The Ting Tings: 'We don't keep songs for a rainy day'

The Ting Tings threw away a whole album before their new release, they tell Andy Gill

It has been almost four years since The Ting Tings released their debut album We Started Nothing, and five since their infectious single "That's Not My Name" first exerted its considerable adhesive power on the world's pop consciousness. That's more than enough time for entire music fashions, let alone bands, to slip from Next Big Thing to Last Year's Thing, and the Manchester duo have been so absent from the whirling roundabout of pop trends that it would be extraordinary if they hadn't fallen at least a little out of favour.

Which all makes the potency of The Ting Tings' return with Sounds From Nowheresville all the more surprising. Like its predecessor, it's a short, sharp burst of spiky art-pop industry, its 10 tracks as lean, whip-smart and diversely engaging as the early albums by their heroes Talking Heads. Only the most jaded, trend-chasing victim of internet burn-out could fail to be persuaded by the manifold charms of an album that confirms, once again, the value of quality over quantity.

"I like the way it's taken nearly four years to produce around a half-hour album," says drummer Jules de Martino with a sly smile. "What's that, seven and a half minutes a year?"

Initially, the delay in producing a follow-up album was due to the band's burgeoning popularity, as they spent several years chasing a wave of success around the globe. Ironically, it prevented them from actually experiencing their triumph.

"We never felt successful, because we always had to start from scratch in each territory," explains Katie White, charmingly down-to-earth for the universally recognised siren of self-righteous individuality. "Just as 'That's Not My Name' took off in one country, we'd move off to the next, so we never got the experience of being a huge success. We never heard our song on the radio! We totally missed our own success." But with success came creeping self-doubt, and creative stasis.

"The commercial world changes everything," says de Martino. "A lot of famous painters never really got acclaim until they passed away: they were struggling for most of their careers, and that struggle was the inspiration that kept them painting. You can't replace that."

So when they returned to Manchester more than two years later, bank accounts bulging and ambitions sated, they needed a fresh challenge.

"We needed a reason to create art," explains de Martino. "That's why we moved to Berlin, for the challenge. We had to get our feet back on the ground, start over again, build ourselves back up. We were digging for inspiration, and we got to Berlin and thought, This is great!"

But it wasn't great. Famously, the band ended up scrapping almost an entire album's worth of material recorded in Berlin, and relocating to Spain, where they recorded another album entirely. This provoked rumours of confusion and inertia, but to the duo themselves it was simply the way they had always worked.

"We did that with the first album, too," explains White. "If there's a song that we're not happy with, we delete it. We don't keep it for a rainy day."

"We'll write five songs, record them as demos, get them together, and in the process of that we come to like maybe a couple of them, and the others we delete," says de Martino. "We delete them because otherwise we'd re-use the drum loop from one and bits from others, and end up with a Frankenstein monster. So we get rid of them. Then we write four more, scrap three of them, and eventually we get to ten, and that's the album." The Berlin experience, however, was a chastening lesson in following their instincts and not being distracted by outside voices.

"One reason we scrapped them was that we felt like we'd lost our opinion of our record," says White. "The record company has representatives in all these different countries, and they all wanted to visit us in Berlin. We'd be halfway through a song and they'd be going, 'that's amazing, it's gonna be huge!'. Then six weeks later we'd listen to it, wondering, do we really like this, or is it that they liked it? It distorted our view of our own songs. We just felt really fake, like we'd lost the mechanics of what made our band tick. Deleting those tracks made us feel like artists again."

"After a month of minus 27 degrees, we realised we were exhausted and had nothing to say," says de Martino. "It was almost like we should disband, to get reinvigorated again. So we went to Spain and totally isolated ourselves, so we could do something that was authentic to us, and that we had something to say on it."

In Spain, up in the mountains of Murcia, The Ting Tings got their groove back. A visit to Bilbao prompted the catchphrase hook to "Guggenheim", a track in which Shangri-Las-style teenage angst collides head-on with artistic reassertion. And a squeaky studio chair provided the secret, subliminal element that perfected the infectious groove of "Soul Killing", a song about the corrosion of commercialism.

