A Gchat interview with Tokyo Police Club about Pitchfork anxiety and orgasmic synths

April 8, 2014

It’s hard to believe it, but Newmarket, Ontario indie rock act Tokyo Police Club are creeping towards their 10-year anniversary as a band. Through the ups and downs, and various record labels, they’ve stuck together as a tight-knit quartet with an ear for both poppy songcraft and instrumental experimentation. Their fourth LP Forcefield was released late in March, and is another compelling collection of sophisticated indie rock songs from the group. Before its release, I got keyboardist Graham Wright on Gchat where we discussed everything from longform thinkpieces to synthesizer-induced orgasms and Pitchfork anxiety.


Graham Wright: Is this thing on?

Josiah Hughes: Hey there! You appear offline, or is that a lie?

Graham: It muust be a lie. I’m looking at a Google window I’ve never seen before, so I can’t be held responsible for any unusual things that I appear to be doing….

Josiah: Fair enough! Do you not use Gchat on the regs?

Graham: I did all the time when I was working at CBC because they use Gmail, but I just used it in my regular email window. Now I’m in some Google Plus Hangouts world that’s strange and unfamiliar.

Josiah: Oh yeah that’s super weird, I don’t dick around with Google Plus.

Graham: I never will again. I’ve learned my lesson.

Josiah: Would you say you are a very internetty person? Do you spend a lot of time cruising on the world wide web?

Graham: Oh definitely, especially when I’m not working. It really kills the hours between meals.

Josiah: Hahaha! Gotta do something in there. What do you like to do on the web? What are some places you frequent?

Graham: Well, the real answer is your usual Facebook and Twitter and Reddit, but since I’m on so much I’ve kind of resolved to spend the time a little more productively.

Josiah: Oh wow, v mature.

Graham: I realized that I was spending the majority of time, like, clicking back and forth between social media sites and it was starting to make me feel gross. I don’t know if skimming articles about drone warfare or whatever is actually any better, but at least it feels that way.

Josiah: My time spent on the internet is more like trying to be less and less productive. My friends and I watch YouTube videos of teenage girls showing off all of the cool heart shaped pillows in their fancy bedrooms.

Graham: Whereas I read 10,000 word thinkpieces about the social ramifications of YouTube videos of teenage girls showing off all of the cool heart shaped pillows in their fancy bedrooms. Which is somehow preferable.

Josiah: ahahah. We are establishing early on here that you are more sophisticated than me.

Graham:  I should do all my interviews via online chat, it’s way easier to come across as sophisticated. Same reason it’s my flirting medium of choice.

Josiah:  What are some good chat flirting techniques? (I like this method of interview too as I just get v distracted and ask stupid questions and I can’t hear you getting annoyed on the other end of the phone.)

Graham:  Pretty much same thing I’m doing now, frantically typing run on sentences that seem like jokes but are really designed to make me seem like a real impressive dude. Like “Oh haha I read thinkpieces what a smart guy lolol.” Bragging couched in self deprecation, a classic for a reason

Josiah: Oh yeah absolutely, the ultimate humblebrag. You can really cultivate the perfect persona.

Graham: Also emojis are great, obvz.

 Look at that weird shit! You can riff on that for ages.

Josiah: Every time I do a chat interview I bring out this emoji. 

Graham: Is that a sleeping pig??

Josiah: Oh it must have not loaded on your weird Google Plus chat thing! That’s strange. It’s an animated turd. A real classic. So when did you stop working at the CBC and why?

Graham: End of December, just because that was as long as I said I could work. They would fit me in when I wasn’t otherwise occupied, and I kind of thought we’d be a lot busier early this year. Then when that changed I figured like it wouldn’t be a terrible idea to have some time off before we do get busy. Hopefully I’ll go back in some capacity at some point…

Josiah: What was your job there? And why haven’t you been busy this year?

Graham: I was doing hosting on Radio 3 (the online indie radio portion) and some writing or “content creation” or whatever for the music site. The album doesn’t come out until March so we’re holding off on touring until closer to then, we get busy starting next week…

Josiah: So what have you been doing with your time off? Just reading thinkpieces and being impressive?

Graham: It’s kind of been an extension of my online routine, in that I’m trying to do stuff that’s at least a little worthwhile. I got so bored that I started going to the gym, which is pretty impressive. I’ve been doing a major apartment clean out too, I’m throwing away like five boxes of old clothes. And I found some hilarious early Tokyo Police Club memorabilia. Fun trip down memory lane, basically. Oh, and I listen to podcasts. And watch True Detective. I’m just a regular dude, Josiah, just your average guy

Josiah: hahah. This is really deflating my image of you as a hard-living rockstar. What podcasts do you listen to? 

Graham:  Night Vale!  Have you heard that one?

Josiah: No what is it! I only ever really listen to comedy ones, and I never have time for them.

Graham: Oh man, it’s the best. It’s a fictional desert town radio show where just insane phantasmagorical shit goes down all the time.

Josiah: That sounds great! There are just too many good or great podcasts and they’re all like 30 hours long, and I can’t listen to talking all the time because I usually listen to stuff while I’m “generating content” for the various outlets I work for.

