Tokyo Police Club singer-bassist David Monks has no problem breaking down the game plan for the recording of his band’s debut album, Elephant Shell. Although it took the members of the Newmarket, Ontario, quartet a good three years to produce the long-player, they at least knew what they weren’t after.
“It’s not like we went into the studio the first day and said, ”˜Okay, we’re going to make a record that’s 75 percent different, 30 percent better production, 10 percent better snare sound,’ ” Monk says, on his cellphone from a Pennsylvania highway. “The record seemed to do its own thing. We just threw ideas into the pool, and then it turned out to be whatever it is.”
In this case, that would be a departure from A Lesson in Crime, Tokyo Police Club’s 2006 debut EP. Filled with honed-razor guitars and fuzz-bombed bass lines, A Lesson got Tokyo Police Club pegged as high-powered early players in the postrawk dance club. Monks and his bandmates smartly avoid repeating themselves on Elephant Shell. This time, the band’s sonic palette has expanded to include funeral-burnished cellos (the mournful “The Harrowing Adventures Of”¦”), chilled-out electronica (“Juno”), and shoegazing new wave (“Centennial”). Monks laughingly notes that at least 50 percent of the record’s reviews have suggested a noticeable artistic growth.
“With this record, I’ve tried to steer clear of reviews,” he says. “But from what I have read, it’s like half of them say it sounds totally different from the EP, and that’s a terrible thing. The other half say it sounds exactly like the EP, and that’s a terrible thing. No one can agree, which I guess shows that everyone will read whatever they want into it.”
Careerwise, Monks knows Tokyo Police Club has been blessed, with both A Lesson in Crime and 2007’s Smith EP landing the band everywhere from Late Show With David Letterman to such prestigious festivals as Coachella, Lollapalooza, Reading, and Glastonbury. One of the downsides of all the hype is that the group has been in constant demand as a live act, making the creation of Elephant Shell a challenge. Looking back, Monks realizes the problem was that, ironically, Tokyo Police Club didn’t have a blueprint for what it was after.
“We thought that we would write in the studio, which seems to work for so many bands,” Monks says. “That didn’t work for us. We had three weeks of work done and 10 tracks recorded when we all said to each other, ”˜Hey, you know this record that we’ve just spent all this time and money doing? Let’s scrap it.’ So we quit, went back to Toronto, and spent two weeks in a rehearsal space, where we wrote eight of the songs on the record.”
The lesson learned from all that might be, when it comes to Tokyo Police Club, it’s best to let things unfold organically. Looking back, Monks should have figured that out long ago.
“We had no expectations when we made our first record,” he recalls. “No one expected to tour that record for two years, and no one expected to play Coachella. We were living in our parents’ houses back then. We never even thought we’d play L.A.”
Tokyo Police Club plays the Plaza Club on Thursday and Friday (May 15 and 16).