Louder Than War Interview: Temples
Hostess Club Weekender, Ebisu Garden Hall Tokyo
November 30th 2013
Louder Than War’s Tokyo correspondent, Katie Clare, managed to get hold of (and chat to) one of 2013s break out bands, Temples, when they landed in the city for a rare appearance in the Far East.
The Kettering neo-psychedelic band, Temples, managed to take an express route through their musical apprenticeship, so much so that they found themselves signed to a label, supporting The Rolling Stones and being heralded by both critics and musical luminaries alike before they’d blew the candles out on their first birthday cake.
The dazzling rise in prominence and the sudden interest in the band can almost entirely be attributed to the bands small, yet expanding, cache of appealingly danceable songs, which are both rich in melodious gradations and awash with vividly colourful lyricism.
With details of their debut album, Sun Structure, announced a few days before I met them there were plenty of questions for singer / guitarist James Edward Bagshaw and keyboardist / guitarist Adam Smith when we got the chance to chat with them at the Hostess Club Weekender in Tokyo.
Louder Than War: Welcome to Japan! I’m sure since your arrival it has been a bit of a whirlwind: probably the same one that has been going since the bands inception in the summer of last year.
James: Thank you and yes … What is a bed?
Adam: It’s been great, really welcoming. For one reason or another I have barely slept since New York.
James: When we were in America we were thinking “wow we’ve got to do this 14 hour flight and are going to go straight to a performance”. It was quite daunting as it takes a lot to be creative when you tired. It has been quite a learning curve, but we did it and yes it was great.
Details of your debut album Sun Structures were announced a few days ago. How do you feel you’ve expressed yourselves on it?
James: I think it is the truest representation of what we feel creatively at this stage and it is completely uncompromised, especially as we recorded it ourselves. Regarding the song writing, stylistically, it is true of our artistic mind, it is a strong album without any filler, I wouldn’t change anything about it.
Adam: We’re very excited to be putting it out.
James: We wanted to do something that represented where we were from and that particular building, The Triangular Lodge, is in Rushton, about a 5 minute drive from where we all live. It dates from 1593 and has a lot of history. Inside there are lots of triangular aspects too representing the Holy Trinity, just being there is quite inspirational.
Adam: There is a lot of imagery to be found on the place, it is an incredible building, even just standing near it is quite overwhelming, there’s an atmosphere too, a strange one.
James: I drove there with my girlfriend once just to go look at it at night, of course the gates were closed so we parked outside and right away we had a big branch from a tree smack into the windscreen, so we don’t think it likes night visitors much.
The finished cover does have a very conceptual feel, were the details important, are there messages to be found in those elements?
Adam: There are a million messages, from the shoes we wear too … no, no, not really. I did think that it felt like that as well. Actually,¬ when we first got the pictures back from the shoot and there were ones where we were all facing the same direction – it felt very fake that. Creative wise we are all here, but we see things differently, so yes we went for the different facing shot, beyond that I didn’t look too deeply into it. It is something for other people to do if they want.
Being your debut album and over two discs how, did you find ordering the tracks?
Adam: It took a good few days, especially with the vinyl making each song relatable and work well with each other it was important.
James: Plus the CD had to be the perfect mix too. In the end it feels like the order differentiates the songs in the most positive way, having one song that is the complete antithesis of the next means that certainly on many parts of the album there feels like there is a different approach to each song. To a listener it is not just the standard starter song that goes into a similar song, it is more a mix and match it is more creative but still listener friendly.
James: Yes, Move With the Season, it is one of the slower tracks and I feel like it is a very important song personally to me, but also to the group. Lyrically I felt I had really found my feet with that song and got across a lot of things I wanted to delve into, it is a very positive song.
You’re releasing close to Valentine’s Day and your music and image carries tones of romanticism, is romance an important element of the album and the band?
Adam: Certainly in some songs but not so much in others. We should have released the album on Valentine’s, I’ve nothing else to do that day.
James: There is certain romanticism about the idea of being romantic. It depends if you decipher romance as being something between people or romanticism and romance that is found in any another experience.
Like connecting with music. Another feeling I connected with your music so far has been the sense of expansiveness and majesticness which goes against the expected natural ambiance of the confined space you record in.
