They’re a household name but that certainly doesn’t mean Perth lads BIRDS OF TOKYO are in any way predictable. Last week, the guys released their forth studio album – MARCH FIRES – and proved they’re not one trick wonders. I had a chat to Glen Sarangapany – the man in charge of the keys – about their new release and the band’s shift towards more sonic sounds. I caught Glen on a sugar high but when it came to discussing music, he was extremely down to earth and ever grateful for the support from fans (and my friend Anna – one of the band’s biggest admirers).
You’re album is out today. Congratulations! How are you guys celebrating – other than by doing interviews?
It is! Thanks! Sparky and Berney just bought the biggests donut I’ve ever seen, it’s pretty much the size of a dinner plate. They just didn’t just buy that one. It’s one big donut and then they’ve got three big donuts sitting around it. We’re just going to eat them all on the drive to the next show.
This is your forth album. Does the novetly of a release wear off the more you do it or is it always as thrilling as all the others?
This was the first album I’ve personally been involved with in terms of the writing because I was previously playing as a session player for they guys. For me the novelty was definitely there. It was really exciting. Plus Ian Berney, our bass player, has just joined the band so it felt like a totallu new kind of vibe. The guys are really good at keeping it fresh too. Going to France to do a writing trip like we did really took us out of any previous headspaces and made us think about things differently. That was a good way to turn things around.
We just wanted to get away from everything and France seemed perfect for that. Also they have really good chocolate eclairs so that was a big drawcard for us. You’ve actually caught me on a morning where I’m on a sugar high so sugar is really all I can talk about right now!
You’ve joined the band more recently but do think the writing or recording process has changed much for the guys?
My first recording with the guys was on Universes and that was very different to this. This time around there was a lot of discussion about where we wanted to go and what we wanted the lyrics to say. We really sat down and talked about what each song was saying. The main thing we kept saying was, ‘What do we want each song to say and what’s the best way to do that?’ So that was very different to some of the other albums. I think previously we’ve gone for big guitars and two levels of music – verse and then loud chorus. With this album we wanted a real blend of sonic immersion at points.
Sometimes bands change as the result of a natural evolution but it sounds like your change on this album was very much planned and well thought out. Is that the case?
We wanted to try something more focused. We wanted each of us to know what each song is about and hopefully from there, other people would know what each song is about. It wasn’t so much about changing but rather using all the techniques we have and building on them.
Do you think bands like yourselves – those who’ve been kicking for a while – need to change to some extent in order to keep fans on board?
I think the safest thing to do to keep fans on board is probably to stay the same but as artists you have to go with what your heart tells you. Your influences will always change too so you have to make what you love at the time. I thing the safest thing to do for a band wanting to keep their career going is keep putting out the same stuff that everyone loves. We were a little nervous about this but it’s what we wanted to say to people so we took a risk and I think it’s paying off.
What would you say to fans who might not like the change?
There have been some people who have said they wanted us to stick to the old stuff but even just this morning, people have gone on Facebook and said they really like the new album for what it is. The number of times you see people online on forums etc. writing, ‘I like your old stuff better than your new stuff’. It’s not really something that can influence a band though. We just move with what we feel like at the time. Those old albums are still there. It’s not like anyone has taken them away and at the moment, we playing stuff of ever release at our shows. As long as the songs are good, people will still connect to them. the personalilty of the band is still there too.
You’ve experimented a lot more in this album and moved away from your indie rock roots to create what you describe as ‘sonic landscapes’. As the man in charge of the keys, did that give you more of a chance to experiment than in previous albums?
Yeah, definitely. Sparky and I really set out with the intention of making the keys and the guitars one instrument and one sonic landscape. We wanted them to really intertwine with each other and we had a lot of time in a little room in LA where we’d stay, sometimes until 4am, experimenting with sounds. The engineer we had actually worked with Radiohead and he was really at pulling out crazy sounds for us. We’d say we watned something to sound like glass shattering and he’d get it straight away. It was very cool.
In my opinion, there’s a lot of great music coming out of Perth at the moment – you guys for example and bands like Tame Impala too. What makes it such a great place to make music?
I’m not really sure to be honest. None of us live in Perth at the moment but I really enjoyed the Perth scene. There are a lot of people playing in bands and the scene is pretty tight-nit so that definitely helps. Tame Impala’s latest release is amazing.
It is! What else are you listening to at the moment?
It’s pretty varied. The entire drive home last night was The National and I think the night before that it was Queens of the Stone Age. There’s always a bit of a range. There’s five people in the band so it’s alwasy going to be pretty diverse.
What’s on for the rest of the year?
We’ve got some pretty exciting stuff in the works but up until now we’ve just been focusing on the record. Pretty much the goal for now is to kick arse on tour and deal with everything else later on.