Shop our Big Takeover store for back issues, t-shirts & CDs
Follow The Big Takeover
Photo by Laura Allard Fleischl
Before kicking off the first leg of their U.S. tour in support of their third LP Hot Motion (ATO Records), the Kettering, Northamptonshire Temples found themselves in a time of transition. Comprised of singer/guitarist James Bagshaw, bassist Tom Walmsley and keyboardist/rhythm guitarist Adam Smith, the band completed the sessions for their latest album as a trio before recruiting new drummer Rens Ottink who rounded out a reinvigorated line-up. Hot Motion, follows their acclaimed albums Sun Structures (2014, Heavenly/Fat Possum) & Volcano (2017, Heavenly), is Temples’ debut release for American Independent label ATO Records.
Renowned for their mesmerizing live performances, Temples have also announced two legs of a U.S. tour this fall and winter that bookends a European run in between. Special thanks to Alex Courides at Grandstand Media for coordinating the following interview and to James Bagshaw for the intriguing and sometimes hilarious look into the Temples universe.
(The below interview picks up after the weekend of mass shootings in El Paso, TX and Dayton, OH which is where the discussion begins).
James Broscheid: I don’t know about this country. I’m frazzled with the shootings, I don’t understand this country’s gun culture. It’s a blessing that there are bands like Temples out there that can take your mind off this stuff even though it gets overwhelming sometimes.
James Bagshaw: It’s horrible to read about in the news and not be in America. But yeah, I can imagine it being a horrible feeling to be in the news all the time like that. And there’s nothing you can do about it and least until they change the laws or something happens anyway.
JB: And the lack of leadership, that I’m sure you are experiencing now as I understand Boris Johnson is in as Prime Minister.
James Bagshaw: And that’s a twat, yeah!
JB: (Agrees) It’s the time of the season of the twats!
James Bagshaw: I wonder how they even get up there in those positions.
JB: On our side of the pond, there is always some degree of racism (hopefully it goes away at some point) but, Trump just tapped into this underlying notion of America being under attack by people of color who take away jobs and the white man is now the minority, yet they write all the laws and they are in command everywhere you look. It’s just really frustrating.
James Bagshaw: (Agreeing) And there is stuff like social media being used (allegedly anyway I suppose). I reckon it makes sense why someone like Trump got in because of the use of data and people (voters), that would swing as far as Republican or Democrat were fed the right propaganda. That’s what happened here with Brexit.
JB: Both countries have leaned towards idiocy and people being sick of politics. So we elect people that are completely incompetent, under-qualified, or not qualified at all and this is what we are left with.
James Bagshaw: Yeah, chaos! (laughing)
JB: So let’s get to the music (both laugh)! Congrats on Hot Motion (ATO Records), I think it is a tremendous record. A third LP that I have been playing the hell out of lately. You guys have always been tapped as a psychedelic band but I think we are hearing something else on Hot Motion. I understand it’s your first for ATO; how did that relationship come about and what was it like parting ways with Heavenly and Fat Possum?
James Bagshaw: We had a really good relationship with Heavenly over the first two albums that we did and a great relationship with Fat Possum for the first record and at the start of the second record we didn’t really hear from them. That was a bit harsh but there is no hard feelings. We had to make a move really because, without getting too into the business and all that, when you’re touring worldwide it can be complicated being on two record labels because both record labels are fighting to have you in their country and you either do well in the UK and Europe or you do well in America as far as the labels are concerned. So we really wanted to look at doing something where we had a record label representing us and a collaborative record label that would let us go around the world with basically no bias towards where you are touring.
JB: I chatted with Aussie band EXEK who also have a new record out and they’re juggling three different labels on three continents so logistically I can see it being a challenge.
James Bagshaw: Definitely. I think it can work for bands. Like Alabama Shakes I think it really works well for. Being on ATO in America and then on Rough Trade over here. That works for them but I mean they are not necessarily a huge band in the UK. They would probably do a decent tour here but they are not be as big as they would be in America. So, basically we just wanted to make it a little easier really on those decisions like, “Where should we be when we release the album?” and “Should we be touring in the UK or touring in America?” There’s less an invested interest, it is more of an instinct-thing now and less inside the bias-thing of “We want you over here now!”
JB: So with being on one label in mind, Hot Motion is a pretty cohesive record; flowing really well from start to finish. Leading into record labels, social media, etc., do you find it difficult in a day and age where, as a music fan, you are inundated with singles and bedroom recordings by everybody and their mom it seems like! Is it difficult being a band on a label compared to the ease of artists releasing music on their own, publishing music themselves?
