Temples come from the shed and play to the stadium

Temples are Kettering’s answer to a lot of things, why your dad used to wear his mum’s blouse in the 70s, how to achieve ultimate curls, and that cringe person who always says; “they don’t write music like they used to back in the day.” They are also a band starting to reflect on their meteoric rise, branching out from their honest beginnings. We had a chat with Syd-Barret look-alike and lead singer James Bagshaw following the release of their third record ‘Hot Motion’.

Where are you and what are you up to?
Right now, we have a day off before we fly to Mexico tomorrow, so I’ve managed to come home for the day. I’m out with the dog in the countryside in the middle of England.

Beautiful, so you’re off to Mexico tomorrow but you started your run of shows with a show at All Points East, how was that for you?
That was our sort of comeback gig after making the album. The album had been finished for 8 months, and that was our first big London gig back. It was really really good because we played so early and so we just assumed no one would give a shit. I guess there was probably about 8,000 people in the tent at like 3 in the afternoon, that was really good.

Everything was pretty much wired up and ready to go on this record. 

It felt like a big occasion, quite a moment.
Yeah, it was and it’s very rare we come off stage and feel all good, as in like there’s always some problem for somebody that will happen, whether it’s technical or playing, or forgetting the lyric. There was idiosyncratic things that we just cast aside because the gig was so good. It’s just really nice to have that sort of unity, I mean we are getting that more and more now because we are just getting tighter, it’s like the tightest we’ve been since we’ve had (drummer) Rens on board as well, he’s been absolutely nailing drums.

On the topic of Rens, you switched it up a bit for this new album, with a new recording space and band member, did that help the progression with this album?
It didn’t really make any difference because Rens wasn’t around when we were making the album, that was a decision we made afterwards. We told Sam to leave at the end of last year after a bit of a chaotic run of shows and to be honest, I’ve always taken it as my responsibility to do the drums on the record. Rens wasn’t involved on the record and that’s why he’s not on the photo on the sleeve and stuff. It felt weird doing that. He did join the band this year, but it was after the record was finished. But for live, definitely, we’ve been rehearsing, and the stuff is sounding really good, and the new stuff, in particular, is sounding really good and really translating live.

Awesome, and after that All Points East show you did a couple more shows, is there anything that’s stood out?
Yeah, we had some Spanish shows, we did like a little mini-tour of 3 gigs – one in Barcelona, one in Oviedo and Bilbao festival, which was brilliant. Actually, that was before All Points East, that was Rens’ first gig and that was another one where 15 minutes before going on we looked out on what was essentially the biggest or second-biggest stage – a huge outdoor stage – and there was probably like 200 people there. We were like oh here we go; you question your sort of relevance at that point. Then in 15 minutes, in the time we had gone for a piss and done all that stuff, the pre-show ritual, it was packed, like thousands of people. So it was definitely a good gig for Rens to have as his first gig, that was very much like a welcome to touring.

Maybe someone finished and everyone ran over to see you? 
Yeah, maybe they had a lot of respect for what they were watching and then they had enough respect to come and watch us. Its good man.

You’ll be touring your new album Hot Motion, the sound seems to be a lot darker and lyrically seems to be focusing a lot more on what’s going on in the world, is there a reason for that? And was that a conscious decision or did that just sort of happen?
I mean you just follow the thing which inspires you before, like if you have a certain guitar sound that inspires the next choice that you make. Musically speaking, we didn’t set out to do anything in particular, as far as like something that was inspiring us. It was very much the same as always, wait for that spark of an idea and then try and build on it in the most creative way you can.

I wouldn’t say it was dark, it’s more like the tonality of things, the actual tombre of the sounds, I think the drums and the bass together are a visceral thing throughout the record, and I think there’s a sort of eerie element to that. There are not many safe sounds on the record either, like when the guitar’s clean it’s like low fidelity clean, not like pristine recorded sound. It’s meant to be a bit unsettling like you get with an old cassette or something, but then it is married up with the high fidelity of what you can do nowadays with recording as far as like how big a kick drum sounds, you know.

As I said you had a new recording space, did you move from a bedroom to a living room or something? Or vice versa? 
We basically use an outbuilding at my house which is like a dank and damp garage essentially, with like a tin roof. So, we spent the best part of a year really just sort of getting it finished off, there wasn’t a huge amount to do. I remember putting floor down and looking at it as an empty space and remember thinking this looks smaller than I thought it was gonna look. It was only when I got the gear in that I thought ah no it’s not, it’s a great space. It’s not huge but I can fit everything I own in it. It’s nice to have everything set up, that’s the first time that’s ever happened, usually, it’s like somethings in a storage unit or somethings in the shed and your inspiration is sometimes maybe slowed down by the fact you’ve got to logistically get hold of things. But everything was pretty much wired up and ready to go on this record. 

It’s quintessentially a Temples record.

On the record, your voice is a lot more prominent, more to the forefront I feel, am I right in that and again was that conscious? How did that help the record develop?
It’s one of those things that happens when you feel comfortable with the melody of the song. It’s less about hiding behind effects, but using reverb and delay in a creative way. But it was that thing of having the vocal sit on top of the mix in a way that it stills feel part of it. I guess like as an example of someone who does that really well – which is completely different music to us – is Scott Walker, his vocal will be loud, you’ll hear every nuance in his voice but at the same time it all sounds like this huge palette of sound really, an atmospheric approach.

