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This article originally appeared on Noisey Canada.
OK, so full disclosure: We weren’t there for the entire 12 hours. That is just pure lunacy, and only four lunatics were required to pull it off. But this past Sunday, Tokyo Police Club–Greg Alsop, Josh Hook, Dave Monks and Graham Wright–played their new single “PCH” 200 times in a row for one-half of a day at the Toronto art gallery Rally to raise some money for the Canadian Red Cross. They did it in 33-degree Celsius weather too, in a very unforgivingly hot, small space in front of a bunch of their fans, friends, fellow musicians and of course, the internet. They performed the bulk of the versions together but also with the help of those in attendance–some professional musicians, some amateur musicians, and some who are still learning to read.
Against all odds, though, Tokyo Police Club survived and lived to not only perform the song another day–much to their current dismay—but also talk about it. And even though they were still recuperating from the exhaustion, dehydration and singing that song over and over and over again, we decided to hit up Graham to ask him about the experience.
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Noisey: So, how did it go?
Graham Wright: It was so good. I don’t know what I expected, or if I expected anything in particular, but it absolutely surprised me. I think I thought that there would be way more of a divide between stage and room–that we would be engaging in this weird experiment, and people would watch us do that. But it ended up being that everybody there was going through the weird experiment together–the kids that came and stayed (and there were a whole bunch of people who stayed for like eight hours) were such a big part of the whole thing, it really became a celebration of all the best parts of our band and our fans and what that connection can mean. It was extremely earnest and sincere and warm, commodities that are not nearly as celebrated in our world as I think they ought to be. It was a really special day and I wouldn’t trade it for all the sleep in the world.
Was it harder than you expected?
Nothing seems hard after it’s finished, does it? But I think it might have been easier than I expected—certainly there was no point when I worried that we wouldn’t make it. Although maybe that’s just hubris.
So, what inspired you to do such a thing as perform one song over and over and over for 12 continuous hours?
We played at the all night “Smells Like Teen Spirit” marathon a few years back and were struck not only by how much fun it was but also by what a cool way to experience a song was. Also, this is just a theory, but we’re doing it the day after a month long tour and I suspect that we’re subconsciously craving some kind of stability and predictability. Whatever else it is, playing the same song 200 times is definitely some kind of stable.
It was hot in the gallery. Did anyone struggle with the heat in the room?
I think everybody struggled–by the end of the night I was sweatier than I have ever been by several orders of magnitude. But I think that had something to do with how good it was, maybe. I have this thing about playing festivals and outdoor shows where no gigantic field can have a “vibe” the same way a normal inside venue can, but when it rains all of a sudden everybody is in it together and it can make for really special shows (possibly one of the main reasons Glastonbury has become such a legend??) The heat did the same thing last night–we all sweat together.
What made you pick the song "PCH?" Was there any strategy behind the decision (i.e. you like it lots, it's easy to play, it's an upcoming single, it won a poll of some sort)?
It’s just kind of the other song on the EP that had whatever single potential is. We’re gearing up for the second part of the EP, so we’re not going to do a big radio thing with “PCH,” but this is a chance to give it its time in the spotlight.
What was the official count at the end?
We made a push to hit 200 at the end, and we did, although I suspect that we might have missed a few throughout the day. But it was definitely 12 solid hours!
What did it feel like performing it the very last time? Did it feel like you conquered Everest?
Pure joy. Especially because it was also the end of a long hard tour. Now that you mention it, I don’t think I’ve ever felt anything like that.
I definitely did not keep track–there were a few throughout the day that were really amazing—but the last one was just incredible. Knowing that every time I played a part would be the last time I played it that day—I actually got kind of wistful. But that wistfulness made it all the sweeter!
What special guests turned out to help?
We had Jay from Brave Shores, Wayne from Cuff The Duke, Bossie (aka Anne Douris who also did all the props and set dec and basically made the thing good), Kenny from Moneen popped in (I think he just wanted to say hi, but I gave him my guitar and left for like 20 minutes, sorry Kenny), Meg from Repartee, the Elwins of course arranged their own incredible version of the song (please record it you guys). And then a cavalcade of fans and friends who took the time to learn the parts and were very gleeful about taking over, which brings us to the next question...
We shared the load, baby! Everybody was eager to take a turn on any instrument, so it was actually a little too easy just to point to an enthusiastic young guitarist and then go eat some chicken. At the same time, I think we were all seriously dehydrated, so washroom breaks weren’t overly necessary.
What was the biggest challenge?
It was hardest at the start. You’re looking up this impossibly high mountain and trying to figure out how you’re going to climb it, and every little obstacle seems huge and portentous. There were a bunch of moments during the first two or three hours when the whole thing threatened to devolve into farce, but then we just found ourselves in the groove and from there on in it was more or less smooth sailing.
The National did a similar thing with their song "Sorrow" at the MoMA a few years ago.
Of course, they were lightweights about it and only did it for six hours, though. There’s a potentially illuminating “indie rock song value” measurement to be calculated here, but I fear what the results might indicate. Also: We could have got away with only doing this for six hours?? Dammit.
Do you plan to release a vinyl-only box set of all the different versions like they did? If my math is correct, yours would be about 18 discs to cover 220 songs…
I remember label people griping during that time that all their vinyls were getting delayed because the main plant that presses vinyl for everybody was busy printing Sorrow after Sorrow. No idea if that’s true or not but I really hope it is. But to answer your question: Didn’t you hear that cassettes are back? We’re going to sell them by the old faux leather cassette holder briefcase. They will be shipped directly from the manufacturer to the landfill.
This was a free event, but you asked people to donate to the Canadian Red Cross. What made you choose that charity?
You know what’s hard is picking a charity! There’s a ton of worthy ones, and I never know if it’s better to pick the tragedy du jour (in this case, Fort Mac) which will probably garner more donations or to try to shine a spotlight on a less well publicized cause. Red Cross seemed like a good blend, helping out people in Fort Mac but also collecting blood for Orlando victims and generally being on the scene where help is needed.
I believe it is scheduled to start at the exact moment when I am deep in the cold hard ground, Cam.
Cam Lindsay is a writer from Toronto. Follow him on Twitter.