Hit duo Ting-Tings find voice in off-season resort
AFP PhotoIbiza is synonymous with pulsating electronic music but when the British duo The Ting-Tings went to the Spanish island, they took inspiration not from the sweaty dance-floor but from the off-season oddities.
The Ting-Tings had enjoyed runaway success with two New Wave-ish songs marked by sassy vocals and funky bass -- "That's Not My Name" and "Shut Up and Let Me Go" -- but after a lukewarm reception for their follow-up, they went to clear their heads in Ibiza's winter.
"It's quite a fascinating island because in-season it's known as one of the clubbing capitals. But in winter, it's full of odd, eccentric characters. It's a very random place," vocalist and guitarist Katie White told AFP.
Among those random Ibiza encounters -- White and her bandmate, Jules De Martino, bumped into Andy Taylor, the former guitarist of 1980s British pop giants Duran Duran.
The Ting-Tings didn't recognize the older musician at first but quickly found common interests. They wound up spending 15 months with Taylor as he produced the duo's third album, "Super Critical," which came out late last year and will be accompanied by a North American tour that kicks off in late March.
In Ibiza, The Ting-Tings frequented the clubs but realized that they had little desire to venture into electronic dance music. "It's just not in our souls, like New Wave and disco and punk are," White said.
Taylor helped acquaint The Ting-Tings with the sounds of late 1970s New York -- the raw reverb of punk clubs such as CBGB as well as the disco-era Studio 54 where Diana Ross would sing from the DJ's table.
"When we saw it, we said that's exactly what we're trying to do," White said. "The idea was of a band sitting in the DJ booth and playing the drops."
The album's first single is "Wrong Club," which like The Ting-Tings' best-known hits is driven by an infectious, danceable bass line. But the sound is deceptive as lyrically "Wrong Club" could serve as a fitting foil to the famous ode to the Mediterranean island, "We're Going to Ibiza."
Instead, "Wrong Club" is a 21st-century successor to The Smiths' "Panic," with a theme not of elation but isolation as the supposed joy of nightlife turns to misery.
"Hey - I'm in the wrong club / Listening to this shit / Hey - I'm in the wrong life / Someone get me out of it," White sings to the deceptively upbeat music.
"I think it's a story that everybody has gone through," White explained. "It's four o'clock in the morning, you're the last person at the party and it's shit, and you just hate your life."
The album offers hints of both the disco era and Ibiza clubbing -- in style, if not directly the sound -- on tracks such as "Do It Again,".
"Communication" and "Failure," while still keeping the band's emphasis on guitar licks and bass.
In one change, The Ting-Tings -- whose last album did not generate the hits of their 2008 debut, "We Started Nothing" -- parted ways with the Sony group and went independent.
White voiced appreciation for Sony's past support but said that the major labels weren't a good fit.
"We don't understand why we would want to write the same album again for more sales. We want to be creative, and that makes us quite an awkward band to work with in some respects," she said.
Part of the creative process is the nomadic recording. Besides Ibiza, The Ting-Tings made their previous album in Berlin and their debut in their native Manchester.
White, who traveled little as a child, said she often fantasized about moving to places she tours. She said she always enjoyed shows in France and Japan and was fascinated playing in China. (The Ting-Tings' name comes loosely from the Mandarin for "band-stands.")
But White mused that The Ting-Tings might record next in the United States, perhaps Nashville, although she stressed they weren't going into country music.
"When you move countries, it's like being a new band. You know that something is going to happen, and that's what we're addicted to."