It's extremely challenging keeping a group together long enough to interest a record label. Though sometimes that's just when the troubles get serious.
The Manchester band, Dear Eskimo, with Katie White and Jules De Martino, inked a contract with Mercury Records. And then things unraveled. Creative differences and the label's management style brought the deal to an abrupt end.
White and De Martino then formed Ting Tings - a name suggested by a Chinese friend of White's. Apparently, the name sounds like the Mandarin for "an old bandstand." Also, Ting Tings is said to be similar to a character in the Japanese alphabet.
Manchester shows built a buzz but given the bad taste the Mercury experience left, White and DeMartino decided to cast their fate with an indie label, Switchflicker. A couple singles ("That's Not My Name/Great DJ" and "Fruit Machine") rolled out and managed to get limited airplay.
An appearance on Later With Jools Holland and BBC Introducing (called "life changing" by the band) led to placing third in the BBC 6 Music Poll - Sounds Of 2008 (behind acoustic singer songwriter Adele and Soul singer Duffy).
Landing on Columbia Records, "Great DJ" was re-issued with a stronger promotional push. Though the single "Shut Up And Let Me Go" peaked at #55 on the Billboard Hot 100, the song appeared in an '08 iPod commercial. Also, the track was heard on the TV show Gossip Girls, as was "We Started Nothing." "Be The One" was featured on One Tree Hill. Meanwhile, "That's Not My Name" topped the U.K. singles chart.
Ting Tings debut U.S. album, "We Started Nothing" arrived in June '08. A month later, the iTunes connection led to a performance at the Live London Festival. Their show was later issued as a downloadable EP titled "iTunes Live: London Festival '08." The group also played during one of the breaks/interludes at the 2008 MTV Video Music Awards. Backed by former Blink 182 drummer Travis Barker and DJ AM, the Ting Tings played a portion of "Shut Up And Let Me Go."
Ting Tings picked up an Ivor Novello Award for Best Album but they lost the Grammy for Best New Artist to the Zac Brown Band.
Though the writing of their sophomore album began in Paris, the initial recording was done in Berlin. "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," stated de Martino. "I think that if we'd have gone back to Manchester we'd have been a mess." But the Ting Tings weren't completely happy with the Berlin results so they ditched some tracks and tried again in the U.K. continuing to self-produce their music.
"We're complete control freaks -- I don't think we could work with anyone else," said White. "We'd have a heart attack if they changed one little beat."
After toying with a couple lewd titles for their second album, the group settled on a much safer "Sounds From Nowheresville" which featured the songs "Soul Killing" and "Hang It Up."
The minimalist, DIY approach serves the Ting Tings well on their debut, "We Started Nothing." Whether on the pulsating, lo-fi "Great DJ" or jumping back to "Rapture" era Blondie for "Shut Up And Let Me Go," Ting Tings inject their songs with a confident cool that more produced acts often fail to achieve.
When a critic or fan describes an album as having 'something for everyone', it usually means there's 'nothing for anyone'. "Sounds From Nowheresville" actually fits that description but, surprisingly, delivers. The 'something for everyone' is catchy pop ("Hit Me Down Sonny"), synth pop ("One By One"), Dance Rock, again ala Blondie ("Hang It Up"), Post-Punk ("Give It Back") and a dash of Reggae ("Soul Killing"). Though the set eventually trails off ("Help" and "In Your Life"), White's vocals which range from saccharin (in a good way) to biting hold it all together.