After half of Tokyo Police Club politely apologize for running late (“Someone left their clothes in the dryer,” says keyboardist Graham Wright, 21; “I had to get ready for dinner with my parents,” offers singer/bassist Dave Monks, also 21), it’s no surprise to hear that the boys took a wholesome approach while slogging it out on the suburban Toronto battle-of-the-bands circuit. “We played these showcases where you really had to work to grab people’s attention,” says drummer Greg Alsop, 22. “So we handed out cupcakes.” Did the ploy work? Alsop smiles: “Never underestimate the appeal of fresh baked goods.”
Despite their sugary stagecraft, the Strokes- and Radiohead-loving pals, along with guitarist Josh Hook, 20, were ready to call it quits after high school, until a local DJ invited them to play the 2005 Pop Montreal festival. There, a rep for Canadian indie Paper Bag Records fell for the band’s fusion of briskly anthemic guitar lines, precise post-punk rhythms, and doe-eyed melodies. An EP soon followed. “If that call hadn’t come, Tokyo Police Club would be a weekend band,” says Monks, gingerly sipping his espresso at a Toronto café.
Since then, the band has adopted a touring schedule that would make Jimmy Buffett wince, yet maintained a deliberate pace in the studio. “I wish we could write songs without stopping for 20 minutes to debate four bars, but it’s just not going to happen,” says Wright, explaining why it took two years for the band to come up with the 11 songs on their debut album, Elephant Shell (Saddle Creek). But as Monks — also the band’s lyricist — sees it, slowness has its perks.
“We’re more likely to have a long career,” he says, “if we never give people the chance to get sick of us.”
Given so many other acts’ fecundity, TPC’s relatively sparse output has set them apart almost as much as the warmly melancholic guitar sheen of tracks like “Centennial” and “Graves.” “We’d love to be like Interpol and build our fan base slowly,” says Monks. “Hopefully, we can skip the terrible third album.” True to form, he quickly apologizes for the insult.
- Coincidentally, TPC has a nonmusical counterpart. “I think it’s a Japanese policeman’s organization,” says Hook. “It shows up if you search for us on Wikipedia.”
- A fellow Canuck had their back when they appeared on the Late Show. “[David Letterman] called us Toyota Police Club,” says Monks, “but Paul Shaffer corrected him.”
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Video by Robert Farrow