Interview: Volcanic Eruptions: Temples

Volcanic Eruptions: Temples

Bored of being labelled ’70s nostalgists, Temples are looking forward with an album that shrugs off the mysticism and cuts to the quick.

“It definitely got frustrating,” admits Temples bassist Tom Warmsley, nursing a stubby beer ahead of the band’s Rough Trade in-store. “There’s so much more to us than just being compared to those things.” The “things” in question are the catalogue of ’60s and ’70s reference points – from Pink Floyd to the seminal psychedelic ‘Nuggets’ compilation – that littered every piece of press around the release of the Kettering quartet’s debut LP ‘Sun Structures’. And today, almost three years exactly since it hit shelves and with forthcoming second offering ‘Volcano’ nearing release, the band (completely by frontman James Bagshaw, keys-man Adam Smith and drummer Sam Toms) are ready to step out from beneath the shadow of those “things” for good. “You have to rebuild yourselves a bit,” Warmsley adds. “We’ve got something to prove with this record.”

Hailed by rock’s elder statesmen (Noel Gallagher famously proclaimed that “the future of the galaxy” depended on their record) and hyped by critics from the off, Temples’ rise was both rapid and rabid. Copies of limited run debut single ‘Shelter Song’ started changing hands for upwards of £150 and, less than two years after they formed, the band had landed themselves a Top 10 record. Then came nearly two years of touring before the group could sit down and work out their next move. “’Sun Structures’ is all we knew and now looking back, maybe we realise that actually that went on for quite a long time…” Warmsley notes with a laugh. 

So the band decamped back to the East Midlands, to a slightly bigger bedroom-turned-studio, in a town slightly outside of Kettering (truly the realistic face of modern day success) to give themselves the luxury of time to regroup and reassess. “It just seemed like the most sensible thing to do,” says Smith. “We couldn’t afford to go into a big studio to record and that’s not the way we work either. We need a lot of time and time’s expensive in the studio.” Some things, they knew, would be the same: the band still recorded and produced the record entirely themselves. But some things, they knew, had to be different. “When you’re figuring out what to do next, it’s hard to work out which bits of your band’s identity you want to keep and to progress,” Warmsley says. “But we wanted to make it more modern,” adds Toms. “That was one of the only things we did know at the start of making it; we needed to do something different.”

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“We’ve got something to prove with this record.”

Tom Warmsley

And while ‘Volcano’ is still unapologetically a Temples record, these differences are clear from the crunching synths that begin album opener ‘Certainty’ and throughout. “It’s all a bit crispier now,” begins Smith. “That instant gratification you get from hearing a song live and how it hits you is something we wanted on the record,” adds Warmsley. “We’ve left the reverb out and stopped having this big wash of sound across the whole record; now I think the songs serve themselves.” As well as a shift in production techniques and studio specifics, however, the crux of ‘Volcano”s advancement is simple. “There [consciously] isn’t such a referential sound from a golden era. We wanted to blur the lines a little more of what influenced this record. People will hear ‘Certainty’ and think it’s going in one route, but every song’s a bit of a red herring towards something else,” Warmsley elaborates before stumbling upon a simple conclusion: “Maybe it’s just more us.”

It’s not just sonically where Temples have found their voice, either. Lyrically, from ‘Strange Or Be Forgotten”s musings on legacy to ‘How Would You Like To Go?’ (Warmsley: “It’s a song about death, how much more obvious can you be?”), ‘Volcano’ eschews hazy metaphors in favour of a far more direct path. “It was very much the intention before for the lyrics to just be an aside to the music,” Warmsley explains. “Whereas now, rather than nice poetic imagery to suit the sound, the songs are actually about something. You can tell what a song’s about on first listen, which is a new concept for us.” And the subjects in question? “I think [the record is] about realising you’re not invincible,” he continues. “It’s based in thoughts about everything: yourself, the world, being in the autumn of your 20s and realising you’re not going to live forever. It’s a very British style, very stiff upper lip, to have really joyous music and underneath it to have some dark subjects.”

Referencing the black comedy of Yorkshire experimentalist Bill Nelson, the oddball kicks of Sparks and the ever-shifting musicianship of Deerhunter as influences, it’s clear that Temples are painting in a wider palette these days: still smart enough to keep the musos happy, but direct and different enough to give the naysayers a surprise. “’Volcano’ is our first chance to create another footprint in the direction we’re going in; it shows people more about Temples and what we sound like,” says Warmsley. And though the sentiment may sound simplistic, it kind of says it all. Looks like the band are taking to this newfound directness with ease.

‘Volcano’ is released on 3rd March via Heavenly Records. They will play Live at Leeds (29th April), where DIY is an official media partner. Tickets are on sale now. Visit diymag.com/presents for more information.