For a band that burst on the scene with an ecstatically received 16 minutes of music (2006's A Lesson In Crime EP) followed in rapid fire succession by additional EPs and singles (Smith, "Your English Is Good") and a debut album (2008's Elephant Shell) all in under two years time, you'd think 26 months between albums would be an interminable wait. And it might well have been for Tokyo Police Club, had they not toured relentlessly in support of that first album through August of 2009-and started writing new songs virtually the second their previous record was put to bed.

So the nine month gap between the close of that tour and the June 8 release of Champ, Tokyo Police Club's second full length album and first for the mom+pop label, has been anything but boring or unproductive. Quite the opposite in fact: The Newmarket Ontario quartet ended up happily immersing itself more fully in its craft than ever: Greg Alsop (drums), Josh Hook (guitar), David Monks (vocals, bass) and Graham Wright (keys/percussion) challenged and redefined their songwriting and performing chops and techniques from day one of pre-production, and, together with producer Rob Schnapf (Beck, Elliott Smith), ultimately created the defining record of their career to date.

By the band's account, not a second was wasted in getting to the genesis of the material that would become Champ. "Naturally we started writing really early," Monks recalls, particularly in the case of "Breakneck Speed," the first peek at Champ that the band would eventually stream at http://tokyopoliceclub.com/. "'Breakneck Speed' was written right after we finished mixing Elephant Shell. After that, writing came really gradually. Then by summer 2009 we realized we had eight or nine songs and we headed to New York to demo them and start pre-production. When we came home after that, the momentum was there and we kept writing and didn't stop until we finished that November."

All of which explains why numerous Champ highlights will be familiar to those who've caught Tokyo Police Club from dates on their last headlining tour through this year's appearance on Coachella's main stage, from the epic slow burn of album opener "Favorite Food" to the irresistible shuffle of "End of A Spark" to first single "Wait Up (Boots of Danger)"--whose hypnotic refrains made it onto Champ just under the wire. "Yeah that one almost didn't make it onto the record," says Monks. "I remember writing the chorus on the way back from demoing in New York and finishing it when we had about three weeks left. It was close."

While fans are sure to be pleased by Champ's familiar live staples and other tracks in the signature Tokyo Police Club vein that the Los Angeles Times likened to "being in love for the first time, in musical form-that kind of rush," the album's more experimental and adventurous tracks shine just as brightly. The fruits of Champ's hard labor combined with intriguing hints at that band's future musical excursions make tracks like "Gone" and "Not Sick" essential listening. The former was the result of a summer-long weekly songwriting challenge between Dave and Graham that was never intended to yield music for the LP, he explains: "First thing every morning we had to write a little song and record it to send to the other. The only rule was that it had to be entirely on the spot. So one Wednesday I came up with 'Gone' and it it grabbed Graham enough to bring it to the band. What we came up with almost didn't make sense-the different parts, the strange time signature-until Greg came in with his contribution: a beat that made everything fall together really naturally and easily. And suddenly it was a song. And 'Not Sick,' for whatever reason, was the hardest song we ever had to do."

That said, it's always the most natural talents always make excellence look effortless. And Champ is no exception, thanks in large part to the instantly simpatico relationship the band struck up with Rob Schnapf. "So many producers feel a need to leave their imprint on a band or record," says Monks. "With this record, we'd gotten to a place where we were happy with our own voice as a band, so why would we do dilute it or compromise it? We needed to find someone to help us best express that voice and Rob's help was invaluable in getting that across."

Tokyo Police Club took its first baby steps toward finding that voice with its formation in 2005. The band was off and running the following year, releasing the debut EP A Lesson In Crime to instant and universal acclaim. One more EP (Smith), a digital-only single ("Your English Is Good") and a few world tours later, Tokyo Police Club's first full length album, Elephant Shell was released in April 2008. Elephant Shell's release was preceded by multiple sold out shows in New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Toronto, and followed by appearances on The Late Show With David Letterman, The Late Late Show With Craig Ferguson and, bizarrely enough, Desperate Housewives. Critical response to the full length was even more enthusiastic and diverse, with the likes of GQ ("Strokes-caliber catchiness"), Elle ("a smart, furiously played sugar-rush debut"), Rolling Stone ("poised to become the biggest Canadian export since Molson") and more giving thumbs up. The guys circled the globe in support of Elephant Shell for approximately a year and a half, finally coming off the road in August of 2009.
All of which brings us to Tokyo Police Club unveiling Champ to ears and eyes the world over, as the band embarks on a tour as special guests of Passion Pit that will take them through the end of June. Barely hours after that tour concludes, the boys will kick off a headlining tour that will find them headlining through the summer, combining Champ material with the numerous fan favorites in their live set. "There's really not one thing to sum it up," says Monks of the record. "Musically we didn't follow any kind of framework or preferred kind of song. Any direction we went is a direction that just felt fun.

