“There was a really humbling moment in one of our first shows, where people in the audience were holding up their phones and singing along to our songs,” Ian Kenny, Birds of Tokyo frontman, says.
“That’s a moment you never forget. It makes you aware of the raw emotions you can bring out in people with music.”
Sitting in a café in San Francisco, Kenny and guitarist Adam Spark exhibit a palpable earnestness as they discuss the excitement of potential worldwide superstardom. Up until recent months, the Perth-born collective were largely unknown in the U.S., paling in stark contrast to the massive cult following they’ve built in their home country of Australia and much of Europe. But with the band’s infectious breakthrough hit “Lanterns” catching fire on stateside radio—and a rousing performance on Jimmy Kimmel Live—momentum is quickly building for the rock outfit. In a fitting turn of events, the band relocated to Los Angeles, where it continues to record and hone its polished, energetic sound.
The five piece, which includes bassists Ian Berney, keyboardist Glenn Sarangapany and drummer Adam Weston, are accustomed to an accelerated trajectory of success, having experienced a rapid rise to notoriety after the release of the band’s first studio album, 2007’s Day One.
“Our first record really developed from the standpoint of wanting to create anthems. We really wrote for other people,” Kenny says. Having formed in 2004 when Spark approached Kenny to simply record some vocals, the duo quickly grasped the magnitude of their dynamic, and approached additional members to form a full-fledged group. The success of Day One catapulted Birds of Tokyo to the forefront of the Aria awards, Australia’s annual music industry honors, and landed them on Rolling Stone’s “Artists to Watch” in 2007.
Since then, the band released three follow up studio albums, Universes, Birds of Tokyo and the most recent full-length LP, March Fires—which was certified gold within the span of a month.
“We’re always having a discussion of where we see ourselves as a band,” Sparks says. “We’re interested in building a relationship with our fans, and we’ve become quite aware we have an audience.”
Sparks says the band’s songwriting methodology hinges on cerebral; the members simply write what feels right and comes naturally, but that inevitably veers toward emotionally charged anthems. “The more that things get bigger and the faster you go—especially with the technology mediums we’ve become adapted to—it’s easy to lose human contact,” Kenny says. “Staying emotionally connected is important to us. It’s important to still be inspired by personalization.”
The poignant notion of remaining personally connected throughout Birds of Tokyo’s success is what may be the key to the band’s appeal. There’s an authenticity that emanates from the band, one that overtly demonstrates its connectivity to the challenges and people who’ve fueled its direction. “Ultimately, the gift of peering into the world is what makes it exciting,” Sparks says. “You’re completely in control of your own destiny. If we’re lucky enough to go all the way, I want to know we did it with heart. That’s what matters. Do the whole thing genuinely and completely devote yourself to it, and success will follow.”