TV on the Radio made their name by quixotically expanding the potential for making sound, but it’s futuristic dance music that defines their future.
Dear Science, the Brooklyn band’s second major-label release, has them pushing beyond their cryptic art rock to create a swinging sound that intellectualizes as much as it sweats.
“The albums are all different, and that’s part of the approach – to keep yourself interested,” says drummer Jaleel Bunton by phone at the outset of TV on the Radio’s fall tour. “We went about this in the same way.”
The major difference in approach for this one, Bunton says, is how democratic the group has become since coalescing into the lineup you see now.
“As far as writing, there was more collaboration, which didn’t necessarily happen before,” he says. “We’re growing together as a unit. We’re more cohesive now.”
Bunton, a guitar player first and self-described “hack and charlatan” on the rims, was only filling in when TVOTR embarked on an early-career tour. That was some five years ago.
“I had no idea I’d be on tour for the rest of my life,” he says.
What keeps him there is the collective’s intuitive ability to mine soul-searing plateaus out of what could be an unworkable concept on paper.
“Musicianship is a weird thing,” Bunton says as an introduction to his drumming. “I know plenty of versatile musicians whom I can’t stand to listen to. It’s way more about intent. It’s not that you shouldn’t have some kind of virtuosity, but if you can make your emotional statement translate, then you’ve succeeded in making art.”
And if TV on the Radio’s brash beats and chimerical harmonies offer no tidy comparisons, it’s not because the group intended it.
“That should be par for the course,” Bunton says. “In the era and time we live in, we’re exposed to music from every part of the world and every time period. It just seems impossible to define yourself in one way.