"Or you could say," he concludes, "It just sounds like us."

In the summer of 2005, after a series of deaths in the family, Michael Deni left his hometown in New Jersey for San Francisco. He spent the next several months with his guitar and a synthesizer, turning that tragedy into the songs that would soon become the foundation for Geographer. With the additions of cellist Nathan Blaz and drummer Brian Ostreicher, Geographer spent the next year cutting their teeth in the Bay Area, winning over crowds with the heart-pounding epics that make up their debut record, ‘Innocent Ghosts’. After being selected one of three ‘Undiscovered Bands You Need To Hear Now’ by SPIN Magazine and garnering considerable word-of-mouth praise from their energetic live shows, the band signed to San Francisco-based label Tricycle Records, releasing a 7” single for the song ‘Kites’ in October 2009. ‘Animal Shapes’ follows up ‘Kites’, building on the synth-driven aesthetic of the single, while irting with darker, more esoteric underpinnings. The record merges Geographer’s aptitude for crafting beautiful, haunting melodies with textural sounds and polyrhythmic energy, marking an evolution of their distinct style. With the overwhelming response to the release of ‘Kites’ and ‘Animal Shapes’, punctuated by a dynamic and engaging live set, the band has already begun to make an indelible mark on the ears of music fans worldwide.

Vancouver's Said The Whale has been on a steady upward trajectory for the past six years, as relentless touring and a prolific string of releases have led to successes including a JUNO Award in 2011 for New Group of the Year and nationally charting singles. In 2013, the tireless five-piece — which includes dual songwriters Tyler Bancroft and Ben Worcester, drummer Spencer Schoening, keyboardist Jaycelyn Brown and bassist Nathan Shaw — will continue to break down doors by releasing its most adventurous and hook-filled batch of songs yet.

The band formed in early 2007 and, following some early EPs, released the debut-full length Howe Sounds/Taking Abalonia in 2008. Said The Whale began to amass a grassroots following through frequent tours, and they scored a string of Canadian radio successes with the albums Islands Disappear (2009) and Little Mountain (2012). These albums earned attention from media outlets like Spin, BBC 6 Music, and Consequence of Sound, and the band was profiled in the nationally televised CBC documentary Winning America. Said The Whale has been nominated for two more JUNO Awards in 2013 for Alternative Album of the Year and Recording Package of the Year (alongside art director Andy Dixon) for Little Mountain.

In keeping with this inexhaustible work ethic, the band is releasing another new collection of songs in the form of the four-song I Love You EP, due out June 18, 2013, on Hidden Pony Records. Once again teaming with longtime studio collaborator Tom Dobrzanski (We Are the City, the Zolas) at his Monarch Studios, the musicians pushed their musical limits and honed their love of fast, punchy pop-rock.

"In the past I've felt pressure to write 'radio' songs, or 'cool' songs or whatever, but this time I went into the writing process with mindset of 'Fuck everything, I'm just going to write what makes me happy,'" says Tyler Bancroft, explaining that the songs were written with a clean slate and no expectations. Ironically, what resulted were some of Said the Whale's catchiest, most accessible songs yet. The singer observes, "It turns out I just like pop music."

This affection for melody shines on I Love You's title track which is led by a surge of post-punk guitars and careens between spiky choruses and a sunny, sock hop-inspired bridge. Elsewhere, the Worcester-sung "Barbara-Ann" is a buoyant blend of heartfelt romance and '60s-style vocal harmonies, while "Mother" is a synth-heavy new wave banger. These upbeat songs were mixed by Canadian studio guru Gus Van Go (Hollerado, the Stills).

"I spend so much time chipping away at my thoughts, trying to get to the core, and right now I'm finding it easy," Worcester says. "I've never felt more creative." He adds that the lovestruck mood of "Barabara-Ann" was inspired by a couple who own a hammock store in Vancouver. "It's a proposition to someone special, suggesting that we too can live together like this this beautiful pair of chilled out lifers," he reveals.

The EP offers a taste of Said The Whale's fourth album, due out this fall. These latest sessions found Bancroft taking on the role of co-producer, and he guided each song in bold new directions without adherence to genre. "Rather than record in one big session, we used the 'hip-hop method' of doing two or three songs at a time," he reflects. "This let us focus all of our energy on each song without getting overwhelmed."

The new material was penned in a surge of creativity that found Bancroft and Worcester letting their guard down and following their instincts. "My songs on this album are the most vulnerable songs I've ever written," notes Bancroft. "Lyrically it's the most honest I've ever been."

I Love You EP is the sound of a band already on the top of its game breaking free from all expectations and boldly reinventing its identity. And with a new full-length close behind, expect to see more new sides to Said The Whale soon.

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Tokyo Police Club with Geographer, Said The Whale

Friday, April 18 · Doors 8:00 PM / Show 9:00 PM at Varsity Theater