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Temples interview: "Tame Impala? We're 100% not inspired by them"

James Bagshaw talks about recording the Temples way, jamming with Kettering's other famous James and King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard's secret to success.

Henry Lewis

Last updated: 3rd Sep 2019

With Temples' third album Hot Motion soon to be unveiled to the world, the band are confident it will be their finest effort to date.

The early signs have been extremely positive, with Temples so far releasing two tracks featuring on the 11 song collection. The most recent being woozy, psych ear worm 'You're Either On Something', and before that the album's pulsating title track - both a healthy indication of what's to come.

It's a noticeably different approach to many of those featuring heavily within today's music scene in terms of guitar bands, Temples continuing on their path of a melodic, vintage feel that begun with the release of Sun Structures over five years ago, and continued with 2017's Volcano. This will no doubt be solidified come 27th September and the release of Hot Motion.

In our chat with James Bagshaw, lead singer of the Kettering outfit, we discussed the benefits of working with your best mates, after school jams with James Acaster and plenty more. 

Hi James, how are you?

[James was on his way home when we first called him]

James: "Hi mate, sorry about that I've just been out. I live in the countryside, so I've just been to the nearest decent town it's only about 15 minutes away. I just went to get a few things for my missus' birthday and it's also my brother's birthday today."

I was checking out Temples' Instagram story the other day, and it looked like you were in a really cool location - in some kind of grassy trough - where was that?

J:" That was at Boughton House which is in Kettering - I forget what it's called, but it's got some ominous name. In the grounds they've got this thing, and it's meant to be some sort of artist's depiction of hell or something. So it's these slopes down to this lake and opposite to that, I'm guessing from all the earth they dug out, they made basically a grass pyramid."

"This is like hundreds of years old cos Boughton House is like a stately home sort of thing."

Are you shooting a video there or something?

J:"We've just done some photos there , just went down with a mate and took a load of photos."

You mentioned you're from Kettering, there's another famous James from round those parts - James Acaster - do you know him?

J: "I do actually know him yeah. I think we're a similar age and it was probably when were about 15 or something , there was this thing in Kettering called, it's got a terrible name, it was called 'Rock Schoo'l or something but essentially it was was it was a Youth Club and you could turn up with your guitar - and this is before I had amps and stuff - and I had a crappy electric guitar, and I got to plug into my first amp and you go to jam with people. All pretty horrendous if I heard it now."

"That's where the musicians went. Cos James is a drummer, and a musician, and he was in bands growing up. I mean I don't know him know him, but I went to see him play in Leicester and then we had a pint afterwards. He's the only famous James from Kettering." [laughs]

Tom said on Twitter that this is the most special record - do you say that about every record. 

J: "I think it is special. I think it's a bit of a rotten time for guitar music, in popular culture anyway. There's a lot of bands that are good but it's quite a refreshing record. It's a guitar record, that doesn't mean that it's - it's not guitar heavy like Oasis with overdriven guitar over the whole thing. It's still like considered in terms of sound design and making it a unique record sound wise - but its very guitar driven."

"There's not one synth on this record - if anything sounds synthetic it's a guitar, it's just a bit more raw I guess."

"At the moment our music feels irrelevant in popular culture, just from my perception anyway, and so to know that if this does get through to people, through the other music, then I feel like it's got a strong chance of connecting with people. If it doesn't, its still a record we're proud of."

In a time where punk is really popular, and bands like IDLES and Fontaines D.C are having so much success, it must be a privilege then for you to be able to go for a more psych sound and know your label will allow that to happen?

J: "It's not even that we're going for that kind of music, we make our music and it sounds like us. People always gave a tag of psychedelia and any movement there was, but the 'psych' movement was nothing to do with us. We weren't part of any scene or anything, or influenced by any other band at the time and I feel we'll carry on making records the way we do. Following trends just doesn't work."

"Fair play to bands like IDLES and that, it's good that guitar music is getting a look in - for me it's vey loose as much as its the way its based around melody is concerned. There's not enough melody in it for me for me to connect with."

"Also the rise of urban music is huge, and it's funny because a lot of the lyrical themes in urban music generally, if I were to generalise, is stuff that kids up here are into but they don't connect with the lyrics truly."

"They will know all the words but it has no relevance to how they are but I guess that's some kind of escapism . It's a hard time to be in a band as far as getting a look in and being played on radio and things like that."

"There is something that comes through from the struggle, there's no point in throwing the towel in just because our music isn't fashionable."

It must give you a lot of confidence though seeing that both 'Hot Motion' and 'You're Either On Something' are getting radio play?

J: "Definitely. You always want more radio support than you get so for me 'You're Either On Something' or 'Hot Motion' haven't been played enough for my liking but that's always gonna be the way."

"I haven't heard us played on the radio, I've just seen updates - oh you got played on whatever, the midnight drop on Radio 1 or whatever like who's listening to that? [laughs] Fair enough it's great but I feel like whether its the first single or second single they should stand out like a sore thumb a bit, even on 6 Music it maybe feels like its sort of a black sheep when I hear it against the trends of what they're playing."

