As if criss-crossing the globe for a year and a half, performing on "Letterman" and hitting the coolest festivals weren't enough, Tapes 'N Tapes' booking agents wanted the band to keep touring last spring, but the band said no. Their reason: They couldn't wait to get started on their second album, "Walk It Off," which comes out Tuesday.
"The touring had gone extremely well, but there are only so many ways you can play the same 15 songs," frontman Josh Grier recalled.
Bassist Erik Appelwick chimed in: "And ironically, we just found out we can't play a couple of those 15 songs any way right now."
"Walk It Off" is at the very least a successful follow-up to 2006's "The Loon." It improves on the earlier album's Pixies-ish nervous energy and stop/go/go-faster rhythmic patterns. But "Walk It Off" doesn't just avoid the sophomore slump -- it has the marks of a career-making album, a full band in all its blazing glory.
"We toured so much, and we even got to play a lot of these songs on the road to try them out -- I think that's a big difference," Grier said.
They also had a name-brand producer to expand those possibilities: David Fridmann, known for working with the Flaming Lips, Sleater-Kinney and Low. The producer pretty well stuck with TNT's wish to record every song close to how it sounds onstage.
The best new songs carry the same backhanded punch that they do in concert, including the storm-building first single, "Hang Them All," the Modest Mouse-y gem "Headshock" and the band's wickedest jam yet, "Demon Apple." There are a few tender moments, such as the organ-tinged "Say Something Back." But mostly, it's all full-volume and full-steam-ahead.
Lyrically, "Walk It Off" is more obtuse than "The Loon," with lots of fearful themes and struggling narratives but no clear message. The track most easily plumbed for meaning is the opener "Le Ruse," which some might interpret as a retort to the band's sudden bout with fame and infamy. Grier didn't have much to say about that: "It's an interesting, potentially valid interpretation," he said with a sideways grin, and left it at that.
The TNT hype machine has returned as "Walk It Off" nears release. The band is scheduled to perform on "Late Night With Conan O'Brien" on Wednesday, the night before its CD release show at First Avenue. So is this the start of another year and a half of touring? "I hope so," Appelwick immediately responded.
Grier sounded less hopeful. That might be because he's the lone married man in the bunch. The redheaded frontman -- unbelievably! -- still holds down the same day job as a data analyst that he had before "The Loon." "I'm a good worker, so they keep me around," he said. "It helps keep things more normal for me."
Grier nonetheless said he's more confident about the buildup for "Walk It Off" than he was before "The Loon's" 2006 re-release.
"Now, everything's more all at once, and a schedule's been laid out," he said. "We start touring two days after the record comes out, and we know we're going to be doing it a while."
Plus, he added, "We're just really excited to get to play these songs live."
Let's hope that's still the case a year and a half from now.