"We don't have any vocal booth," explains de Martino, "so sometimes Katie just has a quilt over her head and sings standing next to the control desk. We'd hear this squeak on the track, and we realised that every time I sat and pressed record, it'd go 'eeuuk'." On "Soul Killing", there seemed to be something missing from the ska groove, apart from the bit when Katie was about to sing.

"We analysed the good bit and found it was this squeaking chair," says de Martino. "So we miked the chair up and I recorded it through the whole track, and it worked perfectly."

The resulting track is one of eight for which the duo intend to create low-budget videos.

"We don't want to make the big shiny professional kind of videos," says White. "We always look terrible in them, and it's not what we want to get across. We'd like to spread that money across eight songs, and make them all ourselves." It's with this kind of hands-on artisan-ship that the duo hope to bring a sense of individuality back to the creeping anonymity of the digital realm.

"It's important that we finish it ourselves," insists de Martino. "If we weren't writing our own songs and producing them ourselves, going through this pain barrier, there'd be nothing left." For the same reason, they have no intention to enlarge the band beyond its present size. When they tried using a couple of extra musicians for a few shows in Australia, they hated it. All the lovingly-crafted sounds and loops they'd usually trigger with their foot-pedals were being played by other musicians, and were no longer theirs. Just as in Berlin, they felt they were losing control of their own art.

"The energy went, the anger went," says de Martino. "With session players, the edge had gone. But with just the two of us, there's nowhere to hide."

Born in the epidemic spread of internet fever, The Ting Tings are keenly aware of the way it accelerates careers dangerously, but hope their painstaking methods and attention to detail will help them ride out its impact. "The internet magnifies the hype," says White. "Now you get artists who've barely started out before they're getting a backlash. So we're just happy in our little bubble, making songs, and it'll go in and out of favour, people will poke it and chuck it around, but we'll just keep doing what we do."

'Sounds From Nowheresville' is out now

Arts and Entertainment
Tate Modern chief Chris Dercon, who will be leaving to run a Berlin theatre company
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Tasos: 'I rarely refuse an offer to be photographed'
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Girls on the verge of a nervous breakdown: Florence Pugh and Maisie Williams star in 'The Falling'
Film
Arts and Entertainment
Legendary charm: Clive Owen and Keira Knightley in 2004’s ‘King Arthur’
FilmGuy Ritchie is the latest filmmaker to tackle the legend
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Festival-goers soak up the atmosphere at Glastonbury

music

Arts and Entertainment
Star Wars creator George Lucas

film

Arts and Entertainment

music

Arts and Entertainment
A shot from the forthcoming Fast and Furious 7

film

Arts and Entertainment
The new-look Top of the Pops could see Fearne Cotton returns as a host alongside Dermot O'Leary

TV

Arts and Entertainment
The leader of the Church of Scientology David Miscavige

TV

Arts and Entertainment
No half measures: ‘The Secret Life of the Pub’

Grace Dent on TV The Secret Life of the Pub is sexist, ageist and a breath of fresh air

Arts and Entertainment
Art on their sleeves: before downloads and streaming, enthusiasts used to flick through racks of albums in their local record shops
musicFor Lois Pryce, working in a record shop was a dream job - until the bean counters ruined it
Arts and Entertainment
Serial suspect: the property heir charged with first-degree murder, Robert Durst
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Igarashi in her

Art Megumi Igarashi criticises Japan's 'backwards' attitude to women's sexual expression

Arts and Entertainment
Could Ed Sheeran conquer the Seven Kingdoms? He could easily pass for a Greyjoy like Alfie Allen's character (right)

tv Singer could become the most unlikely star of Westeros

Arts and Entertainment
Beyonce, Boris Johnson, Putin, Nigel Farage, Russell Brand and Andy Murray all get the Spitting Image treatment from Newzoids
tvReview: The sketches need to be very short and very sharp as puppets are not intrinsically funny
Arts and Entertainment
Despite the controversy it caused, Mile Cyrus' 'Wrecking Ball' video won multiple awards
musicPoll reveals over 70% of the British public believe sexually explicit music videos should get ratings
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister and Ian Beattie as Meryn Trant in the fifth season of Game of Thrones

