Published Apr 18, 2012In 2008, the Ting Tings' "That's Not My Name" was the ubiquitous and polarizing party starter. Cleverly simple dance romp or stupidly pedestrian candy pop? Either way, Jules de Martino and Katie White's debut album, We Started Nothing, was a multi-platinum global hit that had the duo's record label salivating over the potential reach of their second record. But de Martino and White had other plans.
Sounds From Nowheresville, the Ting Tings' fraught-with-controversy follow-up, isn't likely what the band's management and money-backers had in mind. According to de Martino, though, it's the only record he and White could make without compromising themselves and their artistic vision.
"There's a slight difference between selling records and being creative," de Martino tells Exclaim! "We listened to the [new] songs that we had and everyone was going crazy, like they'll be our biggest hits for radio and everyone's going to love them because it's, like, dance music that everyone is going crazy about. We just laughed. We looked at each other and said, 'It's not what we do.' We're just not into having to make music in this way, so we erased it. That's what we do. When we make decisions like that about pressing the button, that's me and Katie at our best."
After axing those six new songs in the wake of We Started Nothing, the pair went back to work. The end result? Nowheresville plays like a mixtape, sprawling across genres and influences ranging from power pop to reggae-lite.
"The Ting Tings were borne out of mixtapes," de Martino says. "We're a band that loved music, energy, attitude and fashion, but we don't like being just one of one hundred things we're able to do."
And contrary to popular belief, they're not interested in being trendsetters.
"If you need to read the papers and see what's current or you need to be involved in the new fashion, then this is not the band to follow," de Martino says. "Everyone thinks we mean to be a really cool band, but we're not cool. We don't try to be cool. We don't follow anything. We're not massive music fans. We love art."
And obviously they also like defying and toying with expectation. In fact, the real surprise of Nowheresville is the album's occasional forays into vulnerability, forsaking White's sing-shout style with surprisingly powerful results -- think Lady Gaga meets Adele with a dash of Karen O, much to White's probable chagrin.
"Katie has an amazing voice and the one thing she hates is singing. It's phenomenal!" de Martino says. "She hates these big divas, these big voices from these solo artist queens. In a record collection, it's all gotta be quirky and kind of thrown away and punky. Almost like there's no effort. Any time there's a lot of planning or effort in a vocal, she can't stand it. She just feels like it's a fake."
It took some coercing -- and weed -- but de Martino convinced White to let down her guard.
"I just said, 'I want to hear you sing, like, a three-minute version, it doesn't have to be on our record,'" de Martino laughs. "That's what happened on a few of these songs, like 'Day to Day.' I remember, we played it for some people and they were like, 'Who the fuck's singing?' And it's her! And 'In Your Life' at the end [of the record], okay, at that moment we were stoned and in the studio, having a little bit of fun with a track that had some personal attachment to it for her, and when she sung that in one take, I was like, 'Fuck. That's amazing.' To be in a band where we feel like we can do that as well, it just made us feel like this is the album we have to make."
The Ting Tings are currently in the midst of wrapping up their North American tour before heading for shows in South America and Europe. You can see all the scheduled stops here.
Sounds From Nowheresville is out now on Columbia Records.