Take Me Tick Tock's four members aren't accustomed to doing interviews. But, man, can they talk. They're eager to answer a question many fans have asked: What's up with the name?
Credit a late-night viewing of Walt Disney's 1985 cult classic Return to Oz. A sequel of sorts to L. Frank Baum's The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, it features Tik-Tok, a round-bodied mechanical man who runs on clockwork springs. At one point, Dorothy and Tik-Tok's eyes meet, which prompted drummer Jacob Williamson to ad-lib a line of sultry dialogue: "Take me, Tik-Tok!"
"He said that, and I started laughing so hard I was crying," remembers vocalist Dustin Sisson, a longtime sound engineer at the Madison Music Foundry's Blast House recording studio and a mentor for the Foundry's Rock Workshop for young musicians. "I said, 'That should be the band name!'"
"I didn't want that to be the name of the band," says guitarist Shawn Conrad. "And it hasn't grown on me."
Williamson likes the moniker's "power of consonance" and its adaptability.
"Something about 'Take Me Tick Tock' just said that you could take it anywhere," he says. "We can be a metal band. We can be a pop band. We can be a trip-hop band. Who knows where we're going to go?"
"There was so much energy in that room you could've lit a match and the place would've exploded," Sisson says.
Expect another scorching set when they perform at the Inferno on Feb. 15.
The band's muscular fusion of metal, prog and post-grunge dates back to 2012, when Conrad, Sisson and Williamson simply jammed in the basement of Conrad's Sun Prairie home. Eventually, the trio came up with songs, to which Sisson added some pretty bleak lyrics.
About six months later, bassist Riley Heninger joined the group, adding powerful songwriting chops and deep knowledge about music theory. He wrote "I Am Not Me," the debut album's most ferocious and complex song, which sounds like a nod to Tool and Violent Femmes.
Written during a trying time in the bandmates' lives, these songs can be a difficult listen the first time around. The reward comes later, as the group dare listeners to journey into and out of the darkness with them. Two of the album's lighter (but not lighthearted) songs come near the end, slathered in melancholy.
"There are a lot of things you could call us," Sisson says, "but I don't know if you'd necessarily call us fun."
One of those lighter tracks, "Glass, Happy Finally," is a love song written on bass guitar and inspired by a trip-hop groove, while closer "The Tide" is a soft acoustic piece that could be an outtake from Pearl Jam's latest album, Lightning Bolt.
Take Me Tick Tock plan to reinvent themselves in the coming months. In addition to recording an album that includes an excursion into modern prog, they want to create something akin to an arena-rock experience in a bar using computerized click tracks to synchronize the music to video images.
"We want people to feel like they have to come back and see us again, because we're constantly doing more," Williamson says. "There's no better feeling than watching people have a good time with your music. To me, this is about being as awesome as we can be. This is our way of escaping from reality."