Club concentrated on creating two-minute miracles of infectious post-punk power-pop that soon earned them massive critical acclaim and a legion of diehard fans.
Two years after their debut EP, the incredibly punchy A Lesson in Crime, TCP has hit the road in support of their latest release, Elephant Shell. After two years of relentless touring, the band sounds tighter and more self-assured. Gone is the endearing sloppiness that made their earlier work so charming, but in its place is a solid sense of songcraft that one wouldn't expect from such a young ensemble. "[Guitarist] Josh [Hook] is 20 right now, turning 21 in May," says drummer Greg Alsop. "[Vocalist/bassist] Dave [Monks] and [keyboardist] Graham [Wright] both just turned 21 and I've just turned 23."
When I managed to get hold of Alsop, he had just stepped out of the shower in a Dallas, Texas hotel room, inadvertently flashing his bandmates in the process. After the laughter died down, I asked Alsop about the early days in Newmarket, before they were playing sold out dates in every major North American metropolitan centre, and how they originally got together.
"They've all known each other since grade four, and I was two grades above them," remembered Alsop, "and so I kind of knew who they were within school, 'cause we all went to the same schools, basically from elementary school up to high school. I didn't meet them really until I was in grade 12 and they were in grade 10. Josh, Graham and I were doing a school play together [Cole Porter's Anything Goes]. We just had a bunch of scenes together and started talking. They let it be known that they needed a drummer and I really liked the music they were making. From there we just bonded over that."
Before long, conversation inevitably turned to the new record. Alsop said, "We're really proud of it. It took a while for us to get down to it and really figure out what we wanted to do with this record. We kind of started it a few different times, but by the end of it we regrouped and decided, 'let's write ten, eleven tracks, and make that an album. We don't have to have this cohesive over-arching theme or anything that's binding it all together.' So, we rediscovered songwriting as we had done when we first formed."
Knowing from first-hand experience that there are literally thousands of young musicians watching Tokyo Police Club's international success wondering how they do it, I asked Alsop to let me in on the secret.
"I don't know if there's really a secret," he told me, "we just toured relentlessly. It seems like a very meteoric rise from the outside, but we all remember when we were playing to five people in a room in Regina, Saskatchewan, and our van breaking down on the side of the road. We just kept going back out there hitting places again, and the next time you came out those five people told five friends and there's, um, like 25 people at the show. It was kind of like a slow build in that way where people would hear about us mostly just through friends saying, 'Hey, I saw this great band on the weekend; next time they come out you should see them.' So we like to think of it as a word-of-mouth thing."
Tokyo Police Club are bringing their word-of-mouth thing to two sold out nights, Friday May 2 and Saturday May 3, at the Opera House this week, before heading out west and then touring Europe. If you miss them this time around, they'll be back for the Rogers Picnic on July 20.
Photo of Tokyo Police Club by Jimmy Fontaine
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