After feeling normal enough to start again, the band spent a dreary eight months holed up in a studio in Berlin. Dissatisfied with the resulting music, they decamped to sunnier Spain with a copy of 'Paul's Boutique' by the Beastie Boys and started over. The result is 'Songs From Nowheresville,' 10 new songs spanning a wide variety of sounds and styles, out Feb. 28 on Columbia.
"It really helped us get rid of the pressure of your second album where you've almost boxed yourself in with the sound that you made on your first album, even though you made that sound quite naively," White tells Spinner.
Let's talk about the variety on this album.
We did it like a concept, really. Firstly, we wanted to find a reason to write our second album, because everything has completely changed in our lives from our first album, so we felt like we wanted to write something honest and authentic and not pressured. So, eventually, after a bit of a long road, we came up with the idea that we wanted to make an album that reflected the way we actually listen to music, which is almost like 10 songs that are completely different together on a playlist, which is what we do constantly now. We'll have something like AC/DC and the next song will be TLC and the next song will be something else which is completely random.
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You first recorded in Berlin. Did you encounter any remnants of Bowie-era decadence?
It's there for the taking if you go for it. What's weird about our band, though, is that we have to really isolate ourselves. It's just me and Jules. We play every instrument on the album, and we write it all, and we found this old jazz club and locked ourselves in there. So the best parts of the city, we missed a lot of. We'd come staggering out of the studio at 3 in the morning and it would be, like, kebab shops and dingy little bars, which is cool, but I think Berlin is more for partying, then going somewhere else to write your album.
So you went to Spain?
It just felt right for us. The weather was so bad in Berlin. It was freezing and depressing and we were very confused after -- you know, our lives had changed. In a good way, but it took us six months to come back down to earth, to actually start being able to function, to make yourself dinner, watching TV and not feeling like you're depressed or missing out. We had the adrenaline in our bodies for three years, constantly touring, and then it's gone, and it took us a while to come back down to earth, but we knew we needed to come back down to earth in order to be able to write.
Did any of the Berlin songs survive?
There are four songs from Berlin, and I think you can really hear them. One's 'Silence,' one is 'Help,' one is 'In Your Life' and 'One By One.' So a couple of them are more electronic-based, and all kind of quite depressed. And then on 'Hang It Up' and 'Hit Me Down Sonny,' I can hear that we'd gotten some fresh air and sunshine. They're a bit happier. I can hear the difference.
It's interesting how much your surroundings affected what you produced.
Yeah, totally. I didn't actually realize how much the city would affect our album. It'll be really interesting where we go for our third album now that we know that it has such an impact in the way that you write. I think it's also just the mental space you're in, as well. Even if we have just one person, a friend, come down to the studio while we're writing, if they dance along to a certain part of the song, it probably changes the way that we write songs. Like, "Oh, they like that bit, let's do it again and again," or, "They answered their cell phone on that bit, let's delete it." Typical insecure writers. We're better off completely isolated and ta-dah! Showing people at the end.
There's been talk of a fight with the label over the album. What happened?
I think that's kind of been overblown, because we have some amazing people that we work with. There was a slight moment when people forgot the way we went about our first album. We write pop songs, but we've always been more of an indie band in the way that we work, how we do our own artwork, do our own records. We're really involved in everything, as opposed to a big manufactured pop entity. Because of the success of the first album, I think there was a little bit of expectation where everybody was like, "OK, let's double those sales, let's get on the big pop machine, let's get those billboards going," and we were like, "Whoa, we didn't do that on the first album, and it kind of worked. Can we please not do that on the second album?"
There were crazy rumors about working with Rihanna, that Jay-Z was producing your record. How aware of all that were you?
We changed management to Roc Nation a year and a half ago, and obviously Jay-Z is part of Roc Nation, so we could kind of see where it came from. But to be honest, we didn't see it that much. We were kind of like neo-Luddites. We did not particularly spend hours surfing the Internet Googling ourselves. [Laughs] We're past that. I remember once on YouTube years ago, somebody saying how long my arms were. I was like, "You know what, I'm going to end up with arm issues." [Laughs] "I'd better stop searching." But Rihanna, we kind of hung out a few times. We know her vaguely. So obviously, someone was like, "Why the f--- are the Ting Tings partying with Rihanna?" It was kind of an odd pairing, but we weren't planning to write together.
Watch the Ting Tings' Video for 'Hang It Up'
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