Graham Wright plays keyboard in Tokyo Police Club, a Canadian rock outfit known for their sense of structural brevity. That is, their first EP, “A Lesson in Crime,” includes eight songs and runs at 16 minutes.
For this quality, and an oft-cited similarity to early work by The Strokes, Wright and his bandmates have garnered much attention, both positive and negative.
Still, Wright offers no apologies to haters. Or for legitimately liking Blink-182.
Wright will perform a sold-out show with Tokyo Police Club, along with Born Ruffians and Harlem Shakes at the Black Cat tonight, February 26, supporting the band’s first full-length album, “Elephant Shell,” released on Saddle Creek Records.
Performing at POP Montreal Festival in 2005 seems a pivotal moment in your career. What opportunities did the performance bring?
Well it came along at a time when the band was pretty much over. Not in the sense we were breaking up, but everyone was going off to university or to work or to do their own thing. And the band didn’t really pretend at that point to be a big deal. So we thought, ‘Well, we’ll do this POP Montreal thing; it will be fun.’ We went up there and that was when we first came to the attention of Paper Bag Records, the label that put out our EPs in Canada. And just because they were at the show and they talked to us, we thought ‘Oh, hey, maybe we could actually do something with this.’ And had we not played POP Montreal, chances are we never would have come to the attention of any label, and we never would have bothered to try and nothing would have happened.
“A Lesson In Crime” was well received. How did its success affect your attitude going into [Tokyo Police Club’s first full-length album] “Elephant Shell”?
You try to not let it affect your attitude as much as possible, but of course it’s impossible to avoid that. When we were making “A Lesson in Crime” we were working completely in a vacuum – no one knew our band, and that’s a very freeing way to work. Then of course, after you have some success you realize people are going to be listening to this and there is the pressure to capitalize on the success you’ve had and further it. As much as you may try to ignore it, it’s always there in the back of your mind.
Did you feel pressure to produce a specific sound?
We’ve all figured we can only really write the kind of music we write. If we tried to write another song that sounded like “Nature of the Experiment” [from “A Lesson In Crime”], it would just turn out being a worse version of “Nature of the Experiment,” which nobody wants to hear anyway.
If you could change one thing about past work, what would it be?
I would switch around the last two songs on the EP (“A Lesson In Crime”), so “Be Good” is last. We always play it at the end of our set now and I think it’s a really good last song. It just cuts off and ends really dead. A lot of our songs end that way but this one particularly ends very suddenly.
That’s the thing about making records; they’re always sort of a picture of where you were at the time. Then you go tour the songs for two years, and you change them, and sometimes you end up wishing you could go back. But that’s not the point. The point is to document the state of your band at that point.
Do you have a creative process? Do you all write together?
We all collaborate, we all work together. Obviously the songs are born with Dave [Monks], the lead singer and songwriter, but then we all bring them into the room together and hash away at them until they’re fixed.
On your CBC Radio blog you mentioned your desire to obtain “BFF status” with the members of Weezer when playing with them. Did that work out?
I can’t say we became best friends forever, but we definitely became friendly, which to me is fantastic. I mean honestly, having the chance to play with people like that – people that were our idols when we were 13 and 14 and are still such a fantastic mammoth of a band. It’s always an honor and a lot of fun. We realize this is what we get to do with our lives: hang out, watch Weezer every night and get to meet those guys. It’s the coolest thing.
What bands have had the greatest overall influence on your music?
There’s so many, I mean, obviously The Strokes are of that age. Obviously they’ve been a big influence on us. At the same time, bands like Interpol, all the bands that were around at that time when we were first starting off.
You have a short set. Does that get troublesome when fans are demanding more and more encores?
I think that it’s a short set, but it’s a lot of songs. Especially at this point when we’re playing 20 or 21 songs a night – which is as much or more than what most bands are playing. I almost feel like people would get tired if we kept on playing two-minute songs for that much longer. It’s really exhausting to hear a song start and – oh it’s over. Here’s another song, oh it’s over. So quick, so quick, so quick. When you’re trying to pay attention and get into it, there’s only so much people can take.
What songs or bands would fans be surprised to find on your iPod?
I’m a big fan of a lot of alternative music from the nineties. Things like … Blink 182. And I’m a legitimate fan, not some kind of ironic listener. I actually enjoy their music. So there’s a lot of that kind of thing on there, which is not necessarily cool or unembarrassing, but I love it.