Forget Brick Lane, Sweeny Todd, The Picture of Dorian Gray and West Ham United; my new favourite thing from East London = Is Tropical. On a less-than-equatorial evening last week, I bundled up and headed westward to see the trio perform their first Toronto show. The group is comprised of art school alum that are receiving floods of international press about their quirky and sultry music videos as well as their ability to charm cultish fans on and off stage.
Sure, their album isn’t released yet in Canada (what gives, Kitsuné?), but that didn’t seem to stop their following from eagerly filling the floor to absorb moody disco sounds. The band hides their mugs with fancy lace masks during onstage sets, but before their veils went on, I sat down with them face-to-face to hear touring tales and about their love of escaping.
Shannon: What’s the best and worst part of touring?
Is Tropical: Best is probably Ryan [laughs and points to sound guy they just picked up in Chicago].
SEM: [laughs] What’s Ryan’s role with you guys?
IT: Just to be around! The worst part is probably when we played in France and then drove back to London. As soon as we arrived, we had only about an hour to get to the airport. Then we had to go straight to the venue in Chicago to set up. All and all, it was probably about 40 hours straight of traveling. But, we always play better when we’re a bit tired.
SEM: Do you feel a deep sense of contradiction playing in a band with the name “Tropical” in it on a cold day like this in Toronto?
IT: [laughs] We came up with it when it was really cold in London. It’s our name for escapism. Thinking about it took our brains to a better place; we were in the basement of a really cold dark squat at the time all huddled together.
SEM: What’s your favourite kind of tropical fruit?
IT: Straight up pineapple for aesthetic reasons, banana, guava.
SEM: You’re from Peckham, London?
IT: We did live there. That’s where all the riots were, did you hear about those? It was crazy. Big groups of gangs with knives starting fires and looting! But we did see a young boy carrying a sack of basmati rice out from a store that he took to feed his mum. There are two sides to every story, guys.
SEM: Why do you cover your faces?
IT: It’s part of our whole idea and love of escapism. We like the romantic notion of keeping our faces hidden when we perform; we’re disconnected from the crowd but still physically present.
SEM: Your music videos are extremely creative and definitely exist as standout contemporary musical projects. How much art direction involvement do you have?
IT: We went to art school and so we know what we like and what we don’t. For The Greeks we collaborated with Megaforce and told them that we wanted something with kids and gangs. We helped a bit with minor suggestions, but we’re really happy with the final result.
SEM: Did you know that there is a band from Toronto called “Tropics”- are you guys going to start beef with them tonight?
IT: Well, there is a Little Dragon remix by “Tropics” that’s great, we jokingly took credit for it.
SEM: Where else are you headed on your North American tour?
IT: We’re really excited about going to Mexico City. We have a whole slew of botched dental surgery lined up. Like grills and a Hollywood smile.
SEM: That sounds amazing. Send me your old teeth in the mail!
[Photo by: Kitsuné]