TV on the Radio plants ‘Seeds’ at Belly Up Aspen

Andrew Travers
The Aspen Times
TV on the Radio will perform at Belly Up Aspen on Tuesday, July 28.
Courtesy photo |

If You Go …

What: TV on the Radio

Where: Belly Up Aspen

When: Tuesday, July 28, 8:30 p.m.

How much: $70 GA/$115 Reserved

Tickets: Belly Up box office;

Most of Tunde Adebimpe’s favorite bands broke up after five years or so. So it is with pleasant surprise, and some unease, that he nears a decade and a half as the lead singer of TV on the Radio.

The band, touring in support of last year’s outstanding album “Seeds,” will play Belly Up today in what promises to be a rock-music high point of the summer in Aspen.

“I don’t think bands are supposed to go on forever,” Adebimpe said recently from California. “You keep it going as honestly as you can for as long as you can, and once you’ve exhausted that language, it’s totally OK to put it down and refresh yourself as an individual. And if it comes back around, it comes back around.”

The members of TV on the Radio have kept it honest from their noisy post-punk Brooklyn roots on the self-released “OK Calculator” (2002) and the studio debut “Desperate Youth, Blood Thirsty Babes” (2004) to the triumph of 2006’s “Return to Cookie Mountain,” which cemented TV on the Radio as one of the great American bands of the 21st century. They work in an expansive sonic landscape, where pop melodies and dance rhythms cross-pollinate with noise rock and soul and electronic, creating something as original as it is resonant and beautiful.

Shortly after TV on the Radio released “Nine Types of Light” in 2011, bassist Gerard Smith died of lung cancer. In the wake of the tragedy, the tight-knit band took a hiatus from recording and touring.

“It’s very important to step away from anything you’re doing for a long time and think about what it’s worth to you, what the productive parts are, what the unproductive parts are and why it’s meaningful, and to who it’s meaningful,” Adebimpe explained. “Taking a break made us realize how lucky we are to do this thing, and how much luckier we are that anyone cares that we’re doing this thing.”

“Seeds” showcases a band — now a four-piece, though they tour with a horn section — that’s creatively free and assured, layering dreamy atmospherics and synth drones over pop melodies and catchy hooks on songs that are genre agnostic. Beneath it all, Adebimpe sees TV on the Radio as a “slightly evolved punk band.”

“Luckily, we’re not sandwiched between Usher and Avril Lavigne — we don’t have to make s— that sounds like everything else,” he said. “So we can actually do whatever we want and develop that language. And hopefully the people that have learned that language with us are going to be along for the ride and see how it develops.”

Newcomers are welcome, too. As mainstream tastes have inched closer to TV on the Radio’s experimental sound, they’ve greeted the widening audience with a smile rather than a hipster sneer.

“I don’t think music should be like a haircut or a jacket or a cool T-shirt,” Adebimpe said. “I think it should be useful to whoever hears it. … We don’t want to dictate who should listen to what we’re making, because we have no idea.”

On the current tour — which stopped at the Boulder Theatre and Red Rocks Ampitheatre before coming to Belly Up — the band’s sets tend to lean heavily on the new record (and have included their spin on the “Game of Thrones” theme song). But they don’t often disappoint nostalgic fans hoping to sing along with “Staring at the Sun” or “Wolf Like Me.”

Adebimpe said being on the road since the fall album release has allowed them to grow into the new tracks.

“Being on tour for a long time, you get the songs down and then you can improvise and play around some,” he said. “Touring isn’t a really creative time for a band. It can become a dull repetition if you let it do that. But we’ve made a point of not doing that. … We’ve just been getting into them a little more, so this is a good time to catch them.”

The band will go back into the studio after the summer tour wraps up, and Adebimpe is hopeful they’ll start work on a new album by the end of this year.

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