When SPIN.com featured Robbers as a Band of the Day just over a year ago, the quartet was about to release its debut full-length, Tree City. In the hectic months that followed, the band followed the basic trajectory for an up-and-coming rock outfit: They replaced a band member, played a major film festival, sold a song to a car company, and rubbed shoulders with Justin Timberlake.
Somewhere in between plotting the kidnap of Timberlake’s stoner-chic sibling and brainstorming titles for their upcoming album (Ridin’ It Deep might not make the cut for the late-summer release), Robbers on High Street’s lead singer, Ben Trokan, found time to wax poetic with SPIN.com about a year in his life.
SPIN.com: How is the new album shaping up so far?
Ben Trokan: I think on the last record I was going for very pop arrangements, very concise. These songs are kind of longer and there’s more dimension to them. It’s a bit more epic, I guess. Maybe epic‘s a bad word. But we play a lot longer during the songs.
You’ve said that on the last album, it took the band a while to figure out a sonic identity, and that you can hear that on the album. Now that you’re more settled into a sound, do you think there will be an obvious change on the new album?
That record solidified me and allowed me to trust the fact that I have a pretty good pop sensibility and I shouldn’t shy away from that. I never wanted to make records that continually sounded the same, so it’s going to probably sound a little different. There was a good baker’s dozen of songs on there and this one might have fewer songs, but bigger songs. I don’t know. We’ve been playing around.
Have you thought of any potential titles for the new album?
We talked about a couple titles but I think most of them are pretty ridiculous. I think we were joking more than being serious. Some of our working titles have been Ridin’ It Deep and Someday Monkey Won’t Play Piano Songs but I don’t think we’ll use either of them.
Your song, “Japanese Girls,” was featured in a Pontiac commercial. With so many up-and-coming bands selling their songs to car companies for commercials, it doesn’t seem like there’s that stigma of selling out anymore.
It’s really strange. Like Brendan Benson’s song was in a car commercial and Steven Malkmus’ song was in one. I think it’s sort of changing. I think with car commercials it’s kind of become trendy again as oil is out and fuel efficiency is in. I think they’re trying to go for something different. If you’re an advertiser, why would you spend a kajillion dollars and give it to the Rolling Stones who already have a kajillion dollars when you could get another song for a lot less money and give it to some band that’s kind of on the up and up.
Did you question whether or not you’d do it?
Yeah, I said I didn’t want it to be any gas-guzzling monster. But Pontiac’s a sad little offshoot of GM. I don’t think they even make anything like that. It’s for a sedan. It gets about 30 to the gallon.
You just played Music on Main at the Sundance Film Festival. What was that gig like?
It was cold ’cause we had to play outside. I’d never been to Sundance before. It wasn’t entirely what I expected. It was kind of a gentrified ski town. It reminded me of some place in Vermont or something. The show was fun and that was the first time we’d played with our keyboard player. And it was snowing while we were playing! It was cold.
Did you get to see any films while you were in town?
It was the first time they had done it at the end of the festival — they usually do it at the beginning — so a lot of the films I wanted to see were kind of over but we went to some parties. We saw Justin Timberlake at a party. That was pretty funny.
Did you run over and talk to him?
No, not at all, but we saw his brother who was like this total blond kid with dreadlocks and baggy pants and a real sort of stoner lingo. We were joking we were going to kidnap him and that was the running joke of the trip.
And then you could get Justin to play on your next album!
We could get him to hang out, yeah.