U.K.’s Ting Tings spark international incident

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      Talk about life in the fast lane. It’s taken one year for the Ting Tings to ascend from their roots in a Manchester artists’ colony to U.K. pop supremacy.

      And once the Straight gets the boy-girl duo on the phone, after a little preamble about a certain British train wreck’s latest crack-fuelled tribulations, drummer-vocalist Jules De Martino is moved to boast, “We’re making Amy Winehouse look like a saint, you know, ’cause we’re actually doing an interview while driving down the motorway at 100 miles an hour. So take that.”

      Which is absolutely true. De Martino and his partner, guitarist-vocalist-bombshell Katie White, are halfway between Manchester and London, tag-teaming on speakerphone as they weave perilously through traffic like something out of Withnail and I.

      It seems perfectly appropriate, considering the band’s hot-off-the-press bio. After taking a major-label sucker punch in their previous outfit, Dear Eskimo, De Martino and White retired to the aforementioned colony—the Islington Mill in Salford—to lick their wounds and “play to our friends”, as White describes it.

      “I grew up listening to the Spice Girls ’cause that’s what was on the radio when I was younger,” she continues. “And then you go to this place and you see all these bands like Acid Mothers Temple, and the artists there, and the galleries, and exhibitions. We found it really inspiring.”

      When a meaty, beaty, and well-pissed-off electro-pop manifesto called “That’s Not My Name”—released independently in May 2007—started to make big waves with U.K. scenemakers, “every label suddenly wanted to work with us,” reports White. The twosome managed to resist all overtures until former Hacienda DJ Mike Pickering came calling on behalf of Sony.

      “We were very, very cynical, and he was lovely and patient with us,” says White.

      The rereleased “That’s Not My Name” beat out Madge to hit the U.K.’s number-one spot last month. White theorizes, “When we wrote these songs we were skint, we’d had bailiffs knocking on the door, we had no prospects whatsoever, and we wrote to feel good. And maybe people are getting that feeling.”

      Stateside, the Ting Tings have already made their presence felt through—what else?—an iPod commercial. “Shut Up and Let Me Go” is classic snot-nosed U.K. pop, built on the ever-potent combination of withering, school-yard gender politics delivered by an unattainable goddess-next-door, set to Chic’s indomitable disco blueprint. As for the rest of the Ting Tings’ just-released album, We Started Nothing, it’s cunning and disposable in all the right ways. The title track encapsulates the duo’s knack for boiled-down Go! Team percussion coloured by White’s willfully shouty contribution, beautifully evoking the wet windshields and bleeding neon of Britain’s clubland. And with the album’s most Talking Heads–inspired moment (De Martino is a big fan), the rising stars already have an international incident under their belts. “Impacilla Carpisung” features a “bullshit, gobbledygook” scratch vocal that worked so well they decided to keep it. China, on the other hand, was not so impressed.

      “They actually banned that song because they can’t translate it,” chuckles De Martino. “I think they think the big, bad West is writing some kind of secret message.”

      The Ting Tings play the Plaza Club on Monday (June 9).

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