HotStar: The Ting Tings

Legends tell of a bird that bursts into flame at the end of its life, only to be reborn from the ashes. The story is an apt metaphor for The Ting Tings’ career, although the duo sort of turned it on its head, emerging from the ruins of a previous band to set the world on fire.

Katie White and Jules De Martino met a few years ago in a rehearsal studio in Manchester, U.K., and began writing together, eventually drafting a DJ in 2004 to form Dear Eskimo.

The trio signed to Mercury Records and lasted about a year before they were unceremoniously dropped, an experience that left White and De Martino with a distaste for the industry.

"We put everything into that band; it had become our lives," White told Pollstar. "Naïvely, when you get signed, you’re like, ‘Wow, we’re on our way.’ But that isn’t really the case. You hear of so many bands that get signed and dropped before they get their record out.

"It was a horrible experience, but in hindsight, it was a complete blessing in disguise because it gave us a little bit of a chip on our shoulder."

The pair retreated to Islington Mill, a former cotton mill converted into an artists’ community near Manchester’s city center, and, once Dear Eskimo was officially over and they were a duo, began writing songs to play for friends during "shows in our living room."

That’s when things got interesting. The performances, held every couple of weeks, quickly grew from a social gathering into an industry event.

"At the first, there were 25 artists in the Mill and a couple of friends," White recalled. "At the second, they told a hundred of their friends. The third was advertised on the local radio, which was really weird because it was a house gig. And at the fourth, the head of Sony America came and sat on the floor with all the U.K. music industry people."

A key architect of the buzz was Out There Management’s Stephen Taverner, whom the band met just before the demise of Dear Eskimo.

"They’d been dropped by Mercury and abandoned by their manager," Taverner told Pollstar. "I don’t think they were very pleased to see me because I think they’d had enough of the music industry. But I just really liked their songs.

"I went to see Dear Eskimo and it was so obvious that Katie was a complete star. And at the time Jules was playing guitar, but he talked about the band like he was the producer."

They warily agreed to work with Taverner, who encouraged them to keep writing and trying new sounds and setups, which eventually led to the birth of The Ting Tings, followed by the independent release of a double a-sided single, "That’s Not My Name / Great DJ."

The band was soon besieged by agents, including X-Ray Touring’s Steve Strange, whom White said "hunted us down in a hotel in London the day we signed with Columbia and proceeded to give us a two-hour lecture on why he should be our agent and how much he believed in us," and Paradigm’s Marty Diamond who "flew to see one of our small London shows and cornered us in a dressing room." Both pitches worked.

"They’re both absolute stars," Diamond told Pollstar. "They just radiate on stage."

The Ting Tings have had no trouble replicating the energy of those first shows on the road in the U.K. and the States, where the band has been greeted with rabid audience response.

"We’re doing sellout business on every show we’ve done so far," Diamond said. "And they sold out the first wave of shows before [We Started Nothing] was out. We’re now going back into some cities for the second or third time. It’s just growing exponentially."

The plan for The Ting Tings’ future is to bring them back to the States often – every other month if possible – to, as Diamond puts it, "build up layers."

"Tav has got a really good plan and he’s a pleasure to work with," he said. "The band is also a pleasure to work with; they say ‘Thank you.’ They appreciate everyone’s efforts, from mine to the label’s. It’s a treat."

Diamond added Taverner’s strategy is aided by the simplicity of the band’s setup.

"They’re not 12 people on the road – at least not yet."

And how do White and De Martino feel now that they find themselves back in the belly of the beast? Just fine, thanks.

"We’re just enjoying it so much more this time because we know that – it sounds horrible to say – but it’s a bullshitty industry," White said. "There are some lovely people who work in it, but there’s a lot of bullshit.

"Because we know that going into it, we’re not taken in by anything. Apart from being creative, working on our album and putting on good shows, the rest doesn’t really have much impact on us, which I think is a good thing because it shouldn’t be about that."