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By Tom Murphy
The Ting Tings were one of the first bands to emerge from the Apple iPod commercials in 2008. Thanks to the overnight exposure of "Shut Up and Let Me Go," the band went from being a blogged-about British import to becoming a major player in American pop music, creating a sound as tightly crafted as its corresponding lyrics.
But multi-instrumentalists Katie White and Jules De Martino slowly grew weary of the touring, the commercialism and the industry machine itself, and ultimately ended up disappearing just as quickly as they had arrived, exhausted from the promotion of eight singles over an eighteen-month period.
The two moved from Manchester to Berlin and prepared to record the followup to their worldwide debut, We Started Nothing. The planned release, to be called Kunst, was club-oriented and radio-friendly, and while their record label loved it, De Martino says, he and White just couldn't see themselves going through the motions of touring behind it. They ended up scrapping the album and starting over instead, this time moving in a more alt-rock-pop direction for their sophomore release, Sounds From Nowheresville.
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We recently spoke with De Martino about the distinctions between pop and commercial music and his love for Skrillex and Gotye.
Westword: Katie said in an interview in 2008 that you're both complete pop freaks. Now that you've been in the industry so long, do you still feel that way?
Jules De Martino: I don't think we can draw a line between pop music and commercial music. I mean, the industry, it's always...the longer you stay in this industry, the harder it gets. Not only are you trying to make the right decisions as an artist, but there's a whole kind of weight on your back about selling records, selling out tickets — you know, making money for your publishers, managers and labels. It's an interesting debate. I don't think of pop music necessarily as being music that has to be commercial. I just think pop music has to be music that is satisfying.
There's a lot of debate in the Internet world about what music is actually satisfying and what music is actually shifting records; we know that there's a big divide there. Some of the stuff that's going online gets 7 million hits on YouTube or whatever, but it's only selling 55,000 albums. Where is that line drawn? In pop, there's a different way that people listen to music; they go to a show or they find another way to buy into the band. Money is earned in another way.
What are some of your favorite pop songs right now, then?
I've been listening to a lot of Skrillex. I'm not a big dance fan in terms of regular commercial dance music in clubs, but I think there are a few artists out there who are doing something really special with their production and songmaking. I think Skrillex is one of them. I just absolutely love him.
And then, ironically, I've been listening to an artist who's just initially gone to number one: Gotye. He's someone I used to know. That artist has been around for a while, working really hard on the underground and breaking through. Ironically, I had no idea he was selling out shows or anything, and all of a sudden, I hear he's number one in the U.K. with his record. That was phenomenal!