Graham:  I’ve never heard anything like it but it’s my main listen these days. This one’s only like 20-minute episodes so it’s an easy listen: https://twitter.com/NightValeRadio

Graham: The twitter is a pretty good example of the kind of humour it is

Josiah: Okay sweet! I will check it out and hopefully some other people will too! There was a fairly long break between TPC records… how come?

Graham: It was a combination of us taking a long time to write the songs, and then everything we wanted to do having to wait. So, like, now we’re ready to record but the producer can’t start until next month. And he has to take a month long break half way through. And now we have to choose who’s going to mix it. Okay we chose but the guy’s not available until next month. And then even when it was done, the label decided the strategic time to release it was spring so more waiting. Which is fine, it’s been nice to live at my house for a while. But it all adds up to a four-year wait, which is insane.

Josiah: Yeah no kidding! Are you sick of the record at this point then? Or it’s not like it’s been sitting on a shelf for a long time…

Graham: I’m not sick of it, although I’m not as high on it as I was before. The honeymoon period has ended, but we’ve settled into a comfortable relationship based on a deep and abiding love. (I had to be really careful I didn’t type that into the other Gchat window where I’m talking to my girlfriend.)

Josiah:  Hahaha! See isn’t it great how much multitasking you can do in these interviews?

Graham: It’s awesome! I’m also searching my kitchen for various spices I need. Apparently I’m not as stocked up on turmeric as I’d hoped…

Josiah: Hey man just open a new tab and order some. apple+T

Graham: Anyway yeah, I still think the album rules, but it’s not consuming me like it did when it was fresh. Yo I got so many tabs u don’t even KNOW.

Josiah: What kinda browser are you fucking with currently?

Graham: Chrome. I stayed loyal to Safari for a long damn time but it randomly started crashing my computer last year and I had to switch. Then when I realized that Safari wasn’t the problem it was too late to go back. It knows all my passwords! All my passwords and all my secrets.

Josiah: Exact same happened to me but with Chrome! It was pushing my flash too hard and then it crashed my iMac a bunch and I had to get a new power supply. But I’m currently on my work computer which is a piece of garbage and only seems to work with Firefox. I’ve got your album playing in another tab currently.

Graham: Q: Is Firefox the new Netscape? Oh awesome! How are you liking it?

Josiah: WAIT what’s the A to your Q and A?

Graham: Who knows!

Josiah: I think it might be. It’s the shameful browser that no one should be using, like Internet Explorer.

Graham: Someone can write a longread thinkpiece on it. Or a listicle, whatevz brings in the uniques

Josiah: Longread listicle. That’s the future.

Graham: Just add a picture to all my answers when you publish this and we can invent it

Josiah: You Won’t Believe These 15 10,000 Word Essays

Josiah: Okay I just started the last song. I really like it! It seems very ambitious.

Graham: That might be favourite song right now.

Josiah: This is my first listen through. What I’m noticing is that the songs are not simple, like they’re very catchy still but there’s a lot going on. So it makes sense that you were writing it for a while.

Graham: Yeah, there’s some serious layering on that bad boy.

Josiah: I like the first song a lot, it’s pretty ballsy to open with a song that long, but I think it worked.

Graham: That was actually the record label’s idea! Same as with Champ, apparently they’re really into opening the album with the weirdest song. So am I, but you wouldn’t expect it from music industry dudes.

Josiah: Yeah that’s true! Then again it’s like the longread of songs.

Graham: Oh yeah. I like that, I’m going to make them put that on the sticker.

Josiah: Hahaha. The synths really stood out to me on my listen too. Tell me about the synths.

^ professional interview question

Graham:  ^ my dream interview question. I’m glad to hear you say that, because to my ears it’s way more of a guitar record — the synths are less obvious than before, but there’s also more of them and I’m doing some stuff I’m really proud of. Basically for years I chafed at doing any “traditional” synth stuff, like filter sweeps or big pads or whatever, and with this record I got really into doing all that stuff. They had to stop me from filter sweeping into every chorus on every song, I was all about it. And we discovered the joy of adding a high string synth playing the root of the song in every chorus, which is like the secret weapon of good music.

Josiah: Oh that’s so smart! But what’s a filter sweep?

Graham: You’ll know it when you hear it. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eVL2VC3E9wA. That video also showcases my eventual life goal.

Josiah: “orgasmic filter sweep” hahahahah.

Graham: I just want to sit in a dark room full of synths, filter sweeping my way to a mindblowing O.

Josiah: ahahahhahah. Okay see everything about this video, other than the technical synth stuff, is what my friends and I love. Cool ass clothes, a dad who thinks he’s funny… it’s perfect.

Graham: And now you know the one thing you didn’t even think you were missing — orgasmic filter sweep instructions.

Josiah: Exactly! Haha. I get it now. Thank you for that. So did you get some new synths for this record?

Graham: Well the thing about recording synths is that every studio has a million of them. When we did Champ in LA, we literally had a binder with a long list of synths, you could call them and they’d bring it to the studio like an hour later.

Josiah: That seems awful, way too overwhelming.