And out of the new ones now, what’s your favourite one to play live would you say?
‘Holy Horses’ has been really really fun live, and that’s one that we started playing a few months out gigging. I find the ones vocally challenging, but some nights they will be my favourite songs if I feel like I’ve absolutely nailed it. “You’re Either On Something” is a great one for that because it’s really nice to feel on the back of the beat for that and deliver the lyrics. Every word means something because it’s quite a personal song, but the chorus on that, some nights it will be good and some nights it will be better than when I sang it on the recording you know. I quite like those challenging elements of songs, but they’re all challenging in different ways.

I think what we did was make quite a selfish album really, we just made it for us to enjoy.

And you mentioned the album cover, on this one you’re front and centre with the artwork of the Greek god Pan, was there a reason for why you did this?
Well, it’s always hard to approach a band photo on the cover, there’s not really anything left to do which is completely original, well. that’s a lie obviously there is things to do but. the classic thing is “oh we are going to do a band photo for a cover, we will go into a lit set up and do that.” I think we wanted a background which didn’t distract from us, but at the same time was something that created a little bit of intrigue, something you can stare at for ages. I mean we are very much not a part of the image; we are sat in front of it. We are sitting on stage on theatre chairs and we are looking out as if we are viewing the audience of the theatre.

We’re basically in front of the curtain, like the stationary curtain for the theatre in Northampton. We were looking for stuff that was local, and we always try and look for things like that, like Triangular Lodge was on the first record and that’s in Rushden, and then this place in Northampton. [The photo] is done in that style of old paintings, but it’s not old enough to be in that era, so I guess there is a little nod to the pre-Raphaelite ethos of doing something a tad post-modern. I think it’s about 150 years old and it’s painted like it’s an ancient classic. We just wanted something intriguing to look at and people can actually go and see this in real life, we haven’t paid some art dealer to use and image and then it goes back in storage you know.

And is this your favourite album you’ve made so far?
No, It’s my least favourite, yeah I hate it, haha. Yeah, it’s up there and we really enjoyed making it. I mean making the first record was really really enjoyable, because obviously it was the first album we made and at the time it was Tom and me, Adam didn’t get to be involved in the songwriting process. So now we’ve got three minds working by themselves at first and then bringing it together so we can end up making a record that’s got a real diverse sensibility to it. But, at the same time, it’s quintessentially a Temples record. It doesn’t sound like anything but that I don’t think. Yeah, proud of it.

There’s no point me throwing in comparisons of what we sound like because we sound like us.

It seems a lot more wholesome and cohesive, is that right?
That is right. In other words, we made an album where we didn’t think about an end product. I mean that in the sense that we didn’t think about people listening to it, we disregarded that, quite rightly as well. I think on the last record we did, on Volcano, there’s a part of us – because we had a relatively successful first album – that worries and tries to second guess what you think your fans want. On this record, we didn’t think about it. I think what we did was make quite a selfish album really, we just made it for us to enjoy.

But also – knowing maybe in the back of our minds that that’s what we did on the first album – we weren’t thinking about how it was going to be perceived because we thought no one was going to hear it, you know what I mean? I think there’s a purity in that and I think we lost elements of that on the last record, in certain songs. I think we overcomplicated things and tried to second guess, it didn’t fail but it didn’t translate the way we wanted it to.

You’ll be playing with a lot of different bands on the road, are there any bands you’ll be exciting to be playing with?
In Europe we’ve got a Spanish band, she’s called Anni B Sweet and I actually had the pleasure of making her latest record in our studio this year. She’s coming on the road, not just because I know her, but I genuinely think she has songs that people need to hear, and the rest of the band do as well. Even though she might be well known in Spain, I think other people in Europe need to hear her because they just don’t know about it, the fact that she’s singing in Spanish shouldn’t deter anyone, we’ve had bands singing in Swiss or German. I don’t think we’ve even confirmed what’s going on on the UK tour yet, we’re still going through bands that we like and who can do it.

And on the bus is there a playlist or any new stuff you think is really good?
It’s always diverse with us, there will be a classic playlist usually on Tom’s laptop that will be a real mixture of junkshop glam-rock; there’ll be some Bowie, there’ll be some Iggy Pop, probably some Genesis and usually, I walk out when that comes on haha. I haven’t got stuck into the new Brittany Howard stuff; I’ve downloaded it. I really like Alabama Shakes but, I was late to that, I’m still trying to convince the rest of the band to see through the soul elements of it, it’s very hard to do soul music and not be a parody of that. But I firmly believe they’re not, and her new record sounds really good. It’s probably not a party record though, it’s probably not a backstage one, more of a bus on a journey somewhere one.

Finally, my mum has no music knowledge beyond Blondie and classical music, so how would you sell her Temples?
Wow. I’d say if you love Blondie, you’ll love us. I mean we are nothing like it but you’ve got to get people to listen to it in the first place, so I think that’s it. There’s no point me throwing in comparisons of what we sound like because we sound like us.

Listen to Temples new record Hot Motion on Spotify and Apple Music.