North of the Dial
Andrew Tinker's new album It Takes the World was released a couple weeks back to little hubbub. Blame the fact that it's pop music in an otherwise anti-pop town. Tinker does—especially because this isn't the route he was necessarily trained to take.
At age 15, Tinker was a founding member of The Polyphonic Spree, playing French horn on the group's first two albums before bowing out to earn a degree in music theory from University of North Texas' College of Music. (Yeah, he plays the piano too.)
Nowadays, though, Tinker says, "Music is my day job." Which is to say: It's what he hopes will pay the bills. To a degree, that's the driving force behind his style of music, actually: He and his band play a very catchy brand of non-toxic vintage pop. The stuff sounds so happy and gay that it's close to that secret-Jesus-y stuff but, then again, no more so than The Beach Boys. His Web site's "sounds like" section is a dead-on listing of artists: Ben Folds, Maroon 5, Billy Joel and John Mayer. And then there are the lyrics. "Morning snow/February 14th/We are only 19/There's no time for sleeping," Tinker larks on, of course, a song called "Nineteen." Someday soon, someone's bound to write something like, "...Tinker has Jason Mraz's vocal stylings with Death Cab for Cutie-like lyrical sensibility." But for now, Tinker's just content to get his music out to the people.
"It's a pop record, certainly," Tinker says by phone last week, between gigs in New York. "It's sweet. There's a lot of icing on the album. But I knew I wanted to make a pop record, not an indie record. It's really challenging because you have to make pop music appeal to a much larger audience."
But, when it comes down to it, Tinker's argument about the actual challenge of mass appeal is a tough one to tangle with—especially in Denton. Again, Tinker gets it. He just hopes his music can act as a bridge of sorts: "I'd love to make in-roads with the hipster crowd," he says. "I'd love to get them out to the shows."
For now, though, indie-approved or not, Tinker's just got to be content with the fact that his albums are flying off the local-music shelf at Recycled Books in Denton, where he recently had the top-selling album for a two-week span. It's a far cry from the Best Buys and Targets of the world, where this kind of music really sells, but it's not a bad start, no matter how self-deprecatingly its creator wants to look at it.
"I guess, in my career, I'm in no man's land," he says, laughing. "How do you market yourself as a pop artist or a pop musician? It sounds kinda silly for a Denton guy to be like, 'I'm a pop musician.'"
Yeah, OK. Maybe a little.
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