Feisty pop duo Katie White and Jules De Martino – aka The Ting Tings went from gigging in tiny UK pubs to shifting two million copies of their debut album We Started Nothing. As their genre-hopping second record Sounds from Nowheresville lands in UAE record stores, we spoke to De Martino for the lowdown.
The album cover features the duo as skeletons, which De Martino felt summed up the state they were in. ‘Usually we’re in control of what we do creatively and on the road. People would say, “You’ve got to do this – it’s going to make you the biggest band in the world,” and we’re good at saying, “We don’t fancy it.” Then, ironically, we were on a tour in the States and Katie was feeling ill for a week, and everyone was like, “It’s just a bug, she’ll be fine,” and it wasn’t. She weighed less than 45kg and she collapsed. It was her whole immune system starting to attack itself because it was so confused and so tired. She was flown back to the UK and spent two weeks in hospital. We’re a smart band, but we felt stupid. That was a wake-up call.’
They’re not comfortable with showbiz. ‘Walking down the red carpet at the Grammys wearing the most expensive, white leather Gucci jacket made me think: Why am I wearing this? But the whole of LA was going, “You look amazing!” and I fell for it, thinking: Yeah dawg, I’m vogue – this is all me! But by the 15th interview, I cracked, I started laughing. I had to get that jacket off, it felt like a straitjacket.’
They’ve never come to blows. Apart from that one time. ‘Maybe three years ago, one of the first awards we won was a Vodafone award and it was followed by one of the first very tired, frustrated arguments in the hotel bar with the crew, and it just got out of hand. We had the awards on the bar, and people tell us that the night ended at 4am with us waving these awards and threatening each other!
They’re massive in Jakarta… It was a 5,000-capacity venue that was so overloaded that it got to 8,000 people. Before we went on this politician or military leader came up on the screen and everyone went really quiet. We were about to go on and punk up, and were like, “This isn’t going to go down well.” When we got on stage the audience sung every lyric to the songs off the first album.
…and their fans know all the words. ‘When I say “every lyric”, I don’t mean they just sang the hits – it was from the very first chord to the end. The last place we expected that to happen is somewhere like Jakarta. Mental!’
But Russia’s only just catching up. ‘New Year just gone, we played Moscow. When we came off stage we had so many people wanting to meet us, and most of them said, “I love your band, what’s that song you played? When are you going to release it?” It’s literally three years after the album came out, and our managers were there rubbing their hands together thinking, “Fantastic, we can do this all again in Russia.” And we were like, “No! We’ve had enough of that record!”
De Martino is documenting all these experiences for prosperity. ‘Before my grandfather died, his mind started going and he couldn’t remember things. And I said to Katie, “Imagine waking up and saying, I don’t remember going to Russia! I don’t remember being in a band!” If I start going a bit senile, then people can show me the scrapbook: “Look, you wrote it down.”