Tokyo Police Club

Shell Game

> > Apr 2008

Tokyo Police Club - Shell Game
By Cam LindsayThe story I wanted to use as an opening has backfired and I’m kind of gutted. A source close to both Tokyo Police Club and myself told me singer/bassist David Monks had a great story involving Woody Allen. But when I mention it to the band, they explode with disappointment. "Woody Allen? That’s way better!” yells keyboardist Graham Wright. Monks interjects: "Let’s tell the Woody Allen story instead. So we were doing this stand-up night, and Greg was up there… No, I can tell you the Lily Allen story.” Seems that Monks left his cell phone at a hotel in Sao Paolo, Brazil where it was picked up by the pint-sized pop star, who eventually returned it.

Whether it’s Woody Allen or Lily Allen, or even being flown over to Brazil for a one-off performance, moments like these help magnify the rise of Newmarket, Ontario’s biggest musical export since, um... Glass Tiger? Serial Joe? Actually, we can safely call them Newmarket’s biggest musical export ever. Of course, the four members — including guitarist Josh Hook and drummer Greg Alsop — are all now based in nearby Toronto, a move mirrors their rise into the upper echelon of Canadian music. And really, is Newmarket any kind of place for emerging rock stars to live? "[It is if] you really like shopping,” says Wright. Touché.

In their first two years, TPC achieved more than many bands do in two decades. In a six-month span, they graced David Letterman’s stage (with fellow Ontarian Paul Shaffer contributing some tambourine), as well as the massive platforms at Coachella and Glastonbury festivals. "Those are three big milestones for us and they definitely came as surprises,” admits the boyish Monks. "They were all over and done with before we had time to realise what was happening. But I'm more proud that we have a fan base to back it up. Those people know us from touring and from tons of different shows and not because we had a huge marketing budget or a big wig got us on Letterman.

"It’s so weird how any type of moderate success in your life is always lagged six months behind whatever your band is doing,” he continues. "Like, ‘Oh man, we’re playing Letterman! I wonder if I can afford to eat at [Toronto watering hole] Sneaky Dee’s tonight.’”

Sitting at a trendy Queen Street restaurant with the four early 20-somethings, TPC remain very much the kids who weaselled their way onto The New Music’s 2005 Pop Montreal special by strategically postering right behind then-host Hannah Sung. Like any young band, Tokyo Police Club were dreamers with big ambition. They’ve known each other since elementary school, and formed out of colourless suburban boredom. Just months before Monks and Alsop set off for university (McGill and Ryerson, respectively), the band submitted an application for the Pop Montreal festival. They were accepted, but completely unprepared. "We didn’t really practice before when we got to Montreal, we just emptied out a dorm room,” says Wright. "I don’t even know how we did this in retrospect. The dorm rooms at McGill are not any bigger than other dorms, and we just took a bed out of one, put the drums in there and rehearsed for two or three days.”

The band’s Pop Montreal performance was a pivotal moment, even if they didn’t know it. Tipped off by another of their roster, Paper Bag Records checked out TPC’s performance, but the young band didn’t know what to expect. "[We] assumed that [labels] would see you once, bring a contract and a blank cheque, and say, ‘You guys are great! Now you are stars!’” Wright says. "So when they left before we were done we thought they hated us because they didn’t sign us on the spot.”The record deal came eventually, but not before Monks and Alsop told their parents they were dropping out of school to pursue their dreams. Showing their dedication by balancing nine to five jobs and daily rehearsal, each member proved just how badly they wanted it. "Everyone should have concerns if your kid comes home and says, ‘Hey mom and dad, remember when I said I would have a stable career? Well, now I’m gonna travel around in a band,’” Alsop says. "And then Paper Bag contacted us and we thought, ‘Hey, we’re talking to record labels.’ We still didn’t know what we were talking about, but the parents knew we were at least making an effort out of it and we could always go back to school.”

Brimming with enthusiasm, they jumped right into the studio with producer Jon Drew (drummer for Toronto indie band Uncut). They had no lack of inspiration; it was funds they needed. "We did the EP in three days, and just borrowed the money from our parents,” admits Monks."Please don’t say that we borrowed money from our parents,” Alsop pleads. "I still owe my dad $600.”Released in April 2006, A Lesson In Crime portrayed a group of fresh-faced kids just out of high school venting suburban frustration and feeling the bliss a band doing their best to "make it.” In just 16 terse minutes, the seven-song debut EP’s unrivalled energy was amount to a keg of Red Bull, thanks to sputtering guitar reverb, hearty gang chants, a surplus of handclaps and a sure-fire hit in the diligent "Nature of the Experiment.” "With the EP we had an easy time,” explains Wright. "We got lucky and wrote seven songs that went quickly and went really well. We were in grade 12 and really enthusiastic about writing songs — it was just fun.”
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Article Published In Apr 08 Issue