Westword Music Showcase headliners: Catching up with Tickle Me Pink

Tickle Me Pink's young career has already been filled with setbacks and shrouded by controversy. From the heartbreaking loss of original bassist Johnny Schou in 2008 to the recent parting with their label, Wind-up, the boys still had time to release an explicit video for their single "Typical Whore" in which "adult entertainer" Gabriella Fox, writhed naked on a bed. This too, surprisingly, came under some fire.

Due to these setbacks, TMP decided to put their recent plans for a full length on hold and instead release an EP entitled, On Your Way Down. In advance of its appearance at this year's Westword Music Showacse, we recently caught up with drummer Stefan Runstrom and asked him about the decision to release the EP on their own, who he's pointed a gun at recently and just how metal his band actually is.

Westword: Your new EP, On Your Way Down, is your first new material since 2008. Why the long wait?

Stefan Runstrom: After we released Madeline in mid-2008, we toured on it for about a year non-stop. We were ready to write new material, so we came home and began writing a full-length record. After amassing a bunch of material, we we're ready to go. Although, the label we were with didn't see eye-to-eye with us, and caused some setbacks. After parting ways with them, we wanted to put out new music immediately. So that's exactly what we did.

WW: Do you feel the songs on the new EP are a departure from your old material?

SR: When we began writing together, it was like starting a band all over again. Our old bassist/guitarist had passed away the day Madeline was released, and we started touring just a couple weeks after that. Joey had joined us on tour, but we had never written music with him before. So when we came home, we didn't know what to expect. It took a while to figure out what we sound like. It sounds silly, but it really was a delicate process.

I think it's definitely a departure from Madeline, but that's just who we are as musicians now. Sean, Johnny and I wrote Madeline when we we're barely out of high school. It still sounds like TMP, but just a little older and --hopefully -- better.

WW: You recorded at the Blasting Room in Ft Collins, which is a predominantly punk studio. Are your roots in punk rock? Do you consider Tickle Me Pink a punk band? What other factors led into you recording there?

SR: We recorded our first EP there in 2005 when the band had just formed. We've done everything there since then, demos, EPs, full-lengths, etc... It's consistent. They're one of the best studios in Colorado, and we definitely have an allegiance to them. We've never considered ourselves punk, It's hard to describe our music. Rock, pop, alt ... I don't know, we're definitely bi-polar musicians, though. That's for sure.

WW: On Your Way Down has a heavy edge to it. Is this heavier sound a result of Joey Barba's background in heavier bands like The Brotherhood of Dae Han or are you all closet metal heads?

Fuck yeah we are! Joey definitely brought some balls to the band, but I think as you get older, it gets harder and harder to write every song in the same pop format, but, like I said, we're bi-polar.

WW: A recent photo shoot features the band holding up what is, presumably, a music executive, at gun point. What does this image represent? Is it a commentary on the dying music industry or is it just meant as a shocking visual?

SR: The whole "On Your Way Down" theme was meant to encompass all of that. The music industry is in the dumps, and our band was on the brink of either utter failure or rebirth. It's a commentary on how music is a business after all, and in it, you're bound to encounter lots of "business people" who don't really know much about music, which is ironic. It's silly to think that all that is required of a musician is to be able to play their instruments, but it's so much more than that. You have to learn how to not get screwed first and foremost.

WW: On that subject, what do you think of the decline in music sales? As a working band, does it scare you or do you feel you will be unaffected by it?

SR: It's a scary time. I think we would've sold a lot more records had it not been for things like P2P sharing, streaming music and the ability to buy songs instead of full records. With that said, I also think there's a lot of opportunity in the industry for people wanting to sell their music themselves. Labels don't rule the music world as much as they use to. I think it's an evolution that no one can really predict: There will be winners and losers, it's survival of the fittest.

WW: What plans does TMP have in the coming year?

SR: Little bit of touring for the EP, some festivals and hopefully a full length soon to come.

WW: What bands are you excited to see at this year's festival?

SR: Oh My Stars! Their singer, Lee Miles, was our producer and he's been a longtime friend. Those guys fucking rip it.