The Ting Tings Interview

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Over the last couple of weekends Microsoft has thrown secret concerts in San Francisco and New York City to promote the recently launched KIN devices. On Saturday I had the opportunity to sit down with one of the three bands playing secret shows throughout NYC (a boat load of pictures are available here). I’d never really listened to The Ting Tings until last week when I knew I would be interviewing them over the weekend and I wasn’t sure what to expect. I sat down with Katie White and Jules de Martino before the show and this is what happened.

P.S. – I’ve always said that any band that can put on a live show that makes me want to dance is worth a listen. I danced.
P.P.S. – I may or may not have a crush on Katie White. I’m a sucker for accents.

(More on Techland: Exclusive: Who Schooled Microsoft In The Making Of KIN)

How are you doing?

Katie White: Good! We’re working on our new album, so we’ve been stuck in the studio in Berlin for two months. We’ve been so busy and I haven’t brushed my hair in two months.

Your first album came out in ’08 and digital piracy has been around for a long time. Is that something you think about? How do you combat that? Do you stay on tour forever?

KW: We were lucky that loads of people obviously stole our music, but we sold a lot of albums as well for a new band. We made the record ourselves and it cost about 100 pound to make or something stupid like that. We’re not a high maintenance band, are we?

Jules De Martino: We don’t think we are. Our tour manager might.

There are bands that are established and they can afford to use that piracy to their benefit because they’re self-supportive. They have money. And they can fund themselves and their tours are always sold out. So they can use that platform to create, you know, alternative ways to promote themselves. When people say ‘I got this music for free’ it’s exciting. Everybody wants something for free. It’s fantastic. But on the other side of it is that a lot of our friends are new bands and they’re promoting themselves by giving away their music for free, which is cool. But they can’t survive. They don’t have a deal in place or their tours aren’t selling out. That’s normal when you’re a new band. It’s a catch 22, really, but I also think art should have a price even if it’s one cent. There should be some little thing where if you take art you should give something for it. The artist has to survive. It’s a tough call.

When we first started we put out our own records out. We sold them at parties to pay for our rent and to rent space. When we signed our deal, we engaged with our audience online and gave music away for free. Our label went crazy. Great DJ was one of the tracks that we put up for a week and it had one million downloads. The label went nuts but we did it regardless. We felt it was the right thing to do. I think what’s really important is that the artist has to be in control of it.

KW: It’s the artists right to choose.

JDM: If an artist wants to give away music and stuff that’s great. The problem is when it’s being taken for free and the artist is starving. Or they can’t get off the ground because they can’t afford a new bass. We know artists like that who need to buy a new bass guitar or rent a bus for a week to get their music out. They can’t afford it because they’re not selling any records.

KW: If people are taking music for free they should really go to a live show and help the bands that way. Live shows are amazing. They’re such a good experience. Hopefully live music picks up even more. That’d be nice. That’s what I do if I take a band’s album that I haven’t bought and I loved it, I make sure I go see them. One, becauseI want to see them. Two, because you know you’re keeping them going so they can make more records for me to enjoy.

(More on Techland: 12 Hours With the KIN One)

Any plans to release a track(s) from the new album for people to download?

KW: I think it’s nice to give things to your fans. Like little presents. They’ve been really good with us. I hate saying that, ‘my fans’. But we’ve had so much support since the beginning. They were always sold out even if it was 200 people in Chicago. They made the effort to come and see a little band from England. I think it’s nice to do things, but like I said, it’s nicer if the bands can choose when.

JDM: We’ve got tracks on this new record that are singles and things have been set up. But we’ve also got tracks that we get really excited about and we want to share that excitement rather than it going through the development process of it being released as a single or it won’t come out until such and such date. Or waiting for the video to be released and timed with the record label. I’m sure we’ll get to a point with one of our tracks where we’re listening to it and think it’s great and we’re just going to stick it online. But it’s got to be an honest moment. And it goes out and gets an honest reaction where we feel apart of that whole vibe.

Where’s your favorite venue in America?

KW: During our first ever tour here we just got an agent and felt like being awkward, so we told him to book us in venues in weird little art gallery spaces where they had to get in PAs. They were sent up for shows and those were memorable. We did one in Brooklyn where our manager was outside pushing this generator while we were playing. It was just good. We don’t get to do that anymore. Now we play in bigger venues and you can’t really do that. The whole crowd knew someone was outside cranking the generator so we could play the show.

We got the audience to design the artwork for our 7-inch sleeves. We put 500 on the wall and they were all drawing and painting.

Any bands on tour right now that you’re really digging? Anyone you want to collaborate with?

JDM: That’s a tough call. When we write we put ourselves in a bubble. Being in Berlin we don’t have a TV and we’ve got Internet but it’s on dongles. It’s shady. It doesn’t work one day. Sometimes it’s a really good thing to be away from stuff. You obviously got all your classic stuff you love. Your record collection or whatever you’ve downloaded. When we’re in the studio, which has got no service in the basement of this old jazz club we rented. When we’re in there and you close the door it’s a cave. It’s just us two and an engineer that we met in New York and we brought him back to help us make a record since we’ve got mics and cables and amps. We’ve got the whole thing now. So we find that get into the studio and come out at 4 o’clock in the morning. When we go in it’s daytime and when we come out its nighttime. The three of us will chat for a bit and then we fall asleep. And then the next day we’re like ‘we’ve gotta get that part right. Let’s go back down and do it.’ And then another day has gone. We could go for three weeks and then get a call from someone in LA who asks us what’s going on. We just say it’s goin alright. We don’t know. We’re havin a good time out here. And then they’ll ask us what we’re listening to. And we’re like “nothing.” It was minus 25 degrees out there in January and we don’t speak German, so we were really isolated out there. We worried at first and wondering why we were there. I mean, I can’t really think of anything that we’re attaching ourselves to apart from some classics.

KW: We don’t really listen to music when we write because if it’s in the charts and popular you don’t really want to try and copy them. We listen to a lot of the Knife. I still love that Knife record. Nancy Sinatra, Depeche Mode, Petshop Boys and all that kind of stuff. There’s a band that hasn’t really inspired us, but I’ve enjoyed their music and managed to steal it from a friend that came over and it was The xx. It just sets a nice mood but doesn’t affect our music. It’s more of the old stuff that does.

So when’s the new album coming out? Summer? Fall?

KW: We say autumn, you say fall.

More on Techland:

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