If you’re piloting a band that’s riding a rocket to pop stardom, you expect a certain amount of scrutiny and hyperbole.
But you know a frontier has been crossed when newspapers breathlessly trumpet such “revelations” as your habit of washing your clothes in the sink while on tour, or that your clothes are full of holes because you don’t have the time to go shopping.
And if you make an offhand remark that your nerves are on edge because everything is going so well, it’s likely to be spun as “rapid rise to the top almost led to depression.”
Such things have been happening to vocalist-guitarist Katie White and drummer Jules De Martino, better known as white-hot British electro-pop duo The Ting Tings.
And, according to De Martino, there’s more in store. “Very soon you’re going to hear that Jules used to write with George Michael,” says De Martino over the phone from Manchester, where the Tings formed in 2006.
“And that Katie was living on a pig farm when she was younger, or that Jules used to be in a Christian rock band.
“None of that is true, of course. But there are so many things floating around,” he adds. “It’s really funny. We love it. We try to use our imagination to figure out where did this particular thing come from.”
De Martino suspects a prime candidate is Wikipedia, the online encyclopedia. “People in the UK go in and write anything they want, and the press picks up on it,” he says.
Thanks to the group’s debut CD, “We Started Nothing,” the British press has dubbed The Ting Tings “The Sound of 2008” and “by far the best pop band the UK has produced in years.”
The group, named after a Chinese woman White once worked with at a boutique, established itself with the dance-groovy chant-happy tracks “Great DJ,” “That’s Not My Name,” a No. 1 single in England, and “Shut Up and Let Me Go,” which Apple paid to use in a recent iPod ad. The Tings’ concerts have only burnished their reputation.
De Martino, 34, and White, 25, composed “We Started Nothing’s” songs together. “We had no set rules,” says De Martino.
Except one: “If the song didn’t happen within two hours, we scrapped it. ... If we didn’t have that ‘it’ factor we knew the song was weak.”
While The Tings have been compared to The B-52’s, Blondie and The Go! Team, De Martino says that Talking Heads and Tom Tom Club “are the two main bands that me and Katie both adore.”
Asked if he was ever obsessed with a performer, De Martino admits he was. “When I was really young I used to steal my parents records, because you can’t go out and you don’t have any money anyway,” he says. “They were big fans of Elvis. ... That was my first recollection of idolizing someone. I was imitating him all the time, miming to his records. I couldn’t get enough.
“After that, (his favorite music) was all song-based. My record collection is so vast, everything from Nirvana to funk and soul.”
In June, the Tings were part of the Popped! Philadelphia Music Festival, which featured Vampire Weekend, Gogol Bordello, Daniel Johnston and Slick Rick, among others. Though some acts played indoors at the Trocadero and World Cafe Live, the Tings played an early afternoon show outdoors at Drexel University.
“When we got to the festival, we thought, ‘With so many big names in the lineups, well who’s gonna come to see us, and what were we doing on so early?’” De Martino recalls.
“We were worried that there were only a few people hanging around near the stage, but then someone told us to look across the street. There were 400 people outside the gate queuing up already. That really shocked us. To come to the States and have an audience is always a shocker.”