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Is Dave Monks Fulfilling His Solo Destiny? All Signs Point To Yes

The Tokyo Police Club singer talks about hitting the "Heartbeat Blues" for inspiration and the mysterious plant on his album cover.

Photo By Chris Shoonover

Give most frontmen of a well-established band enough time and they’ll eventually embark on a solo project. It’s in their blood to give fans another side to their music – one that is sans those other guys. For most of them, it’s either a need to cleanse the songs clogging their brains or a desire to hop genres (

yeah, you Paul Banks of Interpol

). Although he is the singer of Tokyo Police Club, however, Dave Monks isn’t the first member of his band to go solo; his bandmate Graham Wright (keyboards/guitar) beat him to it in

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2009!

And although Monks has been performing the odd solo gig here and there over the past couple of years, he’s finally made his solo career official with his first proper release and tour. His debut EP,

All Signs Point To Yes

, came at a moment when his life was being altered: he fell in love with a girl and then uprooted to Brooklyn to be with her. It was during this time that Monks realized that he’d been making this kind of music all along. It was only when he brought songs to Tokyo Police Club that they changed. And so he just decided to write a bunch of songs that were a little more person and just leave them in that early, barebones stage. Unlike that absurd Paul Banks rap album,

All Signs Point To Yes

won’t throw any of Monks’ fans off. It’s still him writing his patented fizzy pop music, just a bit slower and simpler this time. Noisey called up Monks from his Bushwick digs to ask him what led to finally fulfilling his solo destiny, the current status of Tokyo Police Club and why he felt the need to pose with a plant on his album cover.

Noisey: What made you go soft?

Dave Monks

: Out of the context of music that sounds like such a brutal question! [

Laughs

] Well, I always write my songs like that. This is how they always sound. I asked myself, “Why am I going hard? Why do I add the riffs? Why do I add the loud drums?” So it was actually just not doing that because this is how it first sounds when I write a song.

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So what you’re saying is you saved yourself a lot of work?
Holy shit, yes. So much work! Making this EP was faster and easier than any Tokyo stuff has been since we were young. It’s really just a natural product of a group of people getting more and more dialed into the project they’re working on and things take longer. This was just really fast.

You wrote this record about your girlfriend. Was that something you couldn’t do as well playing noisy pop music?
I think it’s easier for a bunch of dudes to get behind a song when it’s a bit more abstract or a little less personal. I mean, Tokyo has always had personal lyrics. But there’s something about how these songs came out, where it was like, “I’m just going to say this now, and that’s the way I want to say it.”

Did your lyrics ever get too personal?
With every album we do I have a lyrics threshold where I think, “Ahh, this is lame! I don’t want to say I’m miserable.” But with this I just didn’t want to change it. So I think this record started with coming across those moments in songs where at once it feels true and it resonates, but I’m not sure I want to put it out there. And just thinking, “Fuck it, I’m gonna do it.”

Is this EP a sign of you feeling a bit older?
It’s weird. When I was 18 and 19 I would say, “I hate that boring, old people music. I’m never gonna do be lame and make that chill, acoustic record. Screw that!” And then, I don’t know if you wanna call them stages in a songwriter’s career, but I just got here and it was like, “Holy shit, I got here!” It was just staring me in the face. Eighteen-year-old Dave is yelling at me, “Where’s the gnarly bass?!” And I don’t know, it just felt like something that needed to happen. I don’t think of it as me being old. I’m not that old really. But Tokyo is old and my songwriting journey has been long.

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Why did it take you so long to do something like this?
I think because Tokyo has been my life and I just didn’t care. I didn’t want to take any energy away from Tokyo. It just didn’t interest me. I liked experimenting with it a bit, but I never had ambitions outside of Tokyo. And then when I started making it someone said, “Wait, you haven’t had your own Twitter account this whole time? You’re an idiot!” I can imagine a different story if I had always been making music on the side this whole time, but this is how it happened. What made you choose to do an EP over an album?
That is something is struggled with and I’m still not sure. I think I tried to take into account that it is mellow music and I wanted to set myself up for making more music. So I made something I feel is strong and short, so then if people want more I can go ahead and make an album, but I had so many songs. I wrote 30 songs and there are only seven on it. Maybe nobody cares if it’s seven songs or ten songs? I’m gonna put some new ones in the live set, and maybe release them later. It was the same as A Lesson In Crime, where we were strategic about what we put on the EP.

Let’s talk about the album cover. It’s hard not to notice your face because it’s so big!
At first I had my friend photograph me in a field with trees around me. But then I was at this bar in the East Village, and this guy [Chris Schoonover] came up to me and asked if I was Dave from Tokyo Police Club, and I was stoked to be recognized in New York. And he asked if he could take my photograph, and I looked at his stuff when I got home and it’s amazing! He is super talented, and fairly well known. And we became good friends. So I did his shoot and it was just his project at first, taking portraits that aren’t fashion-related. And the photos just came out great. I kinda thought if I was ever going to put my face on an album this was the chance to do it.

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What is the deal with that plant in the background?
The plant was something he just picked up from Home Depot that day. He called and said, “I’ve got a plant! It was only ten dollars.” And so that photo wasn’t what we were planning to put on the cover. We had a different set up in mind, but then this one turned out to be cooler. I think it’s weird because the photo has this distant look in it, but the EP is so personal. I kind of like how that balanced out.

So you moved to Brooklyn for a girl?
I met Caroline in Toronto, but then we were long distance for about six to eight months. She’s from New York. I had just finished recording Forcefield, and that was a fucking watershed moment for me. I was subletting Luke’s [Lalonde, Born Ruffians] place, and I didn’t have anywhere to go afterward so I just moved to New York. And I didn’t think about it that much because I knew Caroline was here and I had some other friends. I managed to find an apartment really easily.

How is Brooklyn different from Toronto?
I think it’s accelerated my creative process. Making this album was really fast. I think your eyes are open more to what’s out there and what people are doing. Toronto can be really supportive and great, as far as the music community goes but it’s also really small. I just felt good about my lyrics on the EP. No one I know in Brooklyn here in bands is making this record. They’re all making something that has more keyboards and reverb on it. And I felt good about that. How has moving to Brooklyn affected the band?
I’ve kept moving since the EP. I recorded it last fall, and now the next Tokyo record is half done. Because everyone has more freedom to live their life. Graham is in Toronto and made a movie, like a feature-length film. Greg is in L.A. with his wife who is teaching there. Josh is living outside of Toronto now. We just get together and record when we can. And it turns out now that we always take more control over what we’re making. We just do what feels good.

Was there ever a moment where you thought these might be Tokyo Police Club songs?
There is actually one, “Heartbeat Blues,” and I think Greg gave me that drumbeat. And I just said, “Ooh, I’m gonna take that.” And I think it was “Gasoline” and “The Rules” where I felt there is no way I can do those with the band, and that kind of gave me the momentum to work on the other four songs for the EP.

What is the next priority?
The next Tokyo album is the next thing I’m trying to finish this summer. I think after the EP the next thing might be a buddy for it, with a few more songs. I don’t know if I feel like a full album yet. I think another EP could be cool.

Dave Monks Tour Dates
June 25 - Toronto, ON - The Garrison
June 26 - Hamilton, ON - Casbah Lounge
June 27 Ottawa, ON - House of TARG
July 8 - Cambridge, MA - TT The Bear’s Place
July 9 - Philadelphia, PA - Milkboy

All Signs Point To Yes is out now via Dine Alone. Cam Lindsay is a writer based in Toronto. Follow him on Twitter - @yasdnilmac