Starting a long U.S. tour for a new record can be a nerve-wracking venture for even the most seasoned act. The U.K.-based Ting Tings faced an additional obstacle in March as they prepared to set off: Singer/guitarist Katie White came down with appendicitis and had to be rushed to the hospital at 3 a.m. for surgery.
“When we got the news that she was going under the knife, we didn’t think we were going to be able to tour,” says Jules de Martino, the duo’s other Ting. “It was supposed to be a two-week recovery before she could do anything athletic, like jumping around on stage.” That would mean a significant delay in touring for the band’s second album, “Sounds From Nowheresville.”
It’s a testament to White’s determination that the Ting Tings played their next show just six days later. “We didn’t know if her stomach was going to split open,” says de Martino. “But she got stronger and stronger and wanted to go for it. I don’t think I could have done it that quickly.”
That scrappy tenacity is reflected in the Ting Tings’ music, a feisty sonic assault of dance rhythms, hip-hop beats and bubblegum pop melodies. In 2008, before they had recorded an album or signed a record contract, the duo scored a couple of out-of-nowhere hits with “That’s Not My Name” and “Great DJ,” which vaulted them to the top of the charts in Europe in 2009.
The sudden fame had a dizzying effect. “We were doing festivals in front of 50,000 people, and you can’t really see the audience,” says de Martino. “You can get pretty detached.” Trying to reconnect with their fans this time around, the Ting Tings launched a tour of smaller venues that will get them closer to the audience.
Above all, says de Martino, the band’s mission now is to keep things shaken up — while avoiding emergency rooms. “I’m not saying Katie’s operation was a good thing, but everything was turned upside down. In a way, that’s just how we want it to be.”
The biggest departure on “Sounds From Nowheresville” is “Soul Killing,” which mixes White’s pop vocals with de Martino’s reggae rhythms and sounds like the Spice Girls backed by The Police, circa “Outlandos d’Amour.”9:30 Club, 815 V St. NW; with MNDR; Thu., 7 p.m., sold out; 202-265-0930. (U Street)