“Oh God, is there going to be a music industry 10 years from now? Is there going to be a civilization 10 years from now?”
Those were the questions Tokyo Police Club’s keyboardist Graham Wright had when thinking about where the indie rock band will be in a decade.
“We might be the (band) during the post-apocalyptic nuclear wasteland, you know, playing ‘Nature of the Experiment’ on pots and pans for the roaming and rotting hordes,” he laughed.
While Wright can’t predict the future, the band can certainly look back, as they recently celebrated the 10-year anniversary of their debut EP, A Lesson in Crime.
The Toronto-based quartet celebrated the milestone with the release of the second installment of their two-part EP, Melon Collie and the Infinite Radness.
With a title that parodies alternative rock band Smashing Pumpkins’ 1995 album Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness, Wright said he had hoped to hear from Pumpkins frontman Billy Corgan.
“I think that in my wildest dreams, he would’ve been really mad about it — like, disproportionately angry,” said Wright. “You can either feel reverence towards the people you look up to, or you can kind of perversely hope that they’ll wind up enraged at you, and I prefer the latter, I think.”
Wright and his bandmates are still waiting for Corgan’s phone call.
The title of their most recent release highlights how Tokyo Police Club have never taken themselves too seriously — and according to Wright, the band’s lighthearted approach to songwriting has only made their music better.
“I think some bands are wired to work well when they’re highfalutin and they feel like they’re making capital ‘A’ art,” he said. “You see a lot of times when people sort of try to make that grand statement, but they’re not really good at it, and it’s just a bad look, frankly.”
“We can’t even get to that point. We can’t even pretend to take ourselves that seriously.”“It didn’t occur to us how far out of our comfort zone we were going to have to be until we were already out there.” – Graham Wright
And that’s how they approached the creation of their latest collection of songs.
With all four members of the band living in different places, the group had to invent a new writing process to adjust to the brief periods of time when they could all get together.
Melon Collie 1 and 2 were made in a short span of time on a song-by-song basis, and Wright said there was never a moment where it felt like the tracks blended together as one large, cohesive statement.
“All of the songs feel separate and whole, and they live in their own boxes, and I think that’s sort of a result of working that way,” he said. “Every song kind of got what it wanted and what it asked for.”
The five tracks on Melon Collie 2 are fairly far-removed from the group’s older stuff but are exactly what fans of their last full-length record, Forcefield, would want to hear: upbeat, a little nostalgic, and pretty damn catchy.
Wright said the decision to release two EPs instead of a full studio-length was strategic: the combination of songs didn’t feel like an album, and it also made the most business sense to release two separate collections of music. Two EPs meant two opportunities for tours, interviews, and getting people’s attention.
Still, Wright said fans can expect another album relatively soon.
For Tokyo Police Club, creating an album is a process that requires commitment — something more than meeting up for a few quick writing sessions.
He highlighted albums Champ and Forcefield as two long-term projects that were particularly artistically fulfilling.
Both of the albums made a statement and took several years of work to complete.
Despite their shorter lengths, Wright said releasing Melon Collie 1 and 2 was just as satisfying, since working with so many constraints was new territory for the band.
“You get good at working within whatever context you have to work in. Once you get good at working a certain way, it’s easy to sort of go on autopilot, and it’s easy to not be as hungry, or not be as courageous or willing to take risks,” he said. “It didn’t occur to us how far out of our comfort zone we were going to have to be until we were already out there.”
The members of Tokyo Police Club have been working together since they were teenagers, and Wright said the band has become a comfort zone in itself. Branching out, however, can sometimes be met with criticism, as musicians tend to be defined by the bands they play in.
“When you start to feel urges to do things outside (the band) … you really have to negotiate, ‘Where does that fit into my understanding of myself and people’s understanding of me?’” said Wright, who has worked in film and pursued other solo music projects.
“It’s hard to sort of know where the band ends and life begins, or vice versa because we’ve been doing it for the exact period of time where you grow and change a lot anyway,” he said. “If I was sitting behind a desk, I also would’ve changed a huge amount between when I was 19 and now.”
Ten years ago, Tokyo Police Club was a group of friends making music in their basements. Today, they tour around the world and continue to release hits. Perhaps in another 10 years, the group could be playing their oldest songs to legions of apocalypse survivors.
“Or we could be playing Casino Rama for millions of dollars,” Wright said with a laugh.
Cover photo by Nicole Fara Silver.