"6Music generally is quite good at being cross gene spanning, but it's hard man. It's hard to compete and there's so much music, Hopefully it resonates."

It is mad though, you're likely going to struggle to hear say Mac DeMarco or King Gizzard on the radio aren't you...

J:"Yeah but I don't think they need to worry. The thing about Gizzard is that they're at such a level now - they're playing huge shows in London - shows we'd dream of doing."

"They don't need the radio support cos they have such a cult thing going on. I think also another selling point of them, as well as being incredibly prolific for the amount fo records they put out, is they're a band of many musicians."

"The general band format is what we do, in that it's four people at a push five, there was a trend when it was like two people you know, [laughs] but i think when you go and see them and they've got two drummers playing it really is like an experience and fair play to them."

"We've played a few times with them at festivals and they are a great, great live band and I think that's what is selling the tickets and people know it's an experience and you're not necessarily going to get the same thing each night. They don't need to be on the radio, which is a privileged situation to be in."

You talked about how 'You're Either On Something' is about experiencing bliss, and how this can come from a chemical cocktail - is this an autobiographical experience?

J: "It was inspired by one particular night out on tour, and for me I'm not necessarily into drugs or anything and I'm not a huge drinker - I do drink - but sometimes I'm a bit uncomfortable in social situations. Not socially awkward but I don't necessarily feel relaxed, and it was just this one day I woke up and I thought about it. Not everybody is out of their head on drugs feeling blissful because of that, some people generally feel naturally happy and comfortable out,.

"The idea os parties don't appeal to me really, when I'm there in the moment - it's good, but the idea of pre-planned fun is hard for me to grasp. I'm sure bands have to feel it if you want a night out, whereas other people they have that happy go lucky attitude on tap because of what they're like as a person, but other people don't feel comfortable until they have other things to make them feel comfortable in social situations."

"It's an unanswerable question, and then it's not. Next time you go out try and figure out "are they just having a good time because they're with their friends and they've been in the office all week, or where they uncomfortable half an hour ago before they went to the toilet?"

It's good though to have that real life social situation spoken about in song, and it's not a human experience that is often touched upon lyrically... 

J: "It's nice it translates like that. It was selfishly written and its nice if people connect with it. It's the most honest thing I've written." 

How long has the record been in the making, has it been a while since it was all finished off?

J: "The oldest idea on there is probably the opening little riff on 'Hot Motion'. It was a song I had a while ago but it wasn't in that rhythm. The melodies and stuff were there but the song never really went anywhere and then it was a case of imagining how we could sort of looking at re-approaching it. I tried it in a swung format, I showed the band and then we worked on it all together."

"We then paid homage to the original idea by changing the rhythm at the end. It wasn't called 'Hot Motion', it didn't have any lyrics - it was no where near done."

"It was probably in a period of 2 months, but really over a year because everyone is writing individually at first, then you bring everything to the table and work on the stuff that feels good, then put the other stuff on a back burner until you figure out a way too approach them."

It must help the finished product when you are all contributing to the songs?

J: "There is always a degree of compromise with anybody in the band. There's pros and cons to that and I think the biggest positive is that when you have been working on an idea yourself, and you like it but you're not sure of it, then to have basically your best mates' opinion. 

When it's like: 'this is really good and it should be really pushed' in a direction it's going even further then that's a real confidence boost. I think that happened more times on this record the the opposite of that."

"Because we're so close from being in a band together for so long I think its a lot easier to not offend each other because at the end of the day we all have a different musical outlook on things and its about finding a compromise, and generally that gives us good results."

What are your thoughts on the new Tame Impala sound? Are they a band you have a lot of time for?

J: "I'm not really, not into it. It's a bit flat, feels a bit lifeless energy wise. Tame Impala on the earlier records, and I'm not being nostalgic with it because I'm not the biggest fan anyway, but I did like the first album. Everyone always draws references between us and Tame Impala but we're 100% not inspired by them."

J: "As Kevin Parker gets more in with the big celebrities, the music gets a bit more safe and a little bit more high fidelity. It's well recorded, and produced and mixed, but for me its lost a bit of the charm and unpredictability of the earlier records and I think the melodies were a bit more imaginative - but I'm not a music critic." [laughs].

What have you been digging this year?

J: "Lots of stuff."

"I'm always going back to old music, Scott Walker, Air, fair bit of Bowie. I almost need to get my Spotify up"

"I was actually listening to a Jamie Lidell record his most recent one ,which I'm a bag fan of him anyway cos it's been quite diverse over the last few albums. That's a brilliant record. Its' very soul-y, nothing like what we do that's really great."

"I was late with Alabama Shakes, and a lot of records I've been listening to are instrumental things, Gustav Holst The Planets and John Williams film soundtrack stuff."

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