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As the cliché goes, music is the soundtrack of our lives. But how does that play out for musicians, who put everything they have into actually creating the music we all know and love? In this series, CBC Music speaks with influential musicians and asks them to pick just five songs they worked on that changed their lives completely. A soundtrack to their professional life, as written by them.
In the past decade, Tokyo Police Club has put out four full-length albums and three EPs. With each release, the band has come closer and closer to a sound all its own, marked by an unabashed love of crafting great pop melodies bolstered by infectious guitar riffs. From their start as a group of young Newmarket teens making frenetic two-minute jams to fully constructing opus statements like 2014's three-parter "Argentina (Part I, II, III)," the band members have definitely grown and evolved a lot as songwriters.
Below, we asked the members of Tokyo Police Club to list five songs they've written that have changed their lives as artists.
'Nature of the Experiment,' A Lesson in Crime (2006)
Dave Monks: This was one of the first three songs that we wrote and demoed and we were like, "OK, this is our thing now. All those other songs, we’re cutting those. We’re about this song now." That demo got us signed to Paper Bag Records. The first time we heard it on the radio was 102.1 The Edge.
Greg Alsop: I remember we all got out of work at like, 20 minutes after nine or whenever our respective jobs would close.
Josh Hooks: It was a big deal, we were like, "Hey mom and dad, tune into this!" And then we heard the song played and they talked about it for 20 seconds afterwards. Part of it was like, "What is this album cover? A giant spliff?" So that was the first promotion. Thanks, The Edge.
'Graves,' Elephant Shell (2008)
Monks: We started recording Elephant Shell not really knowing how to record a full-length. We had only done an EP before in three days and now we had three weeks, which we thought was tons of time. We just did not have our stuff together. We started making this one album with a great producer in Connecticut and the music just wasn’t coming out the way we wanted it to and it sounded really strange. We were recording “Graves" during that session and it was a really downtempo thing we covered in organs with a muted drum and these droning vocals and we were stumped on it. We were scheduled to have this month-long tour in the middle of our recording process and we were supposed to go back to the studio for another three weeks after the tour.
Graham Wright: At one point, on the tour, all four of us were outside of the hotel talking. I remember this moment.
Monks: Yeah and we were like, what if we just didn’t go back? So we scrapped everything and started again. We came back to Toronto, we recorded for three weeks and that became Elephant Shell. The song "Graves" went through a total transformation. It was like the poster child for the sucky record and the poster child for the good record. So that song really felt like it was us taking things into our own hands and taking control of our music.
'Wait Up (Boots of Danger),' Champ (2010)
Wright: Almost conversely to "Graves," I remember the label basically tricked us into putting this song on the record. We recorded "Breakneck Speed" and "Boots of Danger" in a separate session, sort of as a proof of concept with the producer because we learned our lesson of committing to a producer without trying first. This song is so poppy and it’s so nakedly populist, like it’s so appealing in a way that I think we were all kind of squeamish about back then. It was a big fight with the label being like, "It’s the best song, put it on the record!" and we were like, "That’s why we can’t!"
Alsop: We just recorded the song to test out this producer because we thought it was a throwaway.
Wright: We learned a big lesson with this song. I think we really took it to heart and it was the beginning of the phase that we’re in now. I think we’re a lot more aware of what we’re good at which is writing pop music and we’re really happy to do it. When everyone likes a song it’s a good thing, not a scary thing.
'Argentina (Parts I, II, III),' Forcefield (2014)
Wright: That song became the north star as we went through the insanely long and circuitous process of making and writing Forcefield. That song is great.
Alsop: That always got our attention. We thought maybe this is what the new record was going to sound like and people got it for a change.
Hooks: We never doubted it because it worked so well. Looking at it, it’s an eight-and-a-half-minute song and we thought, is that OK? And we were like, yeah it works. We’re going to do that.
Wright: It felt like we were honing in everything we were about and pointing it into a single song. It was an affirmative moment.
'Not My Girl,' Melon Collie and the Infinite Radness: Part One (2016)
Monks: This song is super important because it’s just a song where we feel like we’re being us. It’s finally a song where we’re comfortable being ourselves and being like, oh yeah that thing we do, I like that thing. Let’s do that thing.
Tokyo Police Club will be performing at this year's CBC Music Festival in Toronto alongside the New Pornographers, Hey Rosetta!, Tanya Tagaq, Whitehorse, Alvvays, Ria Mae, Maestro, Zaki Ibrahim, the Franklin Electric, Charlotte Cardin, Julian Taylor, Rich Terfry (DJ) and this year's CBC Searchlight winner. Tickets are available now at Ticketmaster.