James Bagshaw: Well, to be fair the way we started was essentially bedroom recordings which we put on social media and then we got a record deal. That sounds so easy when you say it like that (both laugh)! That was in 2013/2014 and it was a very different time on social media even though it’s quite not that long ago. You know, the MySpace age where bands like Arctic Monkeys were big on MySpace and people were sharing/spreading their demo recordings. I think we are fortunate in a way to be on a record label because in this day and age it’s very much about numbers and statistics and our music isn’t fashionable in a commercial sense. It’s nice that there is still that almost old school thing of record labels wanting to have artists on their roster, with the idea that they want them to do well of course but, you’re not being judged on some data from online (laughs). We don’t get played on mainstream radio, we don’t get played on the radio that much at the moment in the UK, even on radio stations we’ve been played on before and that’s a shock to me this time around. I thought it was a given, I thought we would be on (BBC Radio) 6 Music straight away because we always have been. Even that changed so it is a little bit disheartening but, it’s a constant change so you sort of have to accept it.
JB: Yeah, leading into that from the perspective of a music consumer, there is kind of a nostalgia for how it used to be done. Record label signs band, take care of promotion, supports touring you know? We are in uncertain times with the impacts of social media and the lack of record label influence compared to history. Of course, bands rebelled against labels for being screwed over and I come to find, I almost miss those days (both laugh).
James Bagshaw: Yeah, at the moment I am positive with the way streaming is going now. It’s popular so that’s good. There’s a lot of people engaged with it but as a musician, or a band starting out, it’s unsustainable. It really is. Even when we go on tour, and we’re not a big band by any means, we get to tour around the world. We don’t come home and find ourselves sitting on loads of money. Do you know what I mean? It costs so much to tour that we’re lucky if we break even. It’s pretty hard and we’re at a level where we get to do proper tours and have a tour bus, etc. It makes me wonder because it’s got to be harder than ever to be without a record label and things like that. Unless you’re a guy or girl with a laptop, it’s very hard to be able to get to all the places you need to be without basically making yourself bankrupt.
JB: Agreed. I’ve talked with quite a few artists who have gone the social media route, doing everything themselves, and they go and do five or six tour dates and find themselves completely strapped for cash. Sometimes not even being able to complete their tour. I think as a world, developed economies tend to latch on to something (trendy, etc.), and drive it into the ground before realizing there are multiple, sustainable ways of doing things. You can be on a record label while taking advantage of social media. It’s like we go the harder route first and learn the harsh lesson?
James Bagshaw: Definitely (laughing)! I think that is happening in the YouTube community with these so-called “YouTube stars”. This whole thing of people having to state when something is an ad or it’s a product placement and all that. Suddenly the YouTubers are losing fans because a lot of their content has paid-for-advertisements in it which they now have to say in the video and people think, “Well, they’re not doing it for the love of the video, they are doing it to make money”. I think the YouTube thing could potentially crash like other artistic formats have where only the really top people can still carry on the way that they were. I definitely don’t want to come across as bitter in any way about the music industry, I’m very fortunate. Since we got signed, I haven’t been to work let’s put it that way.
JB: Yeah, that is great!
James Bagshaw: So that’s pretty good and I’m very, very thankful for that. I just think it is very, very hard, sustainably for a lot of musicians nowadays and at times myself included.
JB: I was looking over the press release for Hot Motion and it mentions *David Lynch*-ian undertones with, obviously, the band’s psychedelic sensibilities and combining it all together. Can you discuss the band’s approach to writing and recording this record and were there any distinct differences this time around compared to your first two LPs?
James Bagshaw: Well, the studio has always been in my house and on the first album (2013’s Sun Structures on Heavenly), was when I lived with my parents. The second record (2016’s Volcano also on Heavenly), I was renting a house and the “studio” was just in the living room. Now I live with my fiancé in the countryside and what I’ve got built took me about a year and a half to convert into somewhere where I could leave my equipment and not worry about it going damp (both laugh)! So this is the first time where the band has a dedicated space which is still not a studio per se but, it is definitely most like a studio that we’ve ever worked in. Everything is set up pretty much all the time which has been really good for the process. I don’t know really how to describe it other than it being more instantaneous with ideas; less thought and maybe more feel. I don’t know if that makes any sense. Just having everything set up we make those decisions quite quickly and sort of irrationally (laughing)!
JB: With everything set up already it helps induce ideas faster right?
James Bagshaw: Yeah, you go with your instinct more. That’s it! More instinctive and less thinking about how it’s going to be perceived. I think maybe with the last record we worried more subconsciously about how we couldn’t make the first album again. We went totally against that. On this record, I did not even think about anybody listening to it. So it was back to the song either being good or not for me and the rest of the band. I think that shows and when I listen to it now I can hear all of our individual songwriting styles because all of us write different parts of songs and then bring the whole thing to the table. But it feels like a cohesive record where we are all working towards the same goal which is basically an un-compromised piece of art really.
