Time moves differently on TikTok. For every new hit uncovered on the video-sharing app, an old one is resurrected. The latest track of a certain vintage to get new life is “That’s Not My Name.” The Ting Tings’ 2008 calling card has been embraced by an ever-expanding gaggle of celebrities — including Alicia Silverstone, the Rock, Christina Aguilera, Drew Barrymore, Jessica Chastain and Shakira, among many others — as part of a trend that compiles an actor’s different roles (or a pop star’s eras). The song’s resurgence came as a complete surprise, however, to the duo’s Katie White and Jules De Martino.
“We’re [not good] at social media,” White laughs over Zoom from Ibiza, where the Brits are now based. “I learned it was happening from my family.”
The trend has opened the group’s eyes to the power of TikTok as a platform. “I didn’t think TikTok was really for us,” White says, “but now we will probably use it for our next album.”
De Martino looks at their current virality as an invite to use the app. “We’re thrilled,” he says. “It’s amazing to see people interact with our song.”
While the TikTok trend came out of left field, the Ting Tings always knew they had an indefatigable hit in their discography. “Early in our career, someone said, ‘You’ve written one of those songs that’s just going to keep on going,’” De Martino remembers. “And they were right, it just keeps coming around.” In addition to soundtracking celebrity social content, “That’s Not My Name” has been synched in multiple films and advertising campaigns around the world.
@drewbarrymore My name is Drew, but they call me… inspired by @aliciasilverstone ♬ That’s Not My Name – The Ting Tings
In addition to being the hit that won’t quit, “That’s Not My Name” has quite an origin story. White and de Martino wrote the song after losing a record deal as part of another band. “I can honestly say we weren’t aiming to write a hit,” White says. “We wrote the song about feeling invisible.” The track was a DIY effort in every sense of the word. “I literally sang the vocal with a tea towel on my head because we didn’t have a pro setup!” she continues. “It’s amazing that something we wrote in a really frustrating moment is still resonating.”
The song then took on a whole new meaning for the Ting Tings on a fateful trip to Spain. “We hadn’t really played ‘That’s Not My Name’ to many people,” White recalls. “We drove to Spain to visit Jules’ family and he got really sick.” The illness shook his confidence in their music. “He was like, ‘This is shit, we’re shit, we just haven’t got it,’” she continues. “He pulled the song apart en route. Then we got to Spain … and he accidentally killed his nan.”
De Martino’s grandmother fell ill the day after they arrived and passed away. “On top of going to Spain, thinking we were rubbish and we’d been dropped by our label and we had nothing going for us, I killed my nan,” he laments. There was a silver lining, however. The group credits De Martino’s grandma with reversing their fortunes. “You always said we got a bit of energy from her, didn’t you?” White asks De Martino, who concurs. “I hope she’s forgiven me.”
On their return to Manchester, the Ting Tings decided to give music another shot and hit pay dirt almost immediately. The duo inked another record deal, took “That’s Not My Name” all the way to No. 1 in the U.K. and cracked the top 40 on the Billboard Hot 100. Their massively successful debut album, “We Started Nothing,” soon followed and they were nominated for best new artist at the 2010 Grammy Awards. An event they look back at in horror.
“Everyone kept shouting ‘Lady Gaga’ and ‘Kesha’ at me as I was walking down the red carpet,” White says with a belly laugh. “Which is really quite funny now.”
De Martino’s memories are equally bittersweet. “We tried to run away from the award show,” he adds. “We looked around and decided it wasn’t for us.” Rihanna spotted them leaving, however, and they were promptly ushered back inside.
The Ting Tings are hopeful that the “That’s Not My Name” trend will generate interest in their forthcoming fifth LP, “Meadow.” “You couldn’t ask for better timing,” White says, adding, “but then you also want the new record to be in its own world.” There doesn’t seem to be much chance of worlds blurring given the sonic direction of their new album. “It’s very Fleetwood Mac, Steely Dan, and The Eagles,” White says.
“We have been obsessed with an easy listening radio station called Smooth FM for the past two years, just losing ourselves in all those amazing tracks from the late ’70s and early ’80s.”
In many ways, White thinks they have come full circle. “It’s quite lovely because I feel like we’re in a much more grounded place,” she says. De Martino agrees. “We’re being as real as we can ever be,” he says. “We’ve been writing songs from the heart just like on the first album.”