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Temples Interview

One could claim that Temples’ rise has been meteoric. Within one meagre year, this band not only released their self-produced debut album, but simultaneously toured for the first time ever, like they say themselves “growing up in front of the public eye”. Receiving praise from critics who seem to favour their new take on a well-known retro approach and Oasis mastermind Noel Gallagher himself, this four-piece from Kettering doesn’t have to deal with the usual tangle of starting out as a new band, but rather with staying down to earth while being invited to play such huge festivals as Coachella or Glastonbury at such an early stage of being in a band.Once having entered the world of Temples, both musically and, let’s say visually, you’ll know what all that fuss is about, for these youthful gentlemen take their audience on a trip through time to the late 60s / early 70s while contradictorily entrenching you in the here and now. The image presented to one when seeing the band backstage perfectly illustrates this, because with all their retro-hairdo/clothes glory one can’t help but think you might have stepped out of a time machine and ended up backstage of a 1969 edition of Top of the Pops, if it weren’t for the new smartphones flashing up here and there.I sit down for a talk with bassist, founding member and songwriter Thomas Edward James Walmsley (that name alone – wow!), a prettier version of a young George Harrison, who recounts the band’s journey to this point.The first thing I’d really like to ask you is about your name. Whenever I hear it, I don’t know whether to think about the buildings as places of worship, or the part of your head. So what is “Temples” for you, or what was the original idea behind it?I suppose the original idea was, before we even had recorded anything, we had this idea of a very grand and big sound, something quite spiritual and something otherly about music, like a connection to music. We wanted to create that effect in our music. And I suppose the band name is just an extension of that. And I guess, you know, that’s the helpful thing about the name “Temples” is that it’s open to interpretation. I guess, in a literal sense, the building is somewhere you go to so that you can make a spiritual connection. So I guess, probably the building was the first thought and then you think “Oh yeah!” and then you think about the temples on your head, the temple of the mind, you know. It kind of said everything and nothing at the same time, because it isn’t descriptive at all, it’s just a noun, so it kind of seemed perfect.Was there something like a pivotal point that triggered your love of the 60s or 70s, or was it just a kind of musical socialisation that just made this happen?Yeah, I think all of us in the band went through phases of different music and still do, you know. We’ve been listening to new stuff or discovering things we like. We like a hell of a lot of genres, but the 60s era in general, not even one genre, just the time, is very interesting, for music I think, and I think songwriting of then still hasn’t ever been beaten. The music then is very timeless, it doesn’t almost sound like it belongs to any age. It’s quite a golden era, I suppose, in songwriting. It’s the one era I guess that stuck with everyone in the band and we all have a passion for it, just the music of that time is kind of a cut above it and especially the songwriting. Like our songwriting takes on a more traditional structure. I guess it’s out favourite thing about music that we share.So is there something like a special memory that sticks to it, like when you were very young or and, I don’t know, you first encountered a song that was from the 60s or something like that? Because I remember how my parents used to listen to this radio station that only played like oldies, so that was, for example, the reason for me to delve into this kind of music.I don’t know. I guess all of us were given records growing up and you have a curiosity about it before you hear them and me especially, I was fascinated with album covers and that whole package of a record. So I think when you’re given that and then the music has such a great effect on you, I think the two together create something very special and that stuck with what we want to do in Temples.I don’t know, maybe hearing something like Pink Floyd first, which, I suppose, happened when I was particularly young. We’d all heard The Beatles from a very young age, just cause they’re everywhere, but I think maybe one of those first Pink Floyd records, you know, in your early teens, when you hear that and you can’t quite believe it’s basically pop music. But it delivers in such a way where it’s just incredible, it’s completely different, it turns on its head completely and then rewrites the whole thing at the same time. So I think it’s that, just realizing there’s another way you can approach writing songs and not being afraid to write a song. I think that’s an important thing that not many people do anymore.Especially growing up in the 90s, when music was so very different in comparison to what you do now…Absolutely, yeah. I guess we all grew up during the Britpop era and there was a lot of guitar bands around then. Yeah, and a lot of great songs written as well.You are lucky, because you grew up in Britain! I just had to discover that there was something like Britpop and when I discovered this, the time really was almost over. I had to discover most of the stuff in retrospect, because I was too young back then to really be able to go to the record store and get those albums. Back then it was mostly Euro dance pop stuff that was going on over here, basically.