Saturday, October 25, 2008
Three years spent plugging away on the local scene is beginning to pay off for rhythm-focused rockers Tic Toc Tokyo, as SIMON GIBBS and ADRIAN VECINO explain to ANDY HAZEL on the eve of the release of EP Ritual.
“Basically we just started recording demos as a tool to get gigs,“ explains Tic Toc Tokyo bassist Adrian Vecino. Vecino, along with percussionist/vocalist Nic Oogjes is also responsible for the artwork that adorns TTT’s five EPs, including their latest, Ritual.
“The artwork we wanted to be strong, like the music,” continues Vecino. “We’re conscious of a sense of space and intentional silence is a part of what we make, but a lot of our simplicity is through necessity - none of us are that good at our instruments,” he deadpans. Though many listeners would beg to differ, there is instrumental interplay rather than layering, a quality many bands have without being conscious of it. This, explains singer and percussionist Simon Gibbs in his southern English brogue, is born from writing songs as a band. “This is the first major band for everyone, and as we get better at our instruments the way we write and the sounds we use change. Marty [Umanski, guitarist] will bring in textures and atmospheres more than riffs, say, so a lot of the focus will fall on the percussion.”
The band’s use of percussion is one thing that immediately sets them apart both visually and sonically. While having two upright drummers who both sing may seem like a cool gimmick, it was a development that, like everything else that seems to come from the band, arrived naturally and, as Vecino explains “we worked as we thought we should. When we started we had no idea what it would come to be and it’s evolved very much into it’s own sound”.
“We all wanted to do music at the point we met each other and I still find it quite mindblowing that we’re doing what we’re doing; music is such a powerful thing.” While allowing the band a greater deal of freedom, the way they approach their instruments is an intriguing mix of hours spent rehearsing and hours spent working with pedal settings and thinking of sound as separate from the instruments themselves. Vocals are more clipped, bellowed syllables, songs are intricately twisted with the focus shifting from instrument to instrument, and the line between live and recorded versions of the songs intentionally thin, an attribute underscored by the fact that their live mixer is producing their forthcoming album.
“It’s really an ongoing process, us playing live influences the way we record and then, while recording, we’ll get ideas to add to the songs live,” explains Vecino before detailing the remix the previous EP’s producer Casey Rice did for the band. “It was more a sonic companion piece. Casey heard a dub influence in the song Colour of Place while he was recording it and kept all the sounds organic; all from the original recording. We liked it so we included it on Ritual.” The EP also features two live tracks as well as the titular single, whose filmclip the band shot over a day at La Mama Theatre.
The attention to detail that governs their songwriting extends to the EP artwork and sequencing of the songs. Each of their first three EPs was individually handmade and bound; again the learning-as-you-go method that has served many bands so well also served TTT here. “It’s another means of expression,” says Vecino, “It’s exciting to be involved in all of it, we have a vested interest in every step and we’re really conscious of quality.” As such the band are fairly insular and the quality of their output (both material and sonic) is testament to this. “The sequencing of the album is something we’re planning already,” says Gibbs, referring to the next project, always looking to keep the learning curve steep. “The Snowman album is one that has distinctive sounds and a real sense of flowing like an actual album. That’s something we’d like, to get away from the CD-as-single mentality.” A band this smart is unlikely to fail.