Psychedelia is, at heart, the moment when rock ‘n’ roll met technology and the studio became an instrument. Its current resurgence is curious, then, coming at a time when technology has never been cheaper and a professional studio can fit into a box room, or a shed.
In the space of just a few singles, Kettering space cadets Temples have established themselves as one of the leading lights of this psychedelic resurgence. 2012's ‘Shelter Song’ matched ‘Tomorrow Never Knows’ to a golden pop touch, while last year's ‘Keep In The Dark’ single was a low slung T. Rex strut – all accomplished in lead singer James Bagshaw’s spare room. As is their debut album, 'Sun Structures', released on February 10th.
“It’s literally a box room that I was brought up in, where me and my brother grew up,” he explains of the environment the album took shape in. “It was like a kid’s room – you can only fit like seven people in it, and it was rammed with all the gear.”
Using a mixture of modern and antique equipment – “The album is 50% analog and 50% digital, then it’s all recorded digitally onto computers,” says Bagshaw – the band laid down ideas late at night, often bustling into the room fresh from a live show. “It took us the whole year to make it,” the singer continues. “You know, after a gig, whacking on some earphones and doing some late-night recording. It was all a learning curve for us, I guess, bringing that live-show quality home.”
Remarkably, Bagshaw – who helmed production throughout – is entirely self-taught. Using his own record collection for inspiration, he searched for any sound which would grasp his attention.
“I’ve learnt from listening, basically. There are all sorts of documentaries online – I found a DVD about Les Paul, it was basically showing how he recorded. I suppose there is some of that studio trickery on some of our tracks – sped-up tapes and all those techniques, like making your guitar sound like a mandolin. Just listening to records from Scott Walker, which sound brilliant, and very vibrant and large in scale. Jack Nitzsche, Phil Spector, Jo Meek and Tony Visconti are also great producers.”
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Using experience gained from their stint in mod-poppers The Moons, Bagshaw and bass player Thomas Warmsley steered the band in a more fantasy-driven direction. “I mean, there are stories here,” says the frontman. “They’re not kitchen-sink dramas in an Arctic Monkeys sense, that’s not our style. I think that would be quite jarring against the more melodic elements of our work.”
“Some songs on the record are stories hidden by using different words than you’d normally associate with them,” he continues. “We know what we’re trying to say, but we say it in a hidden manner – just because it would sound wrong singing about using an iPad or something like that.”
Descending into the realms of fantasy, ‘Sun Structures’ is littered with otherworldly imagery, right down to the song titles: ‘Colours To Life’ for example, is met by ‘The Golden Throne’ or ‘Sand Dance’. As Bagshaw explains, in part this imagery owes a debt to Temples’ bulging bookshelf.
“We all read. We’re all big lovers of novelists and poets, and some playwrights as well. Certainly Christopher Marlowe, and Oscar Wilde, I really like their work. I can’t speak for the others; it’s really a very large spectrum of things that influence the band.”
Signed to Heavenly Recordings, Temples' early releases quickly became hugely sought after. Almost perfectly formed, the vinyl edition of ‘Keep In The Dark’, for example, exchanges for imposing sums online.
“I guess it’s a condensed version of what you do, in many ways,” he shrugs, explaining the very essence of a single. “We find it very hard for to choose singles, though. Jeff and Danny at Heavenly are very good, and we respect their opinions on things like this. At the end of the day a band is not going to want to put out something they see as catchy, it’s kind of like a faux pas.”
He laughs. “For some reason, artists nowadays want to put out there oddest track that will freak people out. We could have easily gone down that route and released different songs. We are lovers of the songs, and we’re lovers of melody and song structures that just kind of hit you in the face.”
Sought after by DJs, there’s a rhythmic element, a dance element within Temples' music which drives each track forwards. “It all stems from a childhood love of Motown records,” the singer explains. “My parents listened to The Supremes and stuff like that, and I remember that as a childhood thing, it was really important to me. That’s dance music really; it’s like a primitive form of dance music, although it’s soul music as well, obviously. The drums and bass in that stuff is just flawless, and has such a great character to it, whether it’s Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons or whatever, that drum and bass together actually sounds very modern if you strip away the distortion.”
With the release of ‘Sun Structures’ fast approaching, Temples are eager to let fans hear the record at they intended: on vinyl. “The record comes on double-LP, and it was important for it to run through as an album. Even on CD, you want it to be cohesive. It just happens that it works best with three songs on each side on vinyl, like these little triplets of songs that work really well together. We hope it gives the listener staying power, and we hope they’re less inclined to go and make a cup of tea.”
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Temples, 'Shelter Song'
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Words: Robin Murray
'Sun Structures' is released on February 10th. Find Temples online here.