(laughs) I guess we heard them innocently. I think maybe one of us in the band, I’m not sure who, bought an Oasis single when growing up, I don’t remember buying any of those singles, but I remember hearing them and liking it. Yeah, I think almost we were too young then to really understand what it was that was so great about it, and now, looking back, you do.Talking about Oasis, I wanted to ask you about Noel Gallagher. He’s the one that was talking about how great you are and was fretting about how you were not being played on mainstream radio stations. Do you just feel honoured by hearing is or is it like receiving a knighthood to some point?I mean, he’s a famous guy, isn’t he? And it’s always nice when someone says something like that about you, but, I guess, it’s not like his music influenced us in any way. I guess it’s cool, there’s a lot of people who listen to him and what he has to say. In the end of the day for us it’s just someone else’s opinion of us, we’d like people to listen to us, because they like us, not because someone tells them to like us. I’m not quite sure what he was trying to say with “mainstream radio” in the UK, because he’s completely right, it doesn’t play guitar music, it plays very little new guitar music, and there’s a reason for that as well. It doesn’t quite sit right if perhaps we were played a lot on Radio 1. I guess it’s not the 90s or not 2005 anymore. So there’s a lot of great radio stations which aren’t Radio 1 as well, and it’s great to be played on them. And sometimes it’s good to be the alternative, sometimes it’s good for people to make that choice to listen to something else. We don’t really see it as such a problem. There’s a reason people listen to Radio 6 Music and not Radio 1, or XFM. It’s good to be a part of that, it’s good to be the underdog.You had a kind of self-taught approach recording the album, I think you did it at James’s home, in his old room. Do you think that for a second album you would choose to do it like this again? Or do you think that it’s time for something new for a new album?The great thing about just being able to play shows we’ve had a lot of time to think about what to possibly do next. All last year we were recording and playing shows at the same time, so we were never able to escape the idea of recording and we were always thinking about it. So it’s been great to have some time to reflect and play live and not worry about recording. But whatever we do, I think we’ll always have a hand in the process. We’re certainly looking towards doing something different this time. I think we’ve achieved everything we wanted with Sun Structures. We don’t want to consciously do something different perhaps, but certainly put ourselves into a different situation and see what happens in that respect. I guess we’re quite confident in the fact that we can record it ourselves, so I think it would be quite exciting to try either a different setting or a different process we still have a hand in and can control and see what happens.But yeah, we’re certainly interested in progressing rather than doing the same thing again.So you might be going to a different town, lots of bands do that, recording in Berlin for example to get out of their usual surroundings…Yeah, that would be great. I guess a lot of bands as well book a month or six weeks or whatever in a studio and record the whole record. That’s where I think we just don’t work like that as a band, I think. We slightly write and record at the same time, that’s our usual process, or it was with the last album. I’d imagine we’d still perhaps do that, but yeah, I guess we’ll see where we’ll do it and what approach we’ll take. Maybe we should book ourselves… you know, hide away for six weeks and see what happens. I think we’re open so much, it would just be great to get on with it and see what happens.I’d like to ask you one thing about the content of your songs. In another interview I read that “Some songs on the record are stories, hidden by using different words than you would normally associate with them. We know what we’re trying to say, but we say it in a hidden manner, just because it would sound wrong singing about an iPad or something like that.”