TV on the Radio's Sitek Takes Flight With 'Balloon'
When Dave Sitek is usually described as ambitious, it's in relation to the intricate production and instrumentation he employs with his primary band, indie fave TV on the Radio. But Sitek's true ambition, he reveals, is a little more . . . blonde.
"I was trying to make Madonna's first record," Sitek says, punctuating the statement with a giggle. "I was trying to make something that was clear and bright and fast-paced."
Widely considered a hipster king and a Brooklyn mover and shaker, despite the fact that he currently lives in Los Angeles, Sitek says he brought his '80s influences to bear on his forthcoming solo project, "Maximum Balloon," out Sept. 21 on Interscope.
"Nile Rodgers is one of my favorite producers," Sitek says of the man behind such albums as Madonna's "Like a Virgin" and Duran Duran's "Notorious." "I feel like people have a hard time taking the '80s stuff seriously because not enough time has passed, but one day we'll look back and realize how important it was."
Sitek decided to do the album as a solo project as opposed to working on the music with his TV on the Radio bandmates because he "didn't want to have to convince people or apologize for wanting to make clever use of synthesizers." But he does bring some of his friends along on the album, including Theophilus London, Yukimi Nagano from Little Dragon, Karen O of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs and TVOTR compatriots Tunde Adebimpe and Kyp Malone. While the album is definitely rooted in the decade of decadence, it manages to avoid sounding like a retro covers project.
Given Sitek's reputation and the high-profile names on the album, Luke Wood, president of DGC Records and chief strategy officer at Interscope Geffen A&M, says the label isn't approaching the project like it would a developing artist.
"We know who the audience is for this record," Wood says. "And it's not just TV on the Radio fans. It's anyone who likes Arcade Fire or Spoon or Hot Chip or any of the other bands in that orbit."
To reach that crowd, Wood says the label will mount an extensive SEO and SEM campaign. "We're using keywords for the artists on the album and other like-minded artists," he says. "We're rolling out banner ads and being aggressive with Facebook promotion."
Wood says that, to him, the album sounds like a mix of Brian Eno's "Another Green World" and Prince's "Purple Rain," and he thinks that style will help the album reach an audience beyond the indie rock crowd. But he adds that reaching those people will come second.
"Ideally, we're hoping to reach the lifestyle crowd early and make them evangelists for this record," Wood says. "This record has an effortless quality and feels very familiar, so we think it can make its way to a wider audience."
Unlike some of his TVOTR bandmates, Sitek is much more open to commercial licensing opportunities, according to Wood. "None of the other artists on the album are being harsh about the notion," he says, adding that the label and Sitek's publisher, Chrysalis, are in talks to license the music.
Video content is also being rolled out—a clip for the song "Tiger" is already online, and one for the track "Groove Me" will follow shortly. Wood says the videos are being posted to the usual online outlets and will also be sent to mtvU.
A 7-inch for "Tiger" is currently at indie retail, and Wood says the label has launched a preorder campaign and will release a deluxe edition digitally.
Sitek won't be participating in one of the most conventional marketing strategies for a new album, though -- his recording schedule for the new TVOTR record prevents him from mounting a tour anytime soon. "We are looking for events for him to play and opportunities on TV," Wood says. "Touring eventually is not out of the question, either."
For his part, Sitek just wants to keep the promo efforts low-key. "I'm not going to go to Dallas and strip off and run around naked," he says, referencing the now-infamous Erykah Badu clip. "I'd rather have ZZ Top do that and create some awesome old-man porn."