UK’s Ting Tings expand sound




If you go

What: The Ting Tings in concert.

When: 8 p.m. March 26.

Where: The Wonder Ballroom, 128 N.E. Russell St., Portland.

Cost: $20-$22 through Ticketfly or at the door.

Information: Wonder Ballroom.

The Ting Tings are coming off a debut album of energetic pop that gave the duo considerable success, particularly in the United Kingdom. The uber-catchy single “That’s Not My Name” cracked the top 40 and sold more than 500,000 copies in the states, but it was a blockbuster hit in the U.K., where it topped the singles chart.

The duo’s debut CD, “We Started Nothing,” meanwhile, sold more than 2 million copies worldwide and spent 54 weeks on the Billboard magazine album chart in the states

And with their good looks and engaging stage presence, it’s easy to imagine this British duo of Katie White and Jules De Martino breaking big in this era when pop songs with a good dance beat and a big hook are basic ingredients of top 40 hits.

But White doesn’t see the Ting Tings as pop star material at all.

“We’re songwriters,” she said in an early March phone interview. “That’s what we love to do. We’re pretty crap pop stars. If you ask us what our favorite thing to do, it’s probably sitting somewhere writing ideas and trying to turn them into a reality, not particularly walking down a red carpet.”

The music on the Ting Tings’ newly released second CD, “Sounds From Nowheresville,” supports White’s assertion that she and De Martino are more interested in being creative with their music than chasing pop stardom.

Given the success of “That’s Not My Name,” they easily could have focused once again on simple, catchy, dance floor-ready pop tunes. But “Sounds From Nowheresville,” instead is a far different album than “We Started Nothing.”

Yes, there are a few tracks (“Give It Back” and “Soul Killing”) that have some of the same sassy and fun spirit of the first CD, but the most striking quality of “Sounds From Nowheresville” is its eclecticism. For instance, “Day To Day” is a poppy ballad that uses light hip-hop rhythms and acoustic guitar to accompany White’s sweet vocal melody. “Guggenheim” has a bit of Beck to it with its bash-up/hip-hop-ish chorus. “Hit Me Down Sonny” again pulls from hip-hop in its vocal cadence and beat before it shifts into a funky song-ending jam. “One By One” goes electronic with its blipping synthesizer and its suitably mechanic feel. The closing track, “In Your Life,” is a dark and stark ballad.

The musical variety didn’t happen by accident. White said she and De Martino wanted to experiment with a wide range of styles and felt trying to re-create the sound and feel of “We Started Nothing” would have been less than genuine.

“We just thought the best thing to do was write songs that we love, kind of try everything, and put it out in the open,” White said. “If we wanted to write a song that’s inspired by the Beastie Boys, why shouldn’t we? Or if we want to write the next song that comes from an obsession with Nancy Sinatra, why can’t we do that? I think that’s what keeps songwriters creative.”

The success White, 29, and De Martino, 42, have found with the Ting Tings has been a long time coming. The two met in London about 15 years ago and went on to form a group, Dear Eskiimo, that got signed by Mercury in 2005, but never finished an album for the label.

They then formed the Ting Tings and began writing, demoing and posting songs on MySpace. The songs gained a following, and made enough noise to get the attention of Columbia Records, which signed the group and released “We Started Nothing,” in 2008.

After the whirlwind of success that came with that CD, White and DeMartino set up shop in Berlin to begin work on a second CD.

They completed a full album of electronic-leaning tracks, only to decide it wasn’t the kind of album they wanted to make.

“So we packed our things and we headed to the south of Spain and finished the album there,” White said.

Now the group is on tour, playing a pretty even mix of songs from its two CDs and giving them a bit different sound on stage. As with earlier tours, it’s just White and De Martino on stage, but they create a bigger sound than one might expect.

“We want to generally play things hard and kind of punky live, so we’ve probably stripped it down a little bit,” White said. “But we have like those pedals that we copy sounds and we build it and build it. We’ll probably be using them even more (than on previous tours). We kind of swap instruments a lot. So Jules will be playing guitar on one song and on the drums (the next), then I’m on the guitar, and then I’m on keyboards and he’s on bass. We’re a really weird band because everyone thinks, ‘Oh, it’s really easy. Ting Tings, two people. So it won’t be a really big (sound).’ But we actually have like six instruments. It’s almost like there are six band members.”