TV On the Radio Are Scientists

TV On the Radio Are Scientists
The only certain thing when it comes to a new TV On the Radio album is where it’s recorded. Located in a rapidly gentrifying part of Brooklyn, Stay Gold Studio is the offspring of integral TVOTR member David Andrew Sitek. It is in this scuzzy laboratory that Sitek, vocalist Tunde Adebimpe, guitarist/vocalist Kyp Malone, and new members Jaleel Bunton and Gerard Smith concoct music beyond classification. Some tracks stun with a haze of crunchy guitar and pounding drums, while others float in shoegaze heaven as Sitek’s electronic burbles provide counterpoint. Through it all are the harmonies and interplay of the crooning Adebimpe and the urgent falsetto of Malone that draw people in, almost spiritually. They demand attention and it is all utterly and achingly original.

Of course, this magic is sometimes hard to come by. "We have tons of vocal tracks,” explains Kyp Malone. "I’ll do three, four sets of tracks and [Adebimpe] will do three, four sets of tracks. It’s painstaking and we try really hard, but I still hear things that I wish I could go back and change, but that just gives me the encouragement to say that we’re not finished yet, that we can try to get it to sound perfect next time.”

That doesn’t mean he’s disappointed with their latest, Return to Cookie Mountain. "I don’t have any reservations about it. I just hear things that I don’t know anyone else will hear except for me, because I know how a song was supposed to sound in my head, but this is how it came out.”

Many people popped by Stay Gold to help midwife the birth of Cookie; the most buzzed-about was the Thin White Duke himself, David Bowie. Malone drops his guard when asked about the legend’s participation on the stunning "Province.” "Honestly? I think one would be a fool to pass up the opportunity to work with him. There was a moment of egoistic preciousness where I was fearful that it was going to turn into the song as backdrop for someone to be a superstar, but it wasn’t that way at all. He was such a team player and so supportive and wonderful to work with and not showboating and not there because of self-aggrandizement, but to help us and be supportive and be a part of it because he liked it.”

After their last album, the award-winning Desperate Youth, Blood Thirsty Babes, TVOTR put out an EP, New Health Rock, that upped the tempo and took them in a more rock direction. Cookie continues this intensity, but Malone denies that it is more aggressive. "Dave [Sitek] is an intense person and he’s really big on BPMs and he wants almost everything to go faster than I want it to go. I know I’m actually one of the slowest moving and hearing people that I’ve ever encountered, so I’ll presume that things can go faster, and being faster can sound more aggressive.”

In the end, the open, perplexing melange of genres that TVOTR explore may leave some scratching their heads, which makes no difference to the band. They toil in the studio and do what they want. "The one difference is that somewhere along the way we were conceiving it as a dance record — I don’t know if we succeeded with that or not. I think it’s a record you can dance to if you like.”