Graham: We loved it! We spent all this time dialing in synth patches on all these beautiful vintage analog synths, like, every piece of gear I’ve ever lusted over. We spent hours doing it. And eventually the producer just said “guys we’re spending a lot of time and money on new synths, and every sound you get is EXACTLY THE SAME.” And he was right.

Josiah: Yeah I guess you have to be able to recreate it live at least somewhat.

Graham: When we toured that album I had to make a duplicate of that sound on my touring synth, and I used that sound on like half the songs on this record. Same with the guitars and drums, in the past we’ve switched out amps or snares or whatever for every song, chasing this perfect sound. This time we realized that a) it’s the parts that actually matter and b) we spent the whole writing portion using specific sounds so we should just stick with them. It made the recording process a lot easier.

Josiah: It’s true… I can’t tell that you used less sounds or simplified.

Graham: Exactly.

Josiah: Maybe that orgasm synth guy can tell, but a philistine like me? Nah.

Graham: Oh I’m sure he’d have lots to say on the matter. I’m going to send him the record for reviews. “I DIDN’T CUM ONCE LISTENING TO THESE BULLSHIT SYNTH PATCHES” “0/10”

Josiah: Hahaha. YouTube record reviews are really the best. There was this awkward little boy that used to review punk records, and I sent him my old band’s record, and he said the best things, like “I didn’t like the songs with chick vocals” but then he got teased too much and deleted his channel.

Graham: I’ve never watched YouTube record reviews. It sounds amazing.

Josiah: They’re so uncomfortable. Even when they’re good. Like just open a Pitchfork review and actually read it out loud, music writing should never be read out loud.

Graham: But I watched that guy who did like a 3 hour take down of The Phantom Menace and I could just never bring myself to do it again

Josiah: ahahah I haven’t seen that actually! We’re really into fast food reviews.

Graham: THAT would be a funny YouTube channel, just Pitchfork reviews read out loud.

Josiah: ahahahhaha

Graham:  Or no sorry Pitchfork if you’re reading this ilu please give us Best New Music we need it so bad.

Josiah: If there’s one thing I know, Pitchfork definitely reads my AUX iPad magazine column where I interview bands via Gchat.

Graham: I feel like bands now have a weird Pitchfork inferiority complex. Like they’re a dad who just seems omnipotent. And if you displease them you’ll be punished with a sad dog or a monkey peeing in its own mouth. But here I am, tempting fate. *revs motorcycle engine*

Josiah:  Hahaha That’s kinda true but I also feel like every band gets a 7.0 now. As long as you’re not the Pixies, you get a 7 just by existing.

Graham:  Tell that to Elephant “6.3” Shell!

Josiah: ahahaha. There are a handful it’s true. But also 6.3 isn’t even that bad! On most days all five reviews on the site fall between a high 6 or a low 8. Like if I got 63% on a science test in high school I would be really stoked.

Graham: Oh for sure. Although if I got 63% on an ENGLISH test in high school I would have been highly unstoked.

Josiah: Yeah that’s definitely true. Now I’m really excited to see what your score is. Do you read a lot of your own reviews and do they affect you? I feel like most people are lying when they say they don’t.

Graham: Like, I don’t really remember reading any of them, but I look at everything, I was on our Facebook before. I don’t know if it affects me much though. Who knows how that stuff goes into your subconscious, but I’m pretty sure of how good we are. I’ve certainly never looked at someone shit talking our stuff and thought “oh crap maybe they’re right.”

Josiah: Hahaha yeah. Well that’s good! How do you feel when a record is about to come out? Is it nerve racking?

Graham:  Hmmm…. A little? As I was saying, to me it’s kind of old news. But we just put out a new song yesterday (or Monday maybe?) and every time I clicked on somewhere that had written about it, I felt my heart rate quicken. So evidently I’m still invested on some level.

Josiah: Fair enough. So what does the rest of your day look like now? What are you gonna do after this? We could just chat forever if you want.

Graham:  Man, if I was flirting this would be my most successful flirt ever. “We could just chat forever if you want” <3 <3 <3

Josiah: I’m a little hurt that you don’t consider this flirting

Graham:  This is professional man, I’m just using for the publicity. GET OVER IT YOU KNEW WHAT THIS WAS

Josiah:  OUCH

Graham: Nah, I have to go to Goodwill and buy groceries and make dinner

Josiah: Oh yeah gotta get dat seasoning. What are you looking for at Goodwill?

Graham:  If anyone is looking for some one of a kind TPC memorabilia, a lot of concert worn shirts are about to appear at the west Toronto Goodwill.

Josiah: Damn that’s a hot tip! Cool man, well thanks for making the time to Gchat it up!

Graham: It was my pleasure, I had a blast. I’m a big fan of the column, so I was really happy when I got the email.

Josiah: Hahaha really! I didn’t realize ppl were fans of this column. It’s such a dumb and lazy idea, but many great things are.

Graham: Exactly. It’s all about finding your little corner of the lazy world.

Josiah: Haha my mantra. Have a chill day!

Graham: You too, take care!

[magazine month=”April” year=”2014″]

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