Birds Of Tokyo Take Flight
According to Birds of Tokyo, there's magic in mistakes. That's something the Perth quartet discovered while working on their second album, 'Universes', with producer Tim Palmer.
Noted for his work with U2 and Pearl Jam, Palmer suggested the band celebrate their bum notes rather than strive for any semblance of musical perfection.
"Tim would hear things that weren't quite right on our record and we'd ask what we could do to fix it," begins guitarist Adam Spark, "but he'd say 'no, it's totally wrong but it sounds awesome!'
"He said if things are out of tune but sound really cool then that's a good thing. He likened it to working with David Bowie where he would hear major imperfections in the sound but Bowie would turn around and say 'but you'll love it by the end it'll be your favourite part of the record!'"
Mixed by Palmer at his Hollywood studio, the independently-released 'Universes' has steadily gained traction since its release last winter, reaching Gold status and launching the band onto this year's Big Day Out circuit. All this, without the twin burdens of industry pressure and public expectation.
"There were keys along the way which sort of kept indicating to us that things were going well," says Spark of the band's incremental rise. "We're very slow and methodical with our progression - our band motto is 'never rush'."
Maturing organically through Perth's music ranks since 2004, Birds of Tokyo remain an indie act modelled on the business structure of a major label artist: "We have a manger, booking agent, label manager, publicist, radio pluggers; all these people who we pay to work with us." All of this is funded by income generated from touring, merchandise and album sales.
"The thing for us is just to look forward to the next six to 12 months and to know that this is our job," says Spark. "That's a pretty big trigger for us when you look back on your live shows and your record sales and stuff like that."
Recorded in an old sea-side house near Margaret River, south of Perth, 'Universes' demonstrates the confidence of a band willing to dispense with click tracks and trust their own, live, earthy sound.
"Obviously the more time you spend together and the more shows you play you become close individually and as a unit," says Spark. "And we just felt comfortable working like that. It may not be perfect but it feels right to us to work that way.
"Musically and lyrically, the album has a lot more depth. (Ian) Kenny, with his vocals, is touching on things he hasn't touched on before and I think the music is probably a little bit less accessible in an immediate sense. But it has more of a shelf life in that there's some intelligent stuff going on there. Most people probably wouldn't spot it but there's some interesting stuff going on there which is an indicator of our strength in the writing, I suppose."
Following their national tour this month, the band will be looking abroad, specifically, the lucrative US market where they'll perform showcase gigs at Austin's South by Southwest festival and LA's Viper Room in March. Of course any inroads Stateside will be made in their own time, at their own pace.
"There's enough interest in us in the US, but we're in this for the long haul and we want to make sure we get a career out it," says Sparks. "We want to make sure we're not jumping into anything."