James: We sold our souls to a wizard.
Adam: And in fact he was not a wizard.
James: No really, I guess when you’re working in such a small space you really don’t want it to sound like it is. So you go all out from a production point of view. It is really amazing what you can do, we consciously didn’t want it to sound like it was recorded in a bedroom, we did not want it to sound like a punk band demo.
Adam: Maybe if we record in an auditorium it would sound enclosed.
James: We were in Detroit recently and we went to the Motown Museum and they had a mock-up of the echo chamber where the sound of Supremes, Marvin Gaye and Stevie Wonder was created. Then we went to the studio they recorded in and it was not dissimilar to where we record at home: a small space with no tonal character, they’d record like that then send it off to the echo chamber. Like you said before, capturing natural ambiance, but then you have to add more to it, it is a good way to record. I was bought up on Motown music, my mum used to sing to me when I was in the womb, she told me this, it’s strange, I do latch on to that sound, Shelter Song has a massive Motown influence hidden in the depths. Motown is very important to us, as are the other things we are into Floyd, Zombies and Kraut-rock.
Does that follow on with who you go see live?
Adam: We don’t go see big bands really – one of the best gigs I’ve seen this year was Telegram who supported us this year, in Cardiff, they blew me away. You forget sometimes when you are making music yourself that music can do that too you, I almost cried.
James: People have a really messed up perception that psychedelic entails drug taking and that is a shallow way of looking at things, taking drugs is more psychotic than psychedelic. Psychedelia to me does not mean a substance is involved, unless that substance is music. I mean I don’t take LSD and I probably won’t. There will always be this misconception that psychedelia goes hand in hand with drug taking and it probably did in the 60s, the same even if you were creating pop or jazz then. We all like to have a bit of fun, but I don’t use drugs as a creative tool: I use my head.
People romanticise drug taking too much, I mean, look at Keith Richards. I love Keith Richards, he is a fantastic guitar player and we love The Rolling Stones, now people will say ‘wow look at Keith, he took heroin and all those drugs and still played a great gig’ trust me he didn’t always play great, there would have been hundreds of concerts The Stones did when Keith was awful and may as well not have been on stage he was so comatose. To use drugs as a creative tool takes a certain person and while it may have its place it’s naive to think that – that is what makes you creative, you’re only as good as yourself.
Adam: There have been brilliant psychedelic music written about drugs, and taking drugs has worked for people in the past: writers like De Quincey, Coleridge and yes some musicians but I don’t think creativity and drugs have to go hand in hand.
Post-holiday season you’ll be on tour in the UK.
James: Yes, this time there will be more songs off the record. As a band we are always improving so as a live show they’ll always be a progression, we appreciate the audience and hope they feel the same: when they do fantastic things happen. As each day passes we get closer as friends outside of being on stage and that shows on stage definitely. There is no egocentricity here, everyone is looking out for each other and we are not ones for doing duel guitar solos or being cheesy, but something as silly as a little sound on the keyboard happens and as a group we can look at each other and laugh or cry about it. It does not always happen that way, but we like when everyone comes off stage feeling that it was great.
Adam: Like at the London Electric Ballroom that was a real highlight of the year; it was our own show and we really felt together. We hired a gong – never thought we’d be able to get away with hiring a gong.
Gong or no gong tickets for Temples UK 2014 tour dates are on sale now from your usual ticket outlet.
- 24th Glasgow Oran Mor
- 25th Hull Fruit
- 27th Nottingham Rescue Rooms
- 28th Leeds Stylus
- 1st Manchester Academy 2
- 3rd Oxford O2 Academy 2
- 4th Birmingham Institute Library
- 6th Cardiff Globe
- 7th Bournemouth The Old Fire Station
- 8th London O2 Shepherd’s Bush Empire
Temples debut album Sun Structures (Heavenly Recordings CD, x2 LP, MP3) is released on February 10th 2014 it can be pre-ordered at Heavenly Recordings where the first 200 vinyl orders will be signed: there are further exclusive offers available via other independent retailers.
Thank you to Hostess Club Weekender / Hostess Entertainment for their continuing support, assistance and kindness.