When they decided to decamp to Ibiza to record their third album Super Critical, Katie and Jules from THE TING TINGS had a slight 'uh-oh' moment. 'We'd been to Berlin to make the second record,' says Jules, 'and done nothing but get high and look at great architecture. Going to Ibiza had party written all over it. Obviously we were going to get nothing done.' As it turned out, unleashing their party spirit was exactly the impetus and momentum needed to craft something special and true to the starting spirit of their musical adventures. THE TING TINGS were born out of the night-time. They bonded at sun-up, wired in Salford warehouses. Success came as a surprising blind-side to them. Being in the middle of an island for the winter, having to make all their own fun? This is the stuff they excel at.
Physically, Super Critical began in a rented Finca not far from the town of Santa Gertrudis. Emotionally, the starting point for the record was the touchstone glamour and twilit excess of 70s New York. Katie happened upon a picture that would come to foreshadow everything they locked into the record, of Diana Ross emerging from behind a curtain into the DJ booth at Studio 54. 'Everything about her, the dress, the hair, the make-up, made her look like the most exotic and effortless creation,' says Katie. 'She was so glamorous, so of a moment, so not overdone. If we could get a sound even 5% close to what that picture was giving us, we knew we were onto something.' The duo became obsessed with the idea of a lost night-time history, pre-EDM, stadium house, the Vegas-isation of the beat, even before acid house, and started to imagine the possibilities of a party through the prism of the past. 'Rhythm was the basis for everything that happened on this record.' Groove was in their heart.
First single "Wrong Club" spells its intent out in bold letters. Cut at a median cross-point of the Holy Grail of all crate-digging disco evangelism it taps its toe to Chic and Tom Tom Club without sacrificing any of the unique, angular noise the band had fashioned back in Salford, shouting diffidently along to an effects pedal. TING TINGS V.3.0 started to sound warm, woody, organic and original. Modernity had happened from looking backwards. Fashioning a record that was the direct antithesis of pilled-up, casually-clothed, wasted 4am gurners became a new mission statement for the band. 'We found ourselves with something to say again,' says Jules. 'Something to react against,' qualifies Katie. Like all the best Northern art, at least in spirit, The Ting Tings has always been a venture in exploring what you hate as much as what you love. That's how elites happen.
'We had a difficult time making our second record,' says Katie. 'It was a perfect storm of everything going wrong.' To paraphrase another Manchester music master, they can laugh about it now. At the time, obviously, it was terrible. 'We made a first record where everything worked and then spent two years making another one with a lot of suits trying to tell us what had worked about it, even though they weren't there.' 'We delivered a difficult record to a difficult record label,' says Jules, more circumspectly. 'It was never going to happen. I don't regret a minute of it. It freed us to go our own way and to re-learn everything again.'
Before arriving in Ibiza, THE TING TINGS extricated themselves from their record label obligations. Their rented accommodation was owned by someone whose father-in-law was a famous printer, responsible for academies in Paris and New York. Her husband was a jazz musician. They found themselves drifting through the island's established nightclub demimonde distractedly and decided to throw their own parties. On New Year's Eve 2013 at 7am even the weathered stalwarts of the islands nightclub culture shook their hands as they left Pikes nightclub, thanking them for rejuvenating a spirit Ibiza had not seen since the openings of Pacha, before all that. This new found love of the night-time would echo around the Super Critical.
They found artists and musicians decamped to the island for its climate and temperament, an old idyll of bohemia. Someone introduced them to Duran Duran's stalwart guitarist Andy Taylor and he became a party alumnus, before bringing some of the magic he had commandeered in his old world-conquering phenomenon to studio sessions with Katie and Jules. They are notoriously resistant to working with outside interests. 'Something happens between the two of us in the studio,' says Jules 'which is very hard to be around.' They had been offered work as hitmakers for hire, for artists like David Guetta and Katy Perry. 'It just doesn't happen like that with us,' says Katie. 'The hits we've written have been happy accidents.' Andy offered to help sift through some old demos. 'He kept on telling us, there's gold in here.'
Songs began emerging. 'It felt like making a record while partying in your bedroom,' says Jules, 'which is pretty much exactly how we made the first album. In 9 months we became like family. It was a massive education for us. His old analogue approach, the studio set-ups he used in the 80s with Duran were perfect for the sound we were looking for. That approach isn't around anymore. Studio people don't know how to achieve it.'
Word began spreading about a newer, friendlier incarnation of THE TING TINGS, one with a backbone of pure disco pizzazz. Offers were tabled from record labels. Katie and Jules were flown to LA on the back of one playback of Wrong Club. In the end, they booked a month at Avatar studios in New York and did the whole damn thing themselves. Their old manager is back on board. Super Critical is not just about Katie and Jules making a hook-stuffed, glowing, confrontational, warm, wordy and wonderful modern disco record. It was about finding out who they are again. About going away to come back home. 'Where we are right now feels exactly where we should be,' says Katie. 'I feel like dressing up and going out again,' says Jules. 'And that feels perfect.'