In town for their November 24 show at The Outpost, Tokyo Police Club’s David Monks and Graham Wright took some time off for a beer and a chat at Breakwater Taphouse, but not after they bummed a ride from our writer/photographer Tyler Sklazeski (he was happy to oblige).
Interview and Photos by Tyler Sklazeski
The Walleye: You’ve been on tour; you’ve braved the northern highways several times now. Could you tell us a little about the tour, where you started, and whether things get easier the more times you’ve run the circuit?
David Monks: I will tell you an unrelated story about the first time I drove a van, because I didn’t get my license until this year. I’m fully 27. So the one time I did drive was on an all nighter from Winnipeg to Toronto—first time I drove a van was coming right up on Thunder Bay over the lakes on those crazy winding roads.
Graham Wright: But to reference your last question, it does get easier to tour. You get better at it, but weird zany unpredictable stuff kinda happens way less because you’re too good at it, you avoid it. You’d just rather do your job.
TW: So stuff like having some random people pick you up and drive you to an old train station in Thunder Bay.
GW: Of course, this is where you would take someone to murder them! I mean, there’s a lot of cars around so not yet, but later.
TW: So with the success you’ve seen over your last few records there’s probably a lot of people telling you what to do in an effort to steer you in certain directions—your management, label, fans. There must be a lot of noise. How do you cut through that?
GW: That’s one of the hardest things about being in a band: when do you listen and when do you give the finger. We’ve given the finger at the wrong times and we’ve listened at the wrong times and it’s like gradually learning, “oh my god how many times do we have to do this before we figure out it’s better when we do this ourselves.” Or, “this is a situation where we really need a professional doing merch, or publicity.” Sometimes you follow the system, and this is where you break from it.
TW: Absolutely. Do you feel that when it comes to the songwriting that you just go with your hearts when there’s so much noise with trends and with what other bands are doing?
GW: It’s almost the same thing since if you just say, “whatever, I’m doing my own thing,” then you don’t grow. Some of the best shit comes out of [exploring what sounds are out there], whether they’re popular or not.
DM: Generally your litmus test is what feels right or wrong to you, but you have to be willing to feel excited about stuff that you didn’t think you would. And the more open you are to new music, the more you’re surprised that the things you didn’t think you’d like were your favourites.
TW: I read in a Rolling Stone article that you had over 50 songs recorded when writing Forcefield—an incredible feat. How hard was it to decide what to keep for the album?
DM: At first it was easy, you knew these were the good ones, but later…
GW: At the time they’re getting superseded. When you look at the songs that make the cut, for the most part they’re the last songs we wrote. Everything else was leading to that point. It’s only a little later when the dust settles that you start to look at these other songs and go “oh.”
TW: You guys are really active on social media. How much have things changed from when you started? What’s your experience as far as marketing and connecting with fans goes?
GW: It’s tricky because what we love about social media is that every different one is a new way to be creative. As long as you’re doing your thing and you’re being creative, it’s going to feel real to your fans, it’s going to feel honest. But then the people in the business end of things look at it and think, “man they’re doing a great job of connecting with their fans. Can we get in on that?” And that’s where they start to be like, “Hey, you’re doing a really good job on Twitter. Make sure you tweet four times a day.” It stops having the same honesty, and it stops being fun for us. That’s something where we’ve really learned that you do need to put some walls up sometimes. Some people are always going to say, “Make sure you engage with social media this way,” but it’s ultimately self-defeating unless you’re doing a “real” version of it that excites you.
TW: Things must get cosy travelling on the tour bus all this time. You guys are coming from Saskatchewan…
DM: I wish we could answer these questions with sketches!
TW: That would be amazing.
DM: The four of us are pretty predictable, but you get people on tour sometimes and they want to like, go ham all the time, and are playing music in the morning and drinking late.
TW: Like bad roommates.
GW: Exactly. Because the four of us are so mellow on tour, we’re generally on the same page.
TW: And finally, what are you listening to these days?
GW: So yeah, I’ve been listening to the Serial podcast like everyone else.
DM: I’ve been listening to Mounties and these a cappella Beatles covers which I play for everyone, and I love them and everyone hates them.
TW: Well I want to thank you for coming out. Glad we got to show you a bit of the city.