The Ting Tings just won’t go away

Commercial appeal
By CINDAL LEE HEART  |  April 9, 2012

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THAT'S NOT MY GAME "There's no point in writing another pop album if it didn't feel like it was authentic," says Katie White of the Ting Tings. 

The 2000s as a whole felt like a giant one-hit-wonder tar pit, but the decade also had a silver lining for young bands — television commercials. With bands from the indie circuit struggling for mainstream exposure, it was TV ads that allowed them to reach millions. And stick. Of all the bands to emerge in this era, Manchester, England, duo the Ting Tings were the one that made the most of this trend. Apple launched "Shut Up and Let Me Go" to the masses via its iPod and iTunes ads, Tommy Hilfiger used "We're Not the Same" to hype its LOUD fragrance line, and — perhaps most famously — Garnier Fructis commercial spots have been blaring the tinny riff and heavy drums from "Great DJ" daily, it seems, for four years.

Which means that people who watch TV but never listen to music probably still know the Ting Tings. Their 2008 hit-making debut, We Started Nothing, spawned six singles (it contained just 10 tracks total), including a couple of those TV-ad songs. Now, with the release of last month's Sounds fromNowheresville (Columbia), is it possible for Katie White and Jules de Martino to bottle pop lightning twice? Turns out, they may not want to.

White is aware of the pitfalls that can lead to a sophomore slump, and says the key to the band's latest round of songwriting was isolation from the mainstream and ignoring their past success. "There's no point in writing another pop album if it didn't feel like it was authentic," White said by phone recently from the UK. "We wanted creativity in it, and we wanted something that really meant something. That was the one concept we had to kind of get away from, that 'second-album-syndrome.' "

The Ting Tings became an accidental pop sensation as a result of making punk-infused party-synth songs for their friends around Salford. Although Sounds from Nowheresville picks up momentum from where We Started Nothing left off, there is a newfound purposefulness, despite the duo staying true to their inclinaton for genre-shifting and aural surprises. It may not be a collection of singles ripe to be plucked for 30-second ad spots, but with its kitchen-sink approach, you could say that it does have something for everyone.

"We could listen to a TLC song and go, 'Let's try and write, like, '90s R&B songs," White says. "And the next one could be, like, listen to PJ Harvey and go, 'Let me scream!' Really, we just opened our influences and experimented; I think that's the only way we could make our second album."

The band's hunger for more hip-hop swagger is evident, and that may have been juiced-on by the mighty Jigga-man himself. The Ting Tings were one of the first artists to be taken under the wing of Jay-Z — represented by his management team at Roc Nation — but the band says Hova has been "very supportive and hands-off." Yet it's hard to believe that hip-hop's most imposing Godfather didn't have anything to do with their new method. Most especially on new single "Hang It Up," where de Martino lends his tongue to rapping.

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