Temples: "My tears are made from glitter"
Glamour, pop, and fun are high up on Temples’ agenda - but they also want to make a difference.
Published: 6:29 am, March 06, 2017
The secret behind Temples' tight, melodic psych pop tunes might have something to do with their frontman's toilet habits.
"The melody will generally start the song. It could come from something as ridiculous as going for a wee. You might have an idea that comes to your head, and I'll just press record and sing it. It's ridiculous where something can come to you," singer and lead guitarist James Bagshaw explains.
It's the band's knack for writing infectious and immediate songs that helped their debut record, 'Sun Structures', reach the Top 10 in the Official Albums Chart. It was performed live at shows across the world and brought their 60s tinged psych through the TV sets of millions; their single 'Keep In The Dark' even soundtracked a Strongbow advert.
Now, almost three years on, the well-mannered Kettering quartet have returned with 'Volcano' - an album that drives the band's sound forward, without compromising on the pop sensibilities that made its predecessor such a success.
"This record certainly has a distinctive sound as much as the first record, but it doesn't sound like the first one," James says, before he heads down to film the video for their latest single, 'Strange Or Be Forgotten'.
"There's always that difficult next song, and that's apparent with being a writer anyway. Sometimes you go for a month without coming up with anything good, and you think, ‘Is this me? Can I not write music anymore?' But that's nothing to do with whether that's your first or your tenth album as far as I'm concerned.
"It's about jumping on it when there is a spark and trying to build it into something that's better than the last thing you did and hopefully with some degree of originality."
The topic of originality has been one question mark that's followed Temples around since they emerged. Some have sneered at Bagshaw's apparent attempt to channel Marc Bolan on stage with his glitter-flecked cheekbones, while frequent comparisons with their Australian counterparts Tame Impala seem to linger. James is undeterred.
"It makes no difference," he says defiantly. "People will say that because there are similarities with maybe the choice of effects, but I'd much rather be compared to that than, you know - I don't want to slag anyone off - but someone who is not very good."
He adds: "I don't really listen to any music when I'm writing. It's kind of like fasting. I find that quite purifying as far as coming up with stuff because you're inadvertently not ripping stuff off then. It's so easy to do.
"If you listen to anything, whether you like it or not, you can be influenced by it. I like to go through the struggle of not hearing any music, and I find it quite liberating when something comes of it.
"If I'm at home and I put on [David Bowie album] 'Hunky Dory', and I'm feeling really inspired after it then I'm sure I'll start sitting at a piano. It's not like I have ear plugs in, it's more I don't listen to music through my own choice."
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James' decision to ‘fast' from music has produced some impressive results. The songs sound more expansive and grandiose when compared to the tracks on 'Sun Structures', not least 'Oh The Saviour' - a sprawling, hook-laden track that's doused in synth. It's also the frontman's favourite on 'Volcano'.
"One that feels like a real movement from anything that we've done before is 'Oh The Saviour' because, without getting too geeky, it modulates throughout as far as chords go," he explains.
"It's something that happened by accident, and it's the first time I've really written something like that. It changes key with every verse without anyone really knowing that it's happening. Lyrically, I am really proud of it, but it also feels like an interesting little journey as well.
"You just work on a song until it grabs you and has an atmosphere around it. The moment it hits is when you see all the music is coming together as one."
Back in December last year, Temples were asked to join the likes of The Farm, Paul Weller and Robert Wyatt at a concert in support of Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn. The self-confessed "working-class lads" from Northamptonshire were only too keen to perform at the Brighton gig - the first of a series People Powered concerts. Just don't expect them to go all Billy Bragg anytime soon.
"We don't write about politics or our political stance, but anyone who says they're not interested in politics is a bit of a liar because it affects everybody. We are a working class lads from a working class town so people could probably guess which way we sway," James says.
"We don't go on marches or anything, but that doesn't mean we don't care as much as the people who do. Music can be married with politics quite easily, but we are interested in the effects of it and how it affects others more than how it directly affects us. Which you'll probably read into that that we're not Tories."
James and bassist Tom Walmsley launched the band in its initial guise as a recording project in 2012. After uploading four tracks to YouTube they managed to prick the ears of independent label, Heavenly Recordings, and drummer Sam Toms and keyboard player Adam Smith jumped on board. The four-piece have since developed a formidable system that manages to bring out the best in each musician.
"That's how our democracy works," James says. "It is a filter, but we are all pretty much part of the same unit, so there are compromises of course along the way, but there's something that happens when we all get together and work on a song. The conception of a song will be an individual thing, and then we'll start bouncing ideas off each other."
He adds: "Melodies just come out of the air really and then a song comes out of that and sometimes it doesn't. There are melodies that may get used at another point because we just couldn't find the right bed for that melody to sit on."
That system seems to have done the trick so far, and now the band are eager to tour the new material. A sizeable list of dates has already been announced, with gigs planned across the US, Europe and England over the next few months.
"We want to play new stuff now, and that's what it's all about," James says. "We have been playing 'Strange Or Be Forgotten' live, and it gets to a bit, and you're like, ‘What am I doing here?' It's about getting that song into your blood stream, so you're not playing a rendition of it, you're playing a new version every night."
With a solid addition of songs and a rediscovered appetite for the stage, only one question remains: Will James bring the glitter along with him on the tour bus?
"My tears are made from glitter, so it's quite hard to fake it," he jokes. "For some reason, I like sparkly things; I'm like a magpie when I go in a shop. It doesn't matter whether it's for a girl or whatever I am always drawn to it. I actually have a drawer with stuff related to glitter, just not Gary Glitter. There might be a reappearance. I need some new colours."
Temples' album 'Volcano' is out now.