The Ting Tings We Started Nothing

The Ting Tings We Started Nothing
Whoever’s picking songs for iPod ads sure knows what they’re doing. First, they managed to pick up on CSS, then they latched onto our already beloved Feist, and now they’ve gotten their grip on everyone’s favourite new Brit-pop duo, the Ting Tings. After all the hype that comes with the newly cred-building way to buddy up with a corporation, the Ting Tings have managed to live up to the expectations that "Shut Up And Let Me Go” put out there for the masses. Masterminds Katie White and Jules De Martino put their heads together to make We Started Nothing, one extremely beguiling sets of songs. And all, apparently, just for the sake of entertaining their friends after the pair had a falling out with the major label that dropped their former band, Dear Eskiimo. The newly formed twosome have found a way to take simple beats and concepts and mould them together to make songs like "That’s Not My Name” that’ll have you singing and clapping along to its chant-like lyrics and thumping bass drum. But that’s not to say that the Ting Tings sound hollow. This duo make a lot more noise than their name lets on and it’s the kind that’ll get you on your feet, just like that well-known shadowy figure with its iPod.

"Shut Up And Let Me Go” seems to be the first thing that people know you for here. Was that at all what you were expecting or what you intended it to be?
Jules: I don’t think we intended anything, really.
Katie: We used to be in a three-piece that got dropped from our label. Well, we came out of that totally unconfident, thinking no one would work with us again, being a band that had been dropped. So we wrote the songs just for ourselves and thought no one would care except for our friends. We had no real intentions with it, we just wanted to party with them and get some of the carefree-ness that we were craving at the time because we weren’t feeling very good.

How did you decide you wanted to give your song over to the iPod commercial?
Katie: We were playing SXSW and we’d been playing two shows a day and had to do a third, which we aren’t used to. Usually one show takes everything out of us. So we were playing our second show and were exhausted and dehydrated and I fainted. But an hour later we had a show and I said, "we can’t do the show.” I started to feel a bit better and asked if we could do just three songs and they agreed. And that was the show Apple saw us at. I don’t think they knew us before the show but they told us they really liked the song. Then about ten weeks later we got a call saying we could possibly be up for the Apple iPod ad.
Jules: We were up for it because it’s Apple. They’re about music, basically pairing visuals with music. It’s all about machines that play music, and we’ve got iPods. We were up for the idea; we just said to talk to us and we’ll see what goes on. And then we heard nothing more until we got an email that said, "oh, by the way, they put the Apple ad on last night between Desperate Housewives and American Idol.” And now here it is on YouTube. It’s great and colourful. It looks really good. But we initially agreed to do it because they support music.

So you wouldn’t give a song to just anything?
Katie: No. We’ve been offered loads of stuff but we’d just do it for stuff we’re into, stuff we like.

Did what happened for other people who had their songs in those ads play into your decision?
Katie: I don’t really think so. I didn’t really know much about Feist or how long she’s been around, but we weren’t really aware of it. I think we were just in our own little bubble in Manchester, so we didn’t really know if it had made somebody’s career or just helped.

Have things been moving too fast for you since the ad came out?
Katie: It felt really fast. Luckily we’d finished the album before the craziness started, so it’s not like we were trying to finish our album in the middle of it all. Our creative time with the album was completed. It feels quite fast, but I don’t think it’s too fast.
Jules: It’s as fast as you want to go. We made our own album and had total creative control, so with our management it’s the same thing. You can take it as fast as you want to take it. It can never be too fast. Because if a band burns out, it’s because they didn’t stop. It’s really the band’s fault. It’s the band that can say, "I’m just not getting on this plane,” or "I need to be well.”

So now that you’ve gotten all this attention, what do you plan on doing with it in the future?
Katie: We haven’t really got any plans. I guess for me it would be to get to the point where, you know the band the Talking Heads? Well, they’ve got a DVD of a live show and they’re very creative with their live shows. So we’d like to get to that point where we can really think about what we want to do with an hour set and have it more like an art project in a way. Keep it entertaining but have more of a concept.
Jules: Well, we do our own artwork and fortunately at this level we’ve been racing around the world to do these shows, but you don’t get to really think about what you want your show to be or how you’d like your show to look. So we’d like to get to that place where we’d have more time and use our artwork more and work more with our artist friends.

Did you just get here today?
Katie: Yeah, well we had to land in London because of the thunderstorm. We were flying and we had to land in London on a tiny little runway with this massive jet squashed up on it. And we sat there for about an hour-and-a-half. And before we couldn’t land because of the thunderstorm, but they were quite happy to take off into it again, so I cried. I was quite frightened. So when we landed the whole plane did a round of applause. It was a good introduction to Toronto.

Other than that ordeal, has it been good?
Katie: Yeah, we got off the plane and were mortified and just happy to be on the ground. We went to a diner at like three in the morning called Fran’s. It’s so good. We had the best food there. And we saw two raccoons running down the street! They looked quite frightened because they got separated and I thought, "oh no, they’ve lost each other!” Is that quite rare?

I’ve had people tell me they’ve seen them in some of the quieter neighbourhoods but not downtown. Which Fran’s were you at?
Jules: The one on Victoria Street.
Katie: And they were looking straight at us.

That’s definitely a rarity then. So I’ve heard a lot about you guys playing physically on top of your records during your shows. What made you want to do that?
Katie: Well, we’ve always done something with vinyl. We did this thing with our first record where we took blank seven-inches and put our records in them. So we played a show in Berlin and got the audience in Berlin to put their artwork on them because it’s so much better than buying a regular record. And then next we bought a bunch more records at garage sales and took the vinyl out of them and turned them inside out and put our own artwork on the front. So say you’d buy one, if you looked inside it might be an old Elvis record. It’s good fun. We just wanted to take the record everywhere with us, so we were just made a mat out of them and taped them all together and then played on them. So we played in San Diego on them and now they look all battered, like old records. Then we sold them at the next show, the ones we used in San Diego.

I heard you just recently learned to play the guitar. How’s it been playing it live?
Katie: Not too bad. I actually learned about a year ago now. We played our first show after I’d been playing it for about six weeks though. We’ve played a show pretty much every night for the past year, so I’ve had some practice on it. It’s weird; I don’t feel like a guitar player. It’s just this thing I’ve got that when I get tired of it I swing it onto my back and dance. I really picked it up because I wanted to make a bit more noise with Jules.

So after your other band folded, what made you want to get back into the business side of things again?
Katie: Well, we didn’t at first. We were quite wary of working with a major label again because we had such a horrible time. But we heard from Mike Pickering, who is a Hacienda DJ from London and he’s in a band called M People, and he now works as an A&R guy. He took the time to build a relationship with us, so we thought that we could really actually work with him. And when we got our contract we said we wanted total creative control, but we didn’t think we’d actually get it, but we got it. We just wanted to keep doing what we were doing without getting interfered with. (Sony BMG)