The Ting Tings’ 2008 hit That’s Not My Name has enjoyed an unexpected new life on TikTok, where it was recently used by by stars like The Rock, Will Smith, Christina Aguilera and Drew Barrymore to soundtrack a celebrity challenge.
When Katie White and Jules De Martino wrote That’s Not My Name in a former mill in Salford, they didn’t think it was anything special. “We thought we were still as rubbish as we were before,” De Martino recalls.
They certainly didn’t expect it to hang around for 15 years. But they have come to realise their irresistibly feisty garage pop tune, in which White airs her frustrations at being belittled, is “one of those songs”.
“It is now, we can admit, one of those songs that we hear in other bands of yesteryear that we go, ‘Ah, that’s still a cracking track’,” De Martino, the duo’s drummer, says.
Singer and guitarist White adds: “It never fully goes away. It’s always doing something around the world, whether it’s a film sync or a TV commercial or… what’s that thing where they all wear funny outfits and pretend they’re someone else?”
“Yeah. I remember when we wrote it, after about a year or two, our lawyer or our manager or somebody said, ‘You’ve written one of them songs. You’ve just written one.’ We didn’t fully understand it, but I think we do now.”
Proof that it is indeed “one of those songs” came when it bubbled back up on TikTok, first used by pet owners who added captions of their furry friends’ nicknames, then by Hollywood actors and singers.
The Ting Tings were not “in TikTok country at all” at the time, according to De Martino.
They had noticed a bit more activity than usual on their other social media channels, though. “After a week or two, a friend said, ‘You know how many people are doing it? You should really have a look’,” White says.
“And, yeah, we looked at it and it’s just been amazing seeing it growing.”
De Martino adds: “Our phones just lit up and everything started going crazy again. We looked into it and we loved it.”
Clueless actress Alicia Silverstone started the celebrity trend, followed by the likes of Jennifer Garner, Jessica Alba, Jennifer Lopez, Kevin Bacon, Victoria Justice and Zooey Deschanel.
They stitched snippets of their best-known roles and added captions with their characters’ names – the names “they call me”. Singers chose clips representing different eras or sides of their personalities (Shakira, for example, said the names they called her were “owner of truthful hips, mom, speaker, nerd, performer”).
Most posted the videos simply to celebrate their glorious careers, but some were also seemingly making the point that they were more than the collection of personas that they have been typecast and pigeonholed as over the years.
That’s Not My Name was “quite a feisty, empowering song”, White explains. “For us it was a bit of a frustration song and it was quite a raw emotion.”
When they wrote it, the duo had just emerged from the ashes of a previous band that had won and then lost a major record deal.
“The song was really about feeling invisible because that moment had happened,” De Martino says. “Katie was thinking, that’s it, that was our chance, we got signed and then got dropped. That’s the end of that story. Let’s just make some music.”
White adds: “I remember thinking, I can’t believe it, that’s my career over at 23. We were living at Islington Mill and we thought, let’s just get lost in what we do.”
So it came as a surprise when that song gave them a shot at success.
“A few months later, everybody wanted to come to the weird little engine room that we were renting at the Mill and sit on our floor and watch us perform it,” the singer continues.
“It was just me and Jules – Jules on drums, me on his guitar. I’d only been playing it three months, and if I didn’t know what was doing I’d sling it round my back and hit a cowbell. Just totally winging it. And then it built up momentum.”
That’s Not My Name ended up going to number one in the UK and reaching the top 40 in the US. Their debut album, We Started Something, also topped the UK chart.
But “we decided we were never going to make a record like that again”, De Martino says. “As musicians, we were slightly rebelling against the success of it. And we were frightened about trying to live up to that expectation again and again and again.”
So they went to Berlin to “go and be experimental” on the follow-up, and have since released two more long-players, recorded between Los Angeles, London and Spain.
When That’s Not My Name resurfaced on TikTok last month, they were in the middle of recording their fifth album in Ibiza. Missing British radio stations, they had downloaded the Smooth FM app and been inspired by the soft-rock acts they heard on rotation, like Fleetwood Mac, Toto, Steely Dan and Christopher Cross.
Titled Meadow, the album is “very different from every other record we’ve made”, De Martino says. And they hope to go on tour with a full band to do their newfound sound justice.
“Funnily enough, That’s Not My Name was written as a kind of country-ish song,” White reveals. “If you play it on an acoustic [guitar], it’s so interesting how it’s got a bluesy kind of note, so it would actually fit in if we performed it in a slightly more acoustic way. If we were to go out [on tour], it would be that way.”
A mini Ting
There will be one new member of the entourage on the next tour – a 20-month-daughter, who White dubs “a mini Ting”.
The pair have previously avoided saying whether they are romantic as well as musical partners. “We never particularly spoke about it,” the singer says.
“We always wanted to keep it quite separate from the music, but it’s quite hard when you have literally a mini person. We’ve been together a long time now.”
The couple are now finishing the Meadow sessions in a studio they have built themselves with the help of “a couple of mates and tools” in southern Spain.
They have also recycled the band’s old outfits in the DIY studio. “We’ve got so much baggage from all our tours. Mainly clothes, literally costume after costume. We’re actually using them as sound insulation,” De Martino says.
“We’ve got all these rows of clothes and we’ve set the studio up in the middle because it’s really good soundproofing.”
They hope a few newfound fans from TikTok will give the resulting album a spin when it comes out this summer. One more way to put past baggage to good use.