Musicians are no strangers to making sacrifices for the sake of art, but when you’re a New York-based band like TV/TV, those sacrifices can translate to slightly extreme risks — like getting the boot from your conveniently located downtown apartment. After overcoming their first hurdle by escaping eviction and the confines of the standard, spatially challenged New York City apartment, the band has found themselves nestled in the center of that hub of pop culture that we call MTV. Their music has been featured on MTV’s pseudo-soap opera dramas like The Hills, The Real World, and even an episode of Made. Now, on the verge of their upcoming stint on the 2009 Vans Warped Tour, lead singer Josh Ocean weighs in on their ability to think outside the box — because New York City landlords be damned, TV/TV will not be silenced.
Your band got practice by jamming out in your living room in the East Village. Didn’t that piss off your neighbors? Oh yeah. We got letters saying they were going to kick us out maybe three times. And because we had an electric drum set, all you could really hear was the stomping. The landlord would call saying, “I hear you’re singing in the apartment!” And I was like, who cares? I can sing in my own apartment! But when it came time to renew our lease, she said “Sorry, but because of the noise complaints we’re not going to let you renew the lease.” Finally though, we got them to put us in the basement apartment of the building, so she threatened us like three times, but in the end it worked out.
Did you always dream of being in a band or did it just happen? Its kind of both. I’ve been writing songs since I was 13. I even had a crappy pop-punk band when I was in high school, but when I went to college I sort of gave up on being in a band and got into just recording and making weird demos. I went to school in Hawaii, and when I came back to New York, I decided to start a band for fun. I started writing with my roommate in the apartment, and then we began playing around the city, and when it started going really well, we realized that we needed to put a full band together
An episode of MTV’s Made recently aired where you taught someone how to be a rock star. What are the top three qualities that a rock star should have? I think number one is self-confidence — be confident in doing crazy things. Next, someone who knows how to have a good time and get people pumped up because that’s the job. People come to see you to have a good time, and to be entertained, so I think you need to have some sort of exciting qualities about yourself. And number three, I think there’s got to be some frustration or angst that gets you pissed and gets you going, because all rock bands are talking about stuff that gets to them. You’ve got to be able to channel that out.
MTV has been an integral part of your success so far. Did you grow up on MTV? I was actually talking to the MTV people about this recently. When I was in high school, it was lame — like, “Oh my god, this band is on MTV, screw them!” But now the music industry has changed so much, and it’s not like that anymore. I’m happy to have MTV be really supportive of the band, because it gets our music out to listeners. Kids are hearing music in different ways, and I think it’s a really great asset for any band to be able to have their music on MTV.
So what’s the coolest place that you’ve heard one of your songs? I don’t watch TV, so I don’t really get to see or hear them that much, but the video games like NHL ’09 is pretty cool. And I love being out somewhere and hearing one of our songs playing in the bar or in a store.
How would you describe the music you make now, and how is it evolving? It’s really exciting right now because we’re recording our second album, and it’s a complete transformation of our band from the more pop-punky younger sound of the first one. When we release this new album, we’re really getting ready to make the transformation into a big sounding rock band that still has all the exciting energy and excitement that people liked from the EP. We came from the New York indie scene at first, but we’re really just making that transformation into that big rock band. The stuff we’re working on now, I’m super excited about because it’s the music I’ve always wanted to make.
Does being a New York-based band influence the sound of your music? That’s a huge part of it. All the songs are about being young in New York, being frustrated by certain things that we come across, and being inspired by things that we come across. Just the struggle, the life, all the ups-and-downs, it’s definitely channeled into both the last EP and the upcoming one.
Are your biggest musical influences more contemporary bands or artists from decades past? I think it’s a mix of both. The Killers are the biggest influence on me, but also bands like The Hives, U2, The Police, and The Rolling Stones. I’m definitely influenced by stuff that’s going on right now, even Lady Gaga for example, but mostly my roots are in the classic rock bands. Our bass player is really influenced by indie bands like Radiohead and Spoon, and then our guitar player finds most of his influence from The Beach Boys and The Beatles, to Michael Jackson. So between us we cover so much of the musical spectrum which is great.
What’s the ride been like up until this point? There is a lot of struggle, we have to deal with certain pressures and responsibilities as far as releasing music, dealing with agreements, and licensing. But all of the bullshit gets canceled out by the fun and the excitement of being involved in the music industry, and being able to do some of the things that we’ve done. That cancels out all of the bad stuff and makes it totally worth it.
Photo by Adam Elmakias.