TV on the Radio: "We Faded Out the Question Marks and Faded In the Exclamation Point"

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On September 23rd, TV On the Radio will return with Dear Science, the group's follow-up to their breakthrough record Return To Cookie Mountain. Rolling Stone caught up with the band to talk about the making of the new disc, why the group set out to make a more dancier, upbeat album than the doom-and-gloom mood of Cookie Mountain and some of the ridiculous alternate titles that the group batted around.

Your new record Dear Science has a much cleaner vibe than the industrial mood of Return to Cookie Mountain. What ideas did you guys have when you set out to make this record?
Tunde Adebimpe: Well, I think going into it, we always try to come to recording pretty fresh and the time that we have off from touring, everybody kind of goes back into their cave and makes some demos. This time the only thing that got tossed around loosely was that everybody wanted to make a dance record, or at least our version of a dance record. The songs that got brought in kind of ended up being that way. We're not as murky as we had been before. I like it when I go to a concert and I get lost in a group of people who are just dancing as if they were in a club. It's more about a collective experience instead of a passive observational thing.
Dave Sitek: These songs are just cleaner and punchier. With this record, we faded out the question mark and faded in the exclamation point.

How many songs did you prepare?
TA: When we started this record we probably had about 32 or 33 songs in demo form that were brought in, and then we kept whittling that down to fourteen or so that ended up on the record.

Any plans to release the leftover demos?
DS: We have hard drives full of stuff. We recorded 26 songs for the record and we only really finished 13. We'll put them out when we're all in tax trouble. Who knows?

What's the title refer to?
TA: Dave had written this letter addressed to science in kind of a kid's handwriting and it said, "Dear Science, please fix all the things you keep talking about or shut the fuck up." And that ended up in the washer when we were picking titles. I think we're going to post all of the titles, because while we were recording the record, everyone would give their two cents as to what the title should be. There's a long, long list of horrible titles. Dear Science is probably the most tasteful of all of those.

What other titles were kicked around?
TA: Black Versus French Fries in the Battle For The Delicious Universe and Thick as Chicken Feed. There were several food related ones and they were just horrible. When you open the floodgates for ridiculousness, you get a little bit too ridiculous.

One of the best songs on the record is "Lover's Day," which explicity deals with having sex. Who is the lucky recipient?
Kyp Malone: I wrote it specifically to be a gender-neutral, sex-positive love song so anyone can apply it any aspect of life. But any time my daughter hears it, she says, "That's for Jessie." She's my girlfriend. Sex is the spice of life, you know. It's how we all got here. A lot of songs that are sex positive are very predatory — it's within the binary of gender politics. That's boring to me. It's not reflective of the world we live in.

Did your decision to move away from the gloomy atmospheric jams on Return To Cookie Mountain towards more dancier, upbeat tracks have anything to do with the impending end of the Bush regime?
TA: I personally think it's a cause for celebration. If anyone would like to use the soundtrack for that, please blast it on 11.

Dave, you are known for using unconventional recording techniques as a producer. What did you experiment with this time around?
DS: There were times when I set up a shitty 1980s Sharp home stereo out in the hallway and then a microphone clear at the other end, and I blasted the song out of the shitty home stereo and recorded it through the home stereo. There was a lot of that kind of tomfoolery.

For your last record, you smoked copious amounts of weed for inspiration. How many bowls a day for Dear, Science?
DS: I'd say probably slightly less than Return to Cookie Mountain. I'm in my thirties, you know. I'm slowing down.

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