(laughs) Yeah, that sounds exactly like something James would say.So I would be interested in you giving me one outstanding example of such a hidden story, because the lyrics as such remain very abstract, I would say.I suppose that doesn’t really make much sense. So, I know what he was trying to say, which was, for example, in the song Sun Structures there’s like a lyric “mythical trust in an unlost fortune”, which I don’t think is almost, certainly in the English language, grammatically correct. But because we wanted it to come off as almost like a disorientating sentence, like this sentence is timeless, you know, some of that song is influenced by the Egyptian exhibition in the Louvre in France. But at no point does it mention the reality of that in the lyrics. So I think it’s that. To us, that’s what it means, but people don’t know that. I think you evade the reality in the lyrics, I guess. And it just keeps the mystery in the whole thing. Some songs do reference reality as well, which would possibly be Shelter Song or Keep In The Dark, which are actually about instances, but then you put in this kind of fictional world, I suppose. So yeah, always, as Bowie once greatly said, crossing myth and reality, blurring the lines and it’s just the way we communicate our lyrics and meanings of songs.It’s interesting though that you’re talking about this Egyptian thing, because I wanted to ask you about the obvious Egyptian influence in the artwork, or in the Mesmerise video, with this little flying pyramid, and so on. I guess that come back to this then.I think it is that, yeah and, I guess, a general admiration for spirituality, not necessarily any particular religion or channel of thought, but a kind of idea of a myth or, again, just trying to bring a mystery to the music. In the early days of Temples, one of the things that really influenced us, was the director Kenneth Anger and some of his experimental short films. I guess his most famous one is Lucifer Rising. It’s only about twenty minutes long, I think, but it has all these great kind of esoteric and Egyptian imagery and the occult and a kind of alien life forms. It’s just so rich with imagery and we kind of wanted our music to almost soundtrack those pictures. Jimmy Page originally did the soundtrack but then fell out with Kenneth Anger, I think, so that got scrapped. It’s just like a ambient soundscape for twenty minutes and I guess we tried to reimagine what the music would be like over that and began the imagery for the album. That’s where that comes from.That goes hand in hand with the next question then. As I said, it’s very abstract at some point, I also realized that you use a lot of imperative forms, I don’t know if you realize this… At some point I was thinking this is like some kind of manual for escaping or for, I don’t know, using your mind in a different way.When you say imperative, do you mean...?Like, the grammatical form, lots of “take” and “make”…I guess we’re addressing the listener, but not consciously. But we kind of like those… like they’re read like a scripture in some places, I guess, about being… I’m getting too pretentious. (laughs) Just the kind of a greater power sound, I suppose, that kind of biblical field to, like reading you your rights. But I don’t know, I never really thought about that. Maybe it’s just a natural thing we go to.Maybe it’s also just my interpretation…No, no, I do agree with that.Isn’t this also about escapism to some degree?I suppose the whole, with that in mind as a concept of our music, yes. And the music does allow the listener to escape, but not for any particular reason other than that they want to, just because it’s fun. It’s an enjoyable process for a record to take you somewhere, something I think all good records do and all of the ones that influenced us. It’s not just music and lyrics, there’s an imagery there which takes you somewhere. We just wanted to mimic that process and hopefully add something new to it as well.Definitely. So your success came very fast, within one year you had the album out and were touring, playing huge and popular venues. Growing up in your hometown, what was it that you originally wanted to become, or was becoming a musician really the one thing you wanted to achieve?I think it’s always been there, for all of us in the band, we’ve all been in different bands growing up. I guess it’s quite strange, everyone in the band moved away from Kettering. You get to that point where you kind of graduate from being a… academically, but also just in life, you kind of get to that point when you move away, as everyone does, as you reach a kind of adolescence, maybe your early twenties. Some of us went to university, some of us went to cities and worked, but it just happened that we all ended up back in Kettering for one reason or another, whether it was we couldn’t pay our rent where we were living, or, you know, graduated from university, or lost our job, or whatever. But we all ended up in Kettering at the same time, which is why Temples started.Fate?