After a sophomore album dubbed “Champ,” it’s no surprise that Tokyo Police Club is an ambitious band. But taking on 10 covers from 10 years in 10 days, as the group did in a Los Angeles studio at the end of August, would be a tall order for any act.
“Ambitious is one word for it,” keyboardist Graham Wright said. “We knew that the touring cycle was coming to an end and it seemed like we weren’t going to make a new record that fast, but you have to do something in this day and age.”
The result, a collection that ranges from takes on Miley Cyrus and Kelly Clarkson selections to lesser-known indie favorites by LCD Soundsystem and Harlem Shakes, arrived in digital stores on October 10. Billboard.com caught up with the Ontario band halfway through its two-week marathon at Red Bull Studios, finding the quartet focused but relaxed as they put the finishing touches on Queens of the Stone Age’s “Little Sister.”
As the band wrapped up vocal work and ordered pizza, the control room was littered with photos — the group teamed with Polaroid to help promote the sessions — and filled with friends and one very friendly dog. Earlier in the day, former Michael Jackson guitarist Orianthi had stopped by to lay down a solo; other guests on the songs include members of M83 and Mariachi El Bronx.
The casual vibe may have been a sanity-saving necessity given the work ahead. According to Wright, the goal of the sessions was to stretch some musical muscles — and, with another album cycle yet to begin, find some new fans in the process.
“We did a Strokes song, we could’ve done an Interpol song, a Broken Social Scene song, an Arcade Fire song,” he said, adding that most people who like those rock bands have already formed an opinion of his group. “But people that like Kelly Clarkson or Jimmy Eat World or Queens of the Stone Age, people that haven’t necessarily checked out our band before… maybe they’ll hear that and weasel their way into the rest of it. You hope. If we did 10 Harlem Shakes songs, people wouldn’t be paying as much attention.”
That the sessions allowed for a return to L.A. was a bonus for the Canadian band, who discovered a love for the city during the three-month sessions for 2010’s “Champ,” recorded with producer Rob Schnapf (Beck, Elliott Smith) across several local studios.
“It’s funny, before we recorded Champ here, I was dead-set against recording in Los Angeles,” Wright said. “We’d only ever been in Los Angeles before that for one, two days at a time, which is the worst possible way to experience the city, because you sit in traffic and that’s what you do for two days.”
The original plan was to do 16 covers during a 16-day touring break: needless to say, 10 was a more managable number. But Tokyo Police Club has no plan to slow down, with a follow-up to “Champ” in the works for next year.
“We will hopefully start recording wherever with whoever early in the new year. I’d love it if a record were to come out spring-ish 2012,” he said, adding that another collaboration with Schnapf was possible. “It’s as likely as not. We loved working with Rob, I don’t have a single complaint, he was amazing. He was a huge, huge part of how that record turned out.”
Whoever they work with, expect to hear a band that’s made it through the crucible of covering “Party in the U.S.A.” and Jimmy Eat World’s “Sweetness” alike.
“Now we’ve played in these different genres,” Wright said. “We’ve played in these different sandboxes. It’s not so scary to go there after all.”