Tuning in Tokyo 

Synth-pop duo Blueprint Tokyo, featuring members of veteran Oklahoma alt-rockers Winter Circle, are staying low-key and seeing high returns.

click to enlarge Album art for Cinema Sounds by Blueprint Tokyo

Photo provided.

Album art for Cinema Sounds by Blueprint Tokyo

Blueprint Tokyo might be something of a little-known name here in their home state, but they’re blowing up around the world.

100,000-plus streams on Spotify. Top 30 on the UK iTunes charts. Collaborating with top international producers like Mark Needham and Travis Ference.

But if you look at their social media numbers, you’d really never know it.

Andy Hale and Kevin Dawson — songwriting partners in the band Winter Circle for more than two decades — launched Blueprint Tokyo as something of a lark just a couple years ago when their other band was on hiatus and Dawson was living for a time in Canada.

“I just got the bug to start making music again,” Hale said, “So I started writing and demoing some things and at some point I started sending stuff to Kevin in Canada and it just springboarded into something. So for a while we just worked remotely, with him literally across countries. We came away with the first single and that turned into an EP and now we have this new one.”

click to enlarge Kevin Dawson (left) and Andy Hale of Blueprint Tokyo. - PHOTO PROVIDED.
  • Photo provided.
  • Kevin Dawson (left) and Andy Hale of Blueprint Tokyo.

With sparkling synth riffs and a grand, arena-ready sentiment, Blueprint Tokyo’s sound comes across as OKC’s perfect answer to the kind of widescreen, blockbuster pop-rock that’s dominated the internet for years now. It’s so easy to imagine these songs popping up all over Tik Tok and Instagram, taking over from the likes of Imagine Dragons, Bastille, and The 1975.

Except that they don’t really bother with any of that.

Flying directly in the face of every millennial social media manager that’ll say you have to focus on “branding” yourself and being chronically online to see any modern success, the Blueprint Tokyo boys are already riding a huge wave of attention and goodwill with only minimal direct engagement.

“We’ve certainly been embracing and using a lot of our old tips and tricks that we’ve learned over the years, in terms of just simple things like ads and playlists and just doing press stuff,” Hale said. “What we’ve found is that all that stuff is really, kind of strangely organic.”

Neither spend much time sweating follower counts or likes or engagement numbers. Instead, they tend to stick to the same simple, old-school method they’ve been riding with Winter Circle for over 20 years — just put the songs out there and see who listens.

“We just got really lucky getting onto a lot of playlists and stuff like that early on,” Hale said. “A lot of our listeners are based in the UK and France. We’ve really always been way more successful outside of Oklahoma.”

Now that Dawson has moved back, and the guys have been able to reconnect in person to start working out the futures of both Blueprint Tokyo and Winter Circle, they’re hoping to finally generate some real hometown interest around the duo’s new EP Cinema Sounds.

“We hope to be performing by January or even earlier,” Hale said. “The honest truth is that we’re really still putting together, like, who is in this group and who is playing what and how to do it. And at the same time, we’re doing new Winter Circle stuff and actively rehearsing for that. It’s honestly kind of looking like it might just be the same people, and we’ll just be playing different songs.”

Ultimately, all of the performing, the promotion, and the decision of which band gets which song is all still secondary to Hale and Dawson simply making music together. Take away all the social media confines, all the streaming numbers, all the promotional headaches and live show logistics, and it’s clear that their output wouldn’t slow down.

“We’ve got like sixty songs just in the queue right now,” Hale said. “We’re just going to keep on doing EPs and maybe smaller singles and stuff. We have a bunch of folders on our computers of EPs that we’ve kind of mapped out, and every once in a while, we’ll just start dropping songs in and adding to them.”

So does their new push to establish themselves more firmly in Oklahoma mean we can expect them to buckle down and start pouring their hearts and souls into the online engagement and social media culture that seems to rule the music world these days?

Probably not.

“This is certainly going to date me,” Hale said, laughing, “But we had a big following back on MySpace with Winter Circle. We felt like kings of that for a while, and all of a sudden, it just went away. That was a real kind of rude awakening about how fleeting all of that is. So we’re just lucky now that we’ve had a lot of folks that are really interested in our stuff and wanting to help for real.”

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