INTERVIEW: BIRDS OF TOKYO

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Perth rockers, Birds of Tokyo have just released their fourth full-length album entitled “March Fires” with their latest single “Lanterns” already receiving widespread airplay across the country. Currently on an extensive tour of Australia, making visits to major cities and regional centres alike – we chatted to keys player, Glenn Sarangapany to find out how the latest songs have been received by fans.

By Julia Lay

Fresh from playing club shows in Ballarat and Frankston two nights prior, the members of Birds of Tokyo are in Melbourne on the release day of “March Fires” – a few hours before they venture out into eastern Victoria to dish out their live show to audiences in Traralgon. “It’s a little bit of a coincidence and a little bit deliberate.” Glenn Sarangapany laughs about the highly suitable release date, “it was going to come out around this time so we thought yeah, let’s just put it out on the first of March.”

A preview of what sound they were aiming for could be gathered from the “This Fire” EP that they released in late 2012. The band had also played shows to smaller audiences and made an appearance at Homebake to kick things off. In addition to this, for a week leading up to the release the band allowed for their entire album to be streamed through iTunes which meant fans had already been given the full taste of their latest creation. “The reception has been really, really great,” Sarangapany remarks as he reflects on their past couple of shows. “The crowd had a massive sing-a-long last night – it was awesome. I think people are starting to learn the lyrics so they can get pretty involved.”

A lot of plane tickets and intense sessions are needed in order to prepare for their tours. All five members of the band currently reside in the Eastern states with Adam Spark (guitar), Ian Berney (bass) and Sarangapany in Sydney; Ian Kenny (vocals) in Melbourne; and Adam Weston (Drums) in Brisbane.

Certainly, it is no easy feat to have a full length album ready to go within the timeframe of two years – with most touring bands having lengthier schedules on the road nowadays. Previously a session keys player, Sarangapany is now a fully fledged member of the band. Berney has also been recently inducted as a member of the group. They both add to the new dynamics and contribute to the writing process of the songs. “We’re always writing on the road,” he says about their consistency, “a couple of songs on this one were written while we were on our last tour.”

The guys spent their time churning out songs away from any distractions in a completely different country. “The writing trip was when we went to the South of France. We went over there to separate ourselves from day-to-day regular life and be completely focussed on music,” Sarangapany explains their dedication, “every morning we’d wake up, see each other and just start writing. We’re constantly writing songs and a writing trip meant we could take any idea floating around and just work on them intensely.”

The “March Fires” album was recorded in Los Angeles with producer, Dave Cooley, who had worked with LA’s indie rock favourites, Silversun Pickups (they also supported Birds of Tokyo during a string of shows back in 2010). When asked why they chose Cooley in particular – Sarangapany answers: “Right from the get-go when we spoke to Dave, he was the guy who was talking about the story behind the music. Like, the idea about what you want to say with a song. That was what we were trying to push with this album. He was on the same page and that was an aspect that we really wanted to pursue.”

During the LA recording process they shared the studio with influential 60’s Californian surf-rockers, The Beach Boys. “They came in every now and again while we were tracking a couple of songs,” he recalls, “they would just wander into the control room and just stand there and have a listen. They were like ‘yeah this is really cool’ and start humming along to some melodies, it was quite intimidating actually. You’d turn around and The Beach Boys were there, and you’d be thinking ‘please do not make a mistake’.” With a task at hand, Birds of Tokyo spent less time adventuring from their recording sessions and more time crafting their fourth long-player. “We didn’t get to watch The Beach Boys, but I did get to hold my ear to the door every now and again to listen to the harmonies.”

With four albums up their sleeves, more songs have to be left out each night. However, they plan on keeping the set lists fresh with a few songs that alternate. “It isn’t always easy [to work out a set list],” admits Sarangapany, “we usually discuss it and look at every release we’ve ever had, then play through them to make sure the set’s all cohesive. We’re playing something from, yeah, every release we’ve ever put out. In the rehearsal we’d just get together, and I think there’s about 25 songs on a list – we play through them all and see which ones kinda work and which ones don’t really work and we go through and pick out which ones we wanna play. We’ve got a couple of rotation songs and we’re swapping them out depending on how we feel that night.”

With their previous 2010 self-titled album going Platinum and 2008’s Universes having achieved Gold status, I ask whether there was any pressure to recreate the success. “You know what kinda works, there’s a formula there. But that’s not what we were after,” Sarangapany says of their latest album, “we could have given people what they’re expecting but sometimes you have to take a risk as an artist.”

In 2009, the ‘Broken Strings Tour’ with a full orchestral arrangement was brought around the nation and was very well-received. It was also recorded for a CD/DVD release. “We’ve had discussions about it, nothing concrete yet,” Sarangapany answers on whether there any plans for something similar to the format to reemerge this time around, “I really do hope that happens again since they were some of my favourite shows.”

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Many thanks to Glenn for taking the time to chat to us. You can check out tour dates, and the latest album from the band at: http://www.birdsoftokyo.com

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