You need Hands

The Ting Tings are back with new single Hands and their second album’s due in the new year, with material recorded in Berlin

Hero image

In the two and a bit years that have passed since The Ting Tings hit number one with That’s Not My Name, the plucky Manchester two-piece have toured the world several times over, sold in excess of two million albums, won countless awards, been admitted to hospital, hung out with everyone from Drew Barrymore to Jay-Z, appeared on Saturday Night Live and moved to East Berlin, where they spent the first month “walking around drunk at 3am, not knowing anyone and unable to speak the language”. If you ask singer Katie White, who formed the band in 2007 alongside drummer and guitarist Jules De Martino, what has been the surreal high point of her adventure so far, however, she doesn’t hesitate to answer.

“It was being on a flight to Canada that was going through a thunderstorm, thinking I’m going to die and being comforted by Bette Midler’s interior designer,” laughs the vivacious 27 year old. “We’ve had loads of surreal moments, such as walking through New Orleans and hearing our songs being sung on karaoke, but I don’t think anything can beat the randomness of that.”

Other unexpected events, meanwhile, have been less comic, explains White, who spent the run-up to last Christmas in hospital suffering from exhaustion brought on by two years of incessant touring.
“My body started malfunctioning. It had just had enough,” recalls the Wigan-raised singer. “I was in hospital for a couple of weeks getting loads of tests. It was just pure exhaustion really. I came out Christmas Eve and made my mum feed me up. It was my only holiday.”

Ten months on, The Ting Tings have re-emerged revitalised and, if not exactly reborn, then certainly a darn side more sprightly than when we last saw them. Having spent the majority of the year knuckling down in a converted jazz club in Berlin’s arty quarter of Friedrichshain to record the band’s eagerly awaited second album, the first fruits of their labour – the infectiously catchy, Calvin Harris-mixed comeback single Hands – is about to be released, with the as yet untitled follow-up to We Started Nothing set to drop early next year.

“We were hungry for something different and Berlin definitely gave us that,” explains De Martino, who says the decision to swap Islington Mill in Salford, where the band recorded its debut and played some of their most famous early gigs, for the similarly unassuming surroundings of East Berlin was born of a need to isolate themselves.

“We felt that going back to Manchester, it would feel wrong coming off tour and acting like minor celebrities, getting drunk with your mates every night,” states the well mannered multi-instrumentalist over the phone from a rehearsal studio in North London. “We had to find a new challenge and going to hide away in Berlin was the perfect place because our friends aren’t there, our families aren’t there and our record company isn’t there, so no one really bothered us. I think that if we’d have gone back to Manchester we’d have been a mess.”

According to White and De Martino, the resulting album – which is finished bar finalising a couple of mixes – sounds like a schizophrenic iTunes playlist that crosses 1990s girl group R&B, punk, dance, glam rock, sombre Depeche Mode-esque electro and, most importantly, an abundance of brazen pop songs.

“We just had no fear and wanted to make a record that was like an MP3 compilation.”

“We’re pop freaks,” states De Martino. “We wanted to make a record that had that much variety that if you played it you could almost shut your eyes and think: ‘Is this the same band on each song?’ We just had no fear and wanted to make a record that was like an MP3 compilation.”

“It sounds nothing like the first album,” adds White. “I think we’ve made quite a unique album. We had a good few months where we just wrote songs and if it started to sound like TLC we just went: ‘F**k it. Let’s run with it.’ So every track on the album sounds completely different to the one that went before it. Somehow we’ve ended up with an album where it could almost be like four different Ting Tings albums in one.”

Asked if the band is nervous about having to follow up their multi-million selling, multiple hit spawning debut, both members dismiss the idea that they are under any pressure to perform, an attitude that undoubtedly sits at odds with that of their major label backers but one which fits in perfectly with the band’s organic, almost accidental roots and still strong DIY ethos.

“I don’t think we’re really that type of people,” answers De Martino. “We’ve really enjoyed our success and have loved going around the world but it’s not the only thing in life that’s important for us.”
“We’ve been in bands before The Ting Tings that have failed miserably and I think we just understand that that kind of success has its own life really,” White elaborates. “It’s kind of out of our hands. What will be will be and we’ve just got to make songs that we like.

“If that means that in two years time we’re just playing to a hundred people in a bar in Spain then so be it. The second you start analysing it you just end up writing sh*t songs that are trying to get played on the radio or appeal to the kids.”
A sceptic could view bringing proven hit maker Harris on board to polish your comeback single to be doing just that, but seeing as Hands is a brilliant anti-capitalist slice of disco pop we’ll give them the benefit of the doubt. Indeed, having spurned the offer of big name collaborations (Jay-Z and Rihanna were possibilities at one stage, admits De Martino) and opted against working in a plush recording studio (“grey and sterile… they’re not really what inspires us”, comments White) in favour of a cold Berlin basement complete with newspaper over the windows, where they have made the record that they wanted to make, only the band’s biggest critic could accuse The Ting Tings of selling out and abandoning their greatest asset – a fierce sense of individuality.

“We love what we do. We’ve done music all our lives and even when nobody was into our bands we’d still do it. It’s all we really know. We’re sh*t at everything else,” says a characteristically forthright White, who claims that the neither she nor De Martino have had the time to make any extravagant purchases following their success, with the exception of an expensive piano.

“This is how we feel comfortable working,” she continues. “A lot of other female artists out at the moment are quite outgoing and strap machine guns to their bras or whatever. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that but we’re different. We’re quite introverted.

“We like all the little details of stuff that probably only one person notices. But we’re so happy when they notice that we put in something like an extra little bleep in a recording. That’s just how we are. We’re a bit odd really.”

Hands is released on 10 October.

“We just had no fear and wanted to make a record that was like an MP3 compilation.”

If you liked this article, we think you’ll enjoy these:

Interact: Responses to You need Hands

Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published.