The Ting Tings

The Ting Tings have released a new disco-fabulous album, ‘Super Critical’, packed with memorable grooves. It’s their third album, and co-produced by Andy Taylor from Duran Duran. The indie/pop/electro duo made a name for themselves with their Manchester parties, burst into wider consciousness with the classic ‘What’s My Name’, have had a string of top 40 singles since then, and wowed Ibiza this Summer. The Ting Tings are: Katie - vocals, guitar, bass drum/keys, and Jules - drums, vocals, guitars/keys. They play several dates at SXSW, and they told us all about making their new sounds.

Finca Records

Super Critical - new album

The Ting Tings’ new album is a glorious lightshow of instant disco classics, and the single ‘Wrong Club’ released as a preview this Summer, wowed the critics. We asked how they’ve been writing their new tracks, and whether it’s a new approach. Jules explained.

Each time we think about a new song or record it has to start itself from experiences or find its own enthusiasm. There’s nothing worse than getting a piece of paper, a pen and an instrument and saying ‘right, let’s write!’ So 1st album found us in Salford Islington Mill where we lived and created for 5 years. 2nd album we woke up in Berlin after 3 years touring. Our 3rd album in Ibiza where we had stopped off for rehearsals before going to China. Lots happened on the island and consequently we made a great record.

Their new single ‘Do It Again’ is a bouncy earworm ‘about the need to do something wrong again,’ and ‘doing anything that makes you feel good.’ There are some exciting remixes to come including ones by Kitmonsters favourites The Penelopes.

Party vibes and a Studio 54 feel

The album, Super Critical, has a fabulously uplifting party fizz. Was that something very deliberate or did it evolve, for example through experiencing the Ibiza vibe? Katie says Ibiza contributed, but not in the way you might think.

We consciously wanted an upbeat record though by bringing the bpm down to 115-118bpm after hanging out in clubs in Ibiza and finding it too fast to get a move on. Got fed up of gurning and nodding my head. So Ibiza influenced us in a reverse way. Things are getting faster, we wanted groove in the club aka Studo 54.

The Ting Tings’ guitars

In the Do It Again video Katie is playing a blue Fender Stratocaster - is that one a favourite?

It’s been in the first two videos from the new album Super Critical. It pops on stage, it plays well and feels comfy on and can take a battering. If it breaks I have a red one to replace it.

Jules has a ‘78 USA Strat. It’s the best sounding guitar we have, un-replaceable. But I like to throw myself around on stage and dance while finding the moment vocally, so inevitably things get dented. We’ve made a pact that this one should stop touring, be for studio sessions only, but watch out for the tobacco sunburst ‘78 on future tours I say! Everything else no matter how sentimental or collectable gets used and abused.

For keyboards on Super Critical she says they mostly used app synths and plugin synths, as well as their Moog Little Phatty that has featured on all three albums.

Drums and percussion

When it comes to drums and percussion, the band’s touring and recording needs vary, and Jules filled us in.

I use Yamaha Custom on tours. They are totally reliable and spare parts easy to grab. I have a Gretsch that looks the part but wouldn’t last 5 minutes on our tours. Katie loses more cowbells or marching drum beaters than the crew care to mention.

The drumming on the track Super Critical sounds extra springy and resonant - how did they get that sound?

The album was co-produced by Andy Taylor (Duran Duran) and we recorded my drums in the corner of a small room in a Finca studio called Sonic Vista Studios in Ibiza. Simple four mics around the kit, drapes on the walls, straight into API and tools. As long as the kit sounds good where you’re sitting then there’s a chance you can capture it on tape!

In the studio, and a Marvin Gaye connection

The Ting Tings are known for their production wizardry so we asked Katie to tell us more about how and where they recorded the new album.

We started in a rented Finca in Ibiza. We transported our studio over from all over and focussed writing there. Every now and then we would shoot off for some shows and be in a city writing on the ideas we were forming in Ibiza. Then we met Andy Taylor on the island and took all our demos and songs and a chunk of equipment over to his room at Sonic Vista Studios.

Literally we clicked with him and once we were locked in, we didn’t leave the room for 7 straight months. The only time we did was when we went to NYC to mix on analog at the amazing Avatar studio for 6 weeks. There we wrote more and overdubbed and the record exploded into colour and life. We’ve always wanted to get to a great studio and feel its history in our recording. Done!

Jules says they are always expanding their own studio, but that Avatar had a special feel.

We’re accumulating equipment (and losing it) yearly. Our studio continues to grow but being at Avatar NYC kinda put us back in place. Singing through some valve processors that Marvin Gaye used makes everything we own dull…

Energy injection

There’s an amazing mix of production techniques especially on tracks like Daughter, how did they blend the latest dance music and more classic disco sounds? Jules let us in on what happened.

Getting frustrated with the sound of this track and in need of more energy, we threw elements of the recording through our Korg Kaoss Pad and played the pad to create its belly churning sound both in sub and mids. Then looped it over the chorus’. Three of us punched the air as it turned the track inside out.

Vintage and custom-made music gear

So what is the most unusual music gear they have and use? Jules told us about some precious things.

A very old Fender Bassman amp. Fender ‘78 strat as mentioned. We have something very special called a Glensounds mixer! We run most of our recordings through it in the process. Had it made for us during We Started Nothing after a session at BBC 6 Music in Manchester. Its original purpose is a broadcasting desk but it brings and delivers every time.