It’s a cold, rainy Saturday in New Jersey, and hundreds of hoodie-clad teenyboppers are scrunched shoulder to shoulder in the Meadlowlands parking lot, screaming for Tokio Hotel. “Bill, I want to comb your hair!” shrieks a teen girl in the front row as the band — fronted by glammed-out singer Bill Kaulitz, 18, and his dreadlocked twin, guitarist Tom — kick into “Ready Set Go.” Bill doesn’t answer — after all, if he complied with every hair-combing request, his trademark porcupine spikes would be defunct. Instead, he swivels his skinny hips, pumps his fist skyward and sings.
Since Tokio Hotel’s third album, Scream, was released in the U.S. on May 6th, the German emo rockers — who blend lashing riffs and forceful wails into dark, snarling anthems — have become superstars, snagging a spot on MTV’s TRL, sold-out shows in New York and LA and legions of admirers. “When we played [New York’s] Irving Plaza in February, the audience sang all the songs — even two German ones,” says Bill. “In Europe we play big concerts, but in America it’s so cool to see all the people — and all the girls.”
A few years ago, Bill and Tom were performing for tiny crowds in their hometown, the small salt-mining town of Madgeburg, part of former East Germany. “Every weekend we played to, like, 15 people in the same club,” says Tom, who picked up his first guitar at age seven, around the same time that Bill decided he wanted to be a star. (”I saw a concert with Nena singing ‘99 Red Balloons’ on TV and I said, ‘I will also go onstage and sing,’” he recalls.) Tokio Hotel was born in 2001, when local teens Gustav Schafer (drums) and Georg Listing (bass) caught one of the duo’s gigs. “We said, ‘Oh my god, someone should help them!’” jokes Listing.
Scream — which is culled from tracks on the group’s first two German discs (which both hit number one overseas, earning them their ten-times-platinum status) — is the band’s English debut. “Every song has a strong connection to us,” says Bill, who models his look after a vampire Halloween costume he wore as a kid.) “‘Ready, Set, Go’ is kind of our story,” he adds. “It’s about going for your dream and not being afraid to start a new life.”