The Ting Tings Interview: Katie White Talks ‘Super Critical,’ Diana Ross + Spotify [EXCLUSIVE]
Unless you were living under a rock during the spring and summer of 2008, you're probably familiar with British musical duo the Ting Tings' massive hit 'Shut Up and Let Me Go.' It was featured in an iPod commercial that eventually catapulted the band to stardom in the U.S. Since then the band has gone on to release two more albums, all while maintaining their catchy, energetic, pop-rock sound.
Now the Ting Tings are back with their third studio album, 'Super Critical.' The record boasts a cool, 70s vibe and is different from what they've put out in the past.
We had the chance to talk to the Ting Tings' singer Katie White about 'Super Critical,' their new sound, being inspired by a photo of Diana Ross and that whole Spotify debacle.
Read on to find out what she said!
There seems to be this very strong, '80s revival happening in pop music right now, but you guys put out an album that's decidedly very '70s, not in an overbearing way.
Yeah, it's a weird mix. We didn't want to make a pastiche album. I think working with [producer] Andy Taylor definitely gave us ... Well, it doesn't sound exactly the same. Like, we've taken a '70s disco record and copied it. We've written our songs that are very typical us. We’ve got this sound around it of this old analog tape to give it the warmth of those old records. But yeah, I don’t know what year in the '70s it is. It’s a weird mix.
It's a very cohesive record. Some albums are kind of a mish-mosh of different songs that don't seem to have any real connection, but 'Super Critical' flows together quite nicely.
I think we did that on our second album ['Sounds from Nowheresville']. We got that out of our system, because the whole concept of our second album was for every single song to sound completely, randomly different. For this album, for me, I wanted an album I would put on before I went out. And I would hope to be going out to an amazing club like CBGB or Studio 54, and [you put it on] as you're getting ready to go out.
Watch the Ting Tings' 'Do It Again' Video
You tend to write your albums in a new city every time — how do you decide on where you’re going to go to write?
It's quite random really! I think we’re almost addicted to being a new band, which you can’t be. I remember our manager said on our first album, you know, really take note of this moment because you can never really be a new band again. There’s a naiveté and excitement, and you’re not jaded yet. I think we’re always trying to search for 10 percent of that feeling so we can be inspired to write songs. And the way we do that is to move our whole lives to a new country. Which, you know, you are starting again. You leave all your friends and family behind and you start again and that's the exciting thing for us.
Why Ibiza this time around?
Ibiza was just random. We went there before we went on tour for China a couple of years ago. It’s such an interesting place because the Ibiza that I know -- that's always in the British press -- is just awful. It’s just the trashiest. And when we got there out of season it was just full of old characters and hippies. There was this amazing couple that lived there since the '60s when there was no electricity there. They were real artists, hippies — they lived that real bohemian lifestyle and then there were people there that just did not know when to go home once the party was finished. So there were all these amazing, interesting people and we didn’t realize it. So when we got there it was kind of like, "Wow, this place is amazing."
So it just happened organically.
Yeah! And, you know, it’s typical of Ibiza to just randomly bump into some dude from Duran Duran that’s been hiding out for ten years. [The Ting Tings worked with producer Andy Taylor, formerly of Duran Duran.]
I read that there was a photo of Diana Ross that helped inspire the sound of the album.
Yeah, Ibiza is known for clubs, so it was pure EDM music. You go to the clubs and it was either some kind of techno trance or it was EDM. And we would go, and they were amazing super clubs with tens of thousands of people and everyone takes ecstasy or whatever they take, and they’re just having a great time. But for us, being songwriters, we’d come home and be like "Come on, give us one song to sing to! Just like a beat that you need to be on horse tranquilizers to really get into the zone." So we'd look at footage from CBGB or Studio 54 and we’d be like, "Oh, can you imagine what it would’ve been like to be in those clubs to watch a band like Blondie and it’s glamorous and you really dress up?"
I found this picture of Diana Ross and she was in the DJ booth at Studio 54. On our second album, there was this song called ‘Hands’ that wasn’t particularly successful, no one really knew it. When we performed it live, we would start by DJing it, and what we did was we built the crowd up on decks and then we would jump on our instruments and when we did the drop we would play our live instruments over it. And swear to God, the crowd went absolutely mental because they were used to a DJ dropping the song when suddenly there's a live drum and guitar that lifts it even higher. So from the second album we thought "Well if you can imagine us getting into a DJ booth, push all that equipment in there, DJ and start to play our instruments over it, it must add to the feel of it."
So seeing that picture of Diana Ross in the DJ booth singing we were like "Oh my God, that’s it!" She did it in the '70s and she was in that DJ booth performing.
I think we’re almost addicted to being a new band, which you can’t be ... There’s a naiveté and excitement, and you’re not jaded yet.
What kind of music were you guys listening to while you were writing and recording the album?
Oh, obviously a lot of Diana Ross, Donna Summer, early Madonna, Fleetwood Mac -- I became obsessed with Stevie Nicks, kept trying to channel Stevie Nicks in studio, early Prince. Mainly funk and disco with a little bit of Fleetwood Mac. Disco Mac.
You guys became well known in the U.S. because your song was featured in an iPod commercial. How do you feel about that kind of promotional tool?
For us, we’re not snobby about things like that. Like 'Shut Up and Let Me Go' — at the time our record label wasn’t going to release it as a single, they didn't see it as anything but an album song. And Apple kind of picked that song, and ... it’s brilliant, it got people to know our music all around the world.
How do you guys feel about music streaming websites like Spotify?
For us, in the position we’re in now, because we’re putting this out on our own label, it’s not a bad thing. It’s a shame that people feel like music is free now because it is somebody’s work and a good two years of effort can go into it. But for us, if an album’s good generally people will fall in love with it and maybe 2 percent of them buy it and we’ll have a career. I don’t think theres anything we can do to stop it at the moment, you know? I know loads of people that really enjoy it and really are huge music fans and will go to concerts of bands that they hear on Spotify, so it's a triple-edged sword, really. I think it’s unavoidable with the Internet. I don’t know how you regulate it.
Yeah, Taylor Swift probably has millions of pounds spent on marketing her. She still gets her music out there. She's in a different position. If I were in her position, maybe I would pull it all off.
How does the songwriting process work between you and Jules?
Every song is different. It’s completely different, sometimes we’re arguing or we’re having a nervous breakdown because we haven't written a good song in months. It could be a year of depression and self-loathing and then two months of ecstasy when you finally hit on something.
So there's no sure formula when you're writing?
No, I would love to know that if someone could tell me, that'd be amazing!