Katie White. That's her fucking name. And when you put her together with fellow Brit Jules De Martino, you have The Ting Tings, an electro-pop act hailing from the United Kingdom.
The two met in London when White was 19, and bonded over their love of well-crafted pop music. Soon, they were The Ting Tings. And soon, they released their first album, We Started Nothing. And soon, you could not find a radio station that wasn't playing their hit single "That's Not My Name." They quickly followed that up with another impossibly catchy single, "Shut Up and Let Me Go."
That first album was made with a nonexistent budget in the band's Manchester workspace. "We didn’t anticipate to be able to go all around the world and have 10,000 people in South America and Russia know every lyric to every song," White told New Times. But, expected or not, it happened. And White and De Martino have now released their third studio album, Super Critical. The album was recorded in Ibiza, and White found inspiration in the disco glory days of Studio 54 while recording it.
We spoke to White before she and the other half of The Ting Tings come to Revolution Live on April 16. The 32-year-old singer talked to us about her musical past, the origin story of The Ting Tings, and the difference between British and American crowds.
New Times: When did you first fall in love with music? Katie White: I was a dancer from two-years-old. I did ballet and things like that until I was about 15. Then I quickly flipped it. I quit dancing, got into writing songs, and made my friends be in a band with me. When I really wanted to be in a band band I was about 19 and moved to Islington Mill, which was a huge cotton mill in Manchester that had 40 artists with work spaces there. We lived there for four or five years and when we got there we didn’t know about bands like Talking Heads or Smiths and Blondie.
When did you know you and Jules De Martino were a musical match? We met in London when I was about 19. We were both in separate bands that we weren’t that into. I was in Manchester and Jules had a lot of friends studying in Manchester so when I heard he moved there I was like, we’ve got to keep writing together. We loved pop music. I think that was the main thing — we loved pop songs. We liked clever, authentic pop songs. They’re so hard to write but they’re the ones we loved. You can write something really catchy, but then you need an edge to them. Your debut album We Started Nothing was a smash very quickly. Was that very surprising? Yeah, we made that first record ourselves in our little workspace where we lived and worked. It was made for no money. We never thought — we dreamed it would — but I don’t think any musician ever thinks they’ll be successful because the odds are so slim if you look at how many great musicians there are and how little have success. We didn’t anticipate to be able to go all around the world and have 10,000 people in South America and Russia know every lyric to every song.
Your new album Super Critical was recorded in Ibiza, which is known for its partying was that a hard place to concentrate and work on it? It wasn’t until the summer. We were lucky we went there to rehearse and I don’t know how we ended up living there, but we did. Offseason Ibiza is a really interesting place because it’s quite empty and the people that are there are quite odd characters that either don’t want the party to end or have been there since the ‘60’s. It attracts an interesting sort of person. We fell in love with it and managed to go through the whole summer locked in the studio, but when it got to the following summer we had to leave because it got so distracting. There were so many parties that we left to go to mainland Spain so we could work and rehearse and not get too distracted.
The album seemed influenced more by disco than Ibiza house music. It’s typical us to make a record that sounds nothing like the place we recorded it. We went there and anticipated we’d be influenced by DJ culture. We didn’t want to make EDM music, but we found it interesting how DJs constructed their songs. It’s not verse, chorus, bridge, which is how we do it. When we got there we went to some of the best clubs in the world and the best DJs you can see, we saw. And we loved it but we realized we didn’t want to make music that sounded like that. So we went back to our little studio and started thinking, can you imagine being Blondie at CBGB or imagine being Diana Ross at Studio 54? And we slowly fell in love with that time. We became good friends with Andy [Taylor, who co-produced the album] and we didn’t realize he had this musical heritage of disco and funk. I knew Duran Duran’s greatest hits, but I didn’t know much about him. He would tell us stories of the time. I found a picture of Diana Ross in a DJ booth and he was like, 'Oh I was there that night.' He was full of amazing stories. He had a huge knowledge of this type of music. Is your live show trying to get that Blondie/Diana Ross at Studio 54 feeling? A little bit. We always change up our songs live even on the first album because there’s two of us. We make it a little more punky. It feels like we have to be more aggressive live. We had to think about how we perform it, because it’s a very smooth sounding album, but we don’t want to perform it smooth — where I come out in a sequin dress with a disco ball. It would seem a bit obvious. We found a DJ who keeps the groove going. Since we have someone keeping the groove we can be aggressive and punky. It took a while to mix it all together, but I think now it’s really working.
You talk about Blondie at CBGB. Is there a venue that you’d one day tell your grandkids, we played there? There’s a really famous festival in the UK called Glastonbury and we played there as a new band right in our beginning and we played in front of 75 people. We were so happy. I can’t believe we played in front of 75 people! We went back the following year and played in front of 15,000 and it blew our minds that all these people found us. We went back the following year and we played in front of 65,000 people. It was so interesting because over 3 years we could see how many people found our band. It was a special moment. I almost couldn’t perform because my mouth was open because so many people found us.
Do you see a difference between British and American audiences? Yes. They’re quite similar except American audiences like to shout things at you between songs. They will heckle you in a nice way, which generally would not happen in the UK. They’re a bit more loose. Us Brits are more uptight. If Americans want to dance, they’ll dance. If they want to shout, they’ll shout.
The Ting Tings. Thursday, April 16, at Revolution Live, 100 SW 3rd Ave, Fort Lauderdale. Tickets cost $17.50 plus fees. Call 954-449-1025 or visit jointherevolution.net.
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