In the past decade, TV on the Radio has emerged as the quintessential New York band.
More specifically, the lauded, genre-melding quartet has come to define Brooklyn, N.Y.'s renaissance as the world's premier destination for indie rock. The band's forward-thinking albums — with their idiosyncratic fusions of funk, punk, soul and even balladry — have earned the band a reputation of always being two steps ahead of their peers.
So it came as a shock when the group — who take the stage at Virgin Mobile FreeFest Saturday — traveled 2,800 miles to record its fourth and latest album, Nine Types of Light, in Los Angeles.
The recording sessions, which took place in band member/producer Dave Sitek's house-turned-studio, weren't the issue. Vocalist Tunde Adebimpe says California was "actually super refreshing." The hardest part was the living situation, something he describes as "some kind of booking error."
"We were staying exactly in the wrong place for us to say," Adebimpe says. He describes the apartment complex as "at the mouth of the TMZ stuff."
Looking back, though, Adebimpe says he doesn't regret the decision.
"It was just super weird, but I'm happy we stayed there and observed that stuff," he says, "like almost getting knocked over by paparazzi while trying to buy coffee."
The album took three months to write and record, the fastest the band's ever worked on a full-length. The quick work could be attributed to the band feeling mentally refreshed after a self-imposed hiatus.
In September 2009, after completing the tour supporting 2008's Dear Science, the band announced a one-year break. During that time, members branched out — Adebimpe, who starred in 2008's "Rachel Getting Married," worked on short films, Sitek produced for the Yeah Yeah Yeahs and released his own album as Maximum Balloon, guitarist/vocalist Kyp Malone put out a CD titled Rain Machine, bassist Gerard Smith worked on his own music and drummer Jaleel Bunton played blues and tended bar.
But before long, the hiatus was cut short to a seven-month break, as the band was ready to write together again. Or at least most of the band was.
"I wanted to wait longer but everyone was like, 'Nahhh,'" Adebimpe says. "But if everyone wants to do something, that's such a plus."
No matter how earnest the recording process can begin, creative roadblocks will slow down any band. TV on the Radio have always worked through it, Adebimpe says, because they know when to step away.
"I feel like there's probably a point during every single record where we should stop doing this and quit," Adebimpe says with a laugh. "But I think as far as hitting a creative wall, there's a lot of good ways to shock yourself out of it, including scrapping and starting over. There's definitely a song morgue on some hard drives."
Nine Types of Light, released in April, was met with four-star reviews and a debut of No. 12 on the Billboard 200. The joy of the release was quickly overshadowed by sadness when Smith lost his battle with lung cancer only nine days later. The band refused — and still refuses — to discuss Smith's death, only releasing a statement that said, "we will miss him terribly."
The group is now focused on their fall tour, and they've been pleasantly surprised with how well the new material translates on stage.
"I'm shocked at our competence," Adebimpe says.
The end of the tour will bring up one obvious question: Will there be another hiatus?
"Whenever we're done a tour, no one knows what we're doing," he says. "The only thing we don't plan is when we're going to make another record. You'd think by now we'd try and get it together. It will happen though."
If you go
TV on the Radio perform Saturday at Merriweather Post Pavilion, 10475 Little Patuxent Parkway in Columbia, for Virgin Mobile FreeFest. The Black Keys, Cee Lo Green, among many others, will also perform. Doors open at 11 a.m. Free tickets are gone, but a Fan e-Pak, $49.50 for one, is available. It includes a general admission ticket, a donation benefiting youth homelessness and a T-shirt. Call 877-435-9849 or go to merriweathermusic.com.Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times