Keyboardist Graham Wright reminiscences about touring, new fans, and young dreaming
When Canadian indie rock group, Tokyo Police Club, first started touring in the United States, they were booking their own shows. They were paying their own way on tour with money from odd jobs back in their hometown of Newmarket, Ontario. Graham Wright recalled the need to start playing shows outside of Canada.
“We did a little bit of everything you know? We worked retail in the suburbs,” Wright explained. “You took that money that you were ostensibly saving for your college education and spent it on going to stay at a hotel in Cleveland. It was like starting a business and making an investment.”
This means of exposure was obviously a tactic for days past, before crowdfunding websites like Kickstarter and Indiegogo could find enough fans to finance a band’s entire tour.
Nearly ten years later, Tokyo Police club has toured all over the world. They are presently playing sold-out shows on their Canadian tour, for their newest album, Forcefield, which was released in March. Forcefield is the band’s third full-length album, which took them nearly four years to perfect. While they were criticized for the lengthy gap of time between albums, Wright suggested that they had one guiding philosophy to live by: “There is no good time to put out a bad record and there’s no bad time to put out a good record.”
He heard that quote first from the band’s manager. “I don’t know if this is an original to him or if he stole it from someone else,” he said. If anything, Forcefield sounds even more complex and sonically layered than their older songs, a result of the quality time spent on the material.
Having played shows since 2005, the band has accumulated many fans who have been following their progress for years. They consider being able to keep people engaged and listening over this time span a point of pride. But, as Wright suggested, it’s always nice to see new faces too.
Just recently there was a fan who came to one of their shows and stood directly in front of the stage, singing every word to only the new songs, from Forcefield. Frequently at their shows, lead singer Dave Monks plays an acoustic version of the highly requested song, “Tessellate” from their debut album, Elephant Shell (2008).
Recalling one concert where fans were whistling the piano riffs from the song, Wright laughed. “You can’t whistle in union, it’s not a thing that people do, but I admired their dedication.”
Tokyo Police Club have often included playing shows in smaller cities while on tour. They say that not much thought ever went into specifically picking smaller Canadian cities, but that they have always played them because, as a Canadian band, “it’s just been like a part of [the] business model,” Wright said.
However, nothing is intrinsically Canadian about the band aside from their origins. Their sound is a fusion of indie rock and punk, with distinct and strong vocals, catchy choruses and cool guitar riffs.
When asked about the band as contributors and representatives to and of Canadian music, Wright dismissed the notion of pigeonholing themselves.
“I have no interest in border divides on style … it seems pointless to me to ever shoehorn yourself or try and identify with one particular scene, its just limiting,” he said.
Tokyo Police Club have established themselves in a more global context of indie music culture playing festivals and shows in Europe and Asia. While touring in a band is something Wright said he always dreamed about as a young boy, inspired by watching rock ‘n’ roll documentaries, a well-deserved day off is something he really looks forward to.
After playing show after show, Wright explained, “you feel like you’ve earned the right to indulge yourself a little.” With three successful albums completed and eighteen shows to play over the next four weeks, a day off is surely deserved.