In Katie White's native Manchester, they call it "footballer's injury." Or, in her case, "spazzing out."
"I got groin strain awhile back 'cause I was carrying gear that was much too heavy," the Ting Tings singer/guitarist breezily recalls, as drummer Jules De Martino winces. "We didn't have a roadie, and we were touring the U.K. and carting equipment ourselves-us against the world."
Burlier folk now do the band's heavy lifting, but a few traits remain from that period: The twosome are still tenaciously self-sufficient, and White continues to hurt herself. (Today, over flutes of champagne at New York's Tribeca Grand Hotel, she sports a luridly bruised pinkie, the result of overzealous banging on a bass drum.) They speak with reservation about their rising U.K. media profile, and quickly mention that their first band together, the ambient-rock Dear Eskiimo, flamed out at this same point in the hype cycle. That anxiety is reflected on the Ting Tings' debut album, We Started Nothing (Red/ Columbia), a club-ready jolt flecked with astringent guitar, strangled yelps, and De Martino's electronic loops.
"Dear Eskiimo got signed [in 2005, to Mercury], and it became a nightmare," laments De Martino, 33. "All the guys who worked with us [at the label] got sacked, and we sat there without a release date. Then we got dropped and got bitter. A lot of our songs now are about the downside then, expressing what we wanted."
Amid the wiry pop of We Started Nothing's "Shut Up and Let Me Go," White, 23, struts into the sunset, then gives a Kate Pierson backhand to overbearing blokes on the fetching single "That's Not My Name," snapping, "Are you calling me darling? / Are you calling me bird?" Her overt defiance just masks a buried romanticism, though, which is coded in the band's name.
"Ting Ting means 'an old bandstand' in Mandarin, which I thought was very visual," explains White. "Then we found it also meant 'the sound of innovation on an open mind.' Like 'Ting!' when you get an idea -- it's that little impact." It's an impact that will hopefully be less painful from now on.
- Both Ting Tings were teen poppers earlier in their careers -- De Martino in the late-'80s flop Babakato and White in the late-'90s Spice Girls knockoff TKO.
- White, an amateur clothing designer, stitches most of her stage ensembles.