:: TV On The Radio :: :: Monolith Music Festival :: :: Sunday, Sept. 14 :: :: Esurance Main Stage :: :: 8:45 p.m. ::
By Timothy Dwenger
TV On The Radio began life as an experimental two-piece on the small stages of neighborhood clubs in Brooklyn, N.Y., where founding members David Steik and Tunde Adebimpe laid the groundwork for what the band would become. Their sparse and experimental blend of electronica and hip-hop was soon fleshed out when guitarist/vocalist Kyp Malone joined the fray along with the powerhouse rhythm section of bassist Gerard Smith and drummer Jaleel Bunton. Together, these five men have methodically refined Steik and Adibimpe’s early digital meanderings into a hard-hitting, yet melodic, sound that doesn’t resemble anything out there today.
Though they have been on the scene crafting their sound for seven years now, TVOTR exploded into public consciousness with their 2006 release, Return To Cookie Mountain. Their third full-length album, the record landed them on the top of many year-end lists, including the #1 spot in SPIN. While the record did feature an appearance by David Bowie on backing vocals, the strength of the songwriting and musicianship alone was enough to push this album up the charts.
Picking up where Return to Cookie Mountain left off, Dear Science drops later this month and blends that album’s angular, digitally-infused style with the punctuating horn lines and driving funk rhythms to create a hybrid that sounds like the future of rock and roll. It’s a sound that might take some getting used to for newcomers, but it is artfully crafted and draws inspiration from everyone from Michael Jackson to Radiohead.
While Dear Science retains many of the signatures that fans have grown to love, guitarist Kyp Malone does admit that they have evolved in the years between recording sessions. “We use guitars on this record much more sparingly and, in fact, it may be the first TV On The Radio record where guitars actually sound like guitars,” Malone said in a recent interview with The Marquee from his home in Brooklyn, N.Y. “There is less guitar as ‘wall of sound’ and more guitar as ‘here’s the riff presented contextually in the song when it’s supposed to be there and then it’s gone when it’s not supposed to be there.’”
However, the record kicks off with pounding drums and wall of sound that is reminiscent of older TVOTR before revealing a perfect example of this new technique in the second track. “Crying,” a song penned by Malone and Bunton, uses a well-placed guitar riff to evoke the feel of old-school soul and offer an interesting countermelody to the vocals while much of the song’s foundation is percussive.
While there isn’t one principle songwriter with TVOTR and songs are fleshed out by the group in many cases, the genesis of the ideas seem to happenin little pockets within the band. When discussing his contributions to this record, Malone shares credit with several different people and reveals a deep interpersonal respect that exists within the group. “If there is another TV On The Radio record in the future, I would really like the band as a whole to be writing more. I feel that you are hearing more of the band progressively but I feel like Gerard is a voice that hasn’t been heard. He’s a really good songwriter and a really good musician and a really great musical mind. While he’s not a completely untapped resource within the band, I want people to hear more of his stuff,” said Malone.
There is, and probably always will be, conversation within the indie music community about how a band’s sound will get watered down or destroyed when they sign with a major label. However, there seems to be a paradigm shift occurring, with more and more bands being allowed to keep complete creative control of their records.
When TVOTR signed with Interscope (a division of Universal Music Group) they insisted on creative control and got it. As a result, the recording sessions for Dear Science, the first since signing with Interscope, were identical to sessions for past albums and the label had no input on the record at all. “No one is coming into the studio — ever,” said Malone. “That will never happen; if it happens, the record will not get made. No disrespect to anyone and I’m sure that outside ideas help some people, but this is our thing. The personalities in our band would consider it interference.”
Taking the helm at the controls, Steik assumes the role of producer, along with his multiple instrumental duties. He is a wizard in the studio and in addition to producing all the TVOTR records he has helmed projects by Liars, Foals, and Scarlett Johansson, among others. The resultant album is as densely layered as past TVOTR albums, effortlessly weaving countless digital samples into the sound. It is that vast array of sonic textures that present a challenge when the band hits the road, as they may be hard to reproduce in the live setting. “Rehearsals have been going very well, I am excited by the way the new material is coming together,” Malone said as he discussed arranging the new songs for the stage. “I play bass on several songs on this record and I play bass on some songs live now as well. While I am playing bass, Gerard is playing multiple keys, organ and Rhodes and I believe that Tunde is going to be triggering samples along with Jaleel on a separate MPC. We are working it all out now.”
Regardless of how the song arrangements come together for the live show, Malone is confident that the songs’ integrity will still be intact. “The primary thing is having the idea that you believe in and if a song stands on its own strength as a song then it can be played by a person with a single voice and ukulele and it will still be that song and it will have the power of that song. The arrangement and the different instrumentation is just a different way to present the idea.”
It is clear that each member of the band holds that concept close to their hearts as they work through the months of rehearsals necessary to bring to TVOTR to the stage. The result will be a live show that is as mesmerizing as the recorded songs. In his role as the band’s de facto front man, Adebimpe twitches and jerks around the stage strangely in time with the music as he sings over the landscape the rest of his bandmates create. They invigorate audiences and provide the rare opportunity to truly let loose and be absorbed in a unique musical experience.
“TV On The Radio’s sound is an attempt at capturing and creating beauty, I don’t know how to say it without it sounding pretentious,” Malone said. “But, I don’t want to put myself in any other kind of box but that.”
:: TV On The Radio ::
:: Monolith Music Festival ::
:: Sunday, Sept. 14 ::
:: Esurance Main Stage ::
:: 8:45 p.m. ::
Recommended If You Like:
• Wolf Parade
• Cold War Kids
• Arcade Fire