When Tokyo Police Club released their sophomore album, Champ, a decade ago, it was a time of great change for the Canadian indie rock band. “It was a big moment,” lead singer and bassist Dave Monks tells American Songwriter. “We were still quite young. It was the most expensive record we’d ever made, and we were on the new label with some real hot shots.”
The notion at the time had been that the band, who’d found growing acclaim on the back of their A Lesson in Crime and Smith EPs and debut Elephant Shell in 2008, would be pushed further into orbit — from the underground into the realm of mainstream stardom, along with the likes of Death Cab for Cutie and Interpol. “There were a lot of expectations,” recalls Monks. “And in a lot of those ways, the album did not succeed, according to the labels and managers.”
The album, which featured production by Rob Schnapf, arrived on Mom + Pop Music, tapped into the ebullient guitar-driven sound that had made them stand out. But in the aftermath of its release, the band —drummer Greg Alsop, keyboard Graham Wright and guitarist Josh Hook, along with Monks—felt the disappointment of the people who had invested in the record. “It felt like a misstep,” says Monks. “There was a lot of frustration there.”
Yet Champ went on to become a fan favorite, with tracks that are some of the most popular the band plays live. “The fact that people responded was very validating,” says Monks. “Because it wasn’t because we were a new band or because we were following the trend or fitting into the zeitgeist-y moment. It was really us doing our own thing. And people responded well to it.”
To celebrate the 10th anniversary of Champ, Tokyo Police Club will release a special edition of the album, featuring b-sides, demos, and remixes by Andy Rourke of The Smiths, Passion Pit and more. They’ll also perform the album in full live, broadcasting via Bandcamp from the Dine Alone Records office in Toronto on March 5th. “It’s going to be a chance to kind of walk through the album together,” says Monks.
“We’re trying to remember the songs more as like they were created, because they’ve sort of morphed and changed over time as we’ve played them live,” he says. “I think we’ll kind of be going back to some of the truer versions of them. They’re all true, but some of the original versions, and it’ll be great to walk through that and share it with the people who want to be there.”
As the anniversary draws closer, the band has just released a remix of the track “Gone,” featuring their long-time friends Matt and Kim, who they met before Champ came out. “We played with them at SXSW in 2006. They were big fans of Elephant Shell and we did a show with them in Brooklyn, and we just we just knew them from around and then we became friends,” says Monks. Tokyo Police Club toured with the duo too, and the remix sees Matt and Kim give “Gone” their trademark energetic indie-electro spin.
Along with the remix, Tokyo Police Club have also released a new single, one that was recorded for the Champ sessions but didn’t make it to the album, “Hundred Dollar Day.” “I feel like my songwriting journey just keeps changing,” says Monks, reflecting on creating the track all those years ago. “I listened to ‘Hundred Dollar Day’ and I was struck by the vocals, and I could really feel the passion in my voice. Even though some of the songwriting is a mystery to me now, like, how I arrived there, I’m connecting with that vocal.”
Re-connecting with Champ is a time for Tokyo Police Club to take ownership of all that the album had been and still is. Monks says it’s particularly helpful as the band, who has spent a lot of the pandemic watching Netflix Party together from their respective homes, works on new music. “Going back to it now, and being able to enjoy it as a success among the people that love it is very heartening,” he says. “It’s a reminder that we were carving a good path and we’re still carving a good path now.”