TV
Arts and Entertainment

book review
Arts and Entertainment
It's all in the genes: John Simm working in tandem with David Threlfall in 'Code of a Killer'

TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Proving his metal: Ross Poldark (played by Aidan Turner in the BBC series) epitomises the risk-taking spirit of 18th-century mine owners

Poldark review
Arts and Entertainment
Far Right and Proud: Reggies Yates' Extreme Russia

TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Kanye West was mobbed in Armenia after jumping into a lake

music
Arts and Entertainment
The show suffers from its own appeal, being so good as to create an appetite in its viewers that is difficult to sate in a ten episode series

Game of Thrones reviewFirst look at season five contains some spoilers
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Arsenal vs Chelsea: Praise to Arsene Wenger for having the courage of his convictions

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    Praise to Wenger for having the courage of his convictions
    Major medical journal Lancet under attack for 'extremist hate propaganda' over its coverage of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict

    Lancet accused of 'anti-Israel hate propaganda' over coverage of Gaza conflict

    Threat to free speech as publishers of renowned medical journal are accused of inciting hatred and violence
    General Election 2015: Tories and Lib Dems throw their star names west to grab votes

    All noisy on the Lib Dems' western front

    The party has deployed its big guns in Cornwall to save its seats there. Simon Usborne heads to the heart of the battle
    How Etsy became a crafty little earner: The online market has been floated for £1.2bn, but can craft and capitalism coexist?

    How Etsy became a crafty little earner

    The online market has been floated for £1.2bn, but can craft and capitalism coexist?
    Guy Ritchie is the latest filmmaker to tackle King Arthur - one of our most versatile heroes

    King Arthur is inspiring Guy Ritchie

    Raluca Radulescu explains why his many permutations - from folk hero to chick-lit hunk - never cease to fascinate
    Apple Watch: Will it live up to expectations for the man or woman on the street?

    Apple Watch: Will it live up to expectations?

    The Apple Watch has apparently sold millions even before its launch tomorrow
    Don't fear the artichoke: it's a good cook's staple, with more choice than you'd think

    Don't fear the artichoke

    Artichokes are scary - they've got spikes and hairy bits, and British cooks tend to give them a wide berth. But they're an essential and delicious part of Italian cuisine
    11 best men's socks

    11 best men's socks

    Make a statement with your accessories, starting from the bottom up
    Paul Scholes column: Eden Hazard would be my Player of the Year – but I wonder if he has that appetite for goals of Messi or Ronaldo

    Paul Scholes column

    Hazard would be my Player of the Year – but I wonder if he has that appetite for goals of Messi or Ronaldo
    Frank Warren: Tyson Fury will be closely watching Wladimir Klitschko... when he wins it'll be time to do a deal

    Frank Warren's Ringside

    Tyson Fury will be closely watching Wladimir Klitschko... when he wins it'll be time to do a deal
    London Marathon 2015: Kenya's brothers in arms Wilson Kipsang and Dennis Kimetto ready to take on world

    Kenya's brothers in arms take on world

    Last year Wilson Kipsang had his marathon record taken off him by training partner and friend Dennis Kimetto. They talk about facing off in the London Marathon
    Natalie Bennett interview: I've lost track of the last time I saw my Dad but it's not because I refuse to fly

    Natalie Bennett interview: I've lost track of the last time I saw my Dad

    Green leader prefers to stay clear of her 'painful' family memories but is more open about 'utterly unreasonable' personal attacks
    Syria conflict: Khorasan return with a fresh influx of fighters awaiting the order to start 'shooting the birds'

    Khorasan is back in Syria

    America said these al-Qaeda militants were bombed out of the country last year - but Kim Sengupta hears a different story
    General Election 2015: Is William Cash the man to woo Warwickshire North for Ukip?

    On the campaign trail with Ukip

    Is William Cash the man to woo Warwickshire North?
    Four rival Robin Hood movies get Hollywood go-head - and Friar Tuck will become a superhero

    Expect a rush on men's tights

    Studios line up four Robin Hoods productions