(laughs) Well, some would say. It’s just strange, I suppose, ‘cause we all tried for so many years to be in a successful band and then everything went wrong, or everything happened, I suppose, ‘cause we ended up back at home. Then you just kind of think “Fuck it!” and we started playing music and uploaded some songs and now we’re here. Someone else could do the same tomorrow and it just wouldn’t happen again, so it’s very difficult to explain, that process and where we are now, this quickly. It’s very strange. It’s very strange even now to… we try not to think about everything we’re doing and I guess we’re in the process of growing up as a band in front of everyone, because we were a band months before, had a few gigs before our first tour and released our first single and we’ve always been in the public eye, I guess. It’s interesting, but there’s nothing you can be ever than honest, just because there’s nothing that we can hide. We are what we are now, and people either like it or not and it’s great that there’s people supporting us and sticking around, so that’s good.I was just thinking, with that reference to 60s / 70s music, if Doctor Who came around and said “Come on, you’ve got a free trip”…What kind of trip? (laughs)… ”on my time machine”! (laughs) Where would you like to go? Is there anything like a special decade, or a special show, or something you’d really like to see?I suppose… (thinks) That’s a really tricky one. They used to do those shows, Party at the Palace, I don’t think they still do it anymore, at the Crystal Palace, I think, in London, in the late 60s and early 70s. There were some incredible shows with different bands playing that, which would’ve been great. I just think Pink Floyd played there originally and something like Beach Boys did as well, a lot of big names. But I think any festival within that 60s or 70s era would be incredible to experience, just because they were so fresh and new at the time. And I think a lot more and certainly less commercial, yeah, a more relaxed affair, would be an incredible experience. Like what the first Glastonbury Fair would’ve been like, or something like that and then to see where it’s come now, I guess that’d be incredible to see. Or the UFO club in London. Any of the Soft Machine shows there, I would have loved to be at that.You’ve got such a busy schedule, you already mentioned that you usually write and record at the same time, but have you had any time to write anything on the road?No. (laughs) We try not to on purpose, actually, just ‘cause I think that breathing space away from thinking about recording is something quite novel to us now. It’s the first opportunity ever since the band began we’ve been able not to think about the record or building towards a record. So we’ve just been enjoying that, just focussing on playing and enjoying ourselves. And then I think we’ll be ready to look back at what to do next. We have things that are recorded and we’ve been working on things separately but I think when the four of us get together… I think November is the first chance we have, like good month free. I think most of November is free for us, so I think we’ll probably have a look then.How long have you been on the road now?Basically since the album came out, since February 5 I think that was.Phew.Yeah. We’ve had a week off, or a couple of days off here or there, but it’s been good, you know. It’s important to do this, I suppose, especially getting our music out to as many people as possible, it’s a positive thing, we’re very glad to be halfway through our year. It’s strange to think it’s our first German shows on our own, it’s strange to be in Berlin on our own for the first time, last night.It must have been good from what I’ve heard.Yeah, it was very good. It’s just strange that we played a few other places in Europe, but just never on our own in Germany. It’s good to finally do it.One last thing I’d like to know is, you have achieved so much in such a short time span, are there any special goals left for you to achieve? Like, I want to play this venue, or collaborate with this musician, or something like that?I definitely think working with someone else would be really interesting, you know, someone like Pete Kember, Sonic Boom, from Spacemen 3, or there’s a great guy called Nick Nicely, who’ve been listening to a lot lately, he like released some singles in the early 80s, but he has a real sound that references I guess that 60s style of writing and some of the aesthetics from then. So, yeah, because we have recorded the first album ourselves, we’re almost open to do… we haven’t properly recorded with someone else yet, we still have that to do, if we choose to, which is great. A lot of bands come and go so quickly these days. I think with each song and each record that we write we’ll think about that as well. I think it’s important to really think about the future with your band as well. I certainly don’t think we’ll be repeating ourselves with the next record or anything. All of the great British bands have found a way to continue through adversity and minor changes and things like that, which I’m sure won’t happen to us. It’s just admirable to have such a prolific number of albums, a lot of our favourite bands wrote so much. I think that’s something we aspire to do also.

Temples Interview

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