JB: It really does sound like it on this record and I love your previous two! This third one feels different even though it is recognizably Temples. It’s got a great psychedelic vibe of course and the two singles released in sequence with the track listing on a record with tremendous flow. At least for me I haven’t put on Hot Motion and started skipping around to different tracks. It’s an easy record to just let play from start to finish. There are plenty of records like that in the world but it seems, going back to what we were discussing earlier, it seems easier to release one track at time, single by single, like there is no concept of an album in mind. Was Temples’ approach towards Hot Motion a deliberate attempt to craft a proper record and let ideas flow?
James Bagshaw: Yeah, definitely! After we finished touring Volcano, there was this period of being totally uninspired, certainly for me, as far as what to do musically. I was just churning out some songs that had no identity to them as far as the sound of them. What I was trying to do basically is get the core of the song as far as melody, chord progression, and maybe a lyric here and there but in doing that I wasn’t excited by any of it because it made me realize how important the sound of everything is. And I think that was the changing point because it was like, “Well, what’s the point of coming up with songs if the sound is not there?”
It sounds so simple when you say it like that but I record, let’s say, Hot Motion the song with a completely different sound. It could be a totally different tempo; the drums could be really dry and flat sounding and suddenly the energy of the song isn’t there. Even though it is essentially the same thing, it just has a different sound palette and I think the moment that was realized, was almost when I started falling in love with the idea again that the sound always informs the song but, for me I almost threw that idea out the window. Everything should sound good on just an acoustic guitar and singing but, that’s not always the case because you need to get the song in the first place and be able to do that.
JB: How about the flow of the album as far as sequencing the tracks. Was it your intent coming in to write and record this record to be a kind of journey or ebb and flow? I don’t want to say concept album because I think that term gets thrown around a lot but Hot Motion has staying power because, as a listener, you stay hooked in until the end.
James Bagshaw: Yes, absolutely. We are an album band you know? You get judged by singles and your most well-known song of course, especially in this day and age, but the album is still very important. We think about if we’ve got an album with eleven tracks, one side is going to be five songs and the other side is going to be six or vice versa. You basically have two intro songs and two final songs because if you are going to end the side of a record you’ve got a gap there, a silence.
You want that to leave you wanting something on the other side. You’ve got to think about it that way. Which makes sense in a record because you’re arranging the album to have peaks throughout it. You’re just not going to put the poppy songs at the beginning and the most enigmatic at the end and then in between is just filler. You’re constantly, you’ve got peaks really and the troughs are more dynamic as opposed to artistic troughs.
JB: I’ve got to imagine being a musician and being in a recording band, there’s is a lot on your mind. It’s not as simple as, “Okay, I’ve got these ideas, let’s hit the studio, track and master them, press them into wax and release.” There are ideas, questions, logistics, technicalities, gear issues, etc. I wonder if it can get quite maddening at times!
James Bagshaw: Yeah! There’s a lot of things to weigh up. I always think of it as the tempos of your songs and how the songs work together that I’ve learned from (playing) live. If you have a song that you feel is a fast song but then if it is played after another song that’s fast, it feels slow. You’ve got this sort of metronome in your head where you’ve got used to a tempo and when you start the next song, it feels a bit slow.
For me, the key of the song as well, to some degree. You may be able to get away with two songs in a row that are in the same key but, three songs in a row that are in the same key, say a major key, suddenly those three tracks sound like one song. If people even get through the three songs! It just sounds the same and that’s to the non-musician. To a musician it’s just three songs in the same key. Little things like that. You try to arrange it in a way that each song sounds different within the frame of the album.
JB: I would imagine that, as a musician, three songs in a row in the same key would be incredibly boring to play live!
James Bagshaw: Yeah, that’s it! Unless you wanted to make it a 10-minute, epic song. It’s like classical music if you can get away with it because you say, “This is part one of a trilogy of three arrangements”, or something. When you’re making pop records, and I would say we make pop records (both laugh)!
JB: Yeah, loosely right?!
James Bagshaw: Definitely loosely I think! (laughs)
JB: You mentioned earlier about moving out to the country, the midlands of the UK. Was that setting impactful on the recording sessions for Hot Motion and were you afforded more time to develop the sounds you were looking for on the record?
James Bagshaw: I think so, yeah. We didn’t really spend that many late nights, I can’t really have people staying over because we don’t have enough room for people to sleep here. What happens is you start early and some nights you go on late and then get capped back or whatever. We’re now in the countryside but we are essentially locked in a room. You’ve got that going on around you but there’s no shop where I live. There’s not a shop in the village. So you can’t be distracted; you can’t go into town and get a coffee or anything like that.
JB: Or hit the pub?
James Bagshaw: Well there is a pub but that only opens at 6:30 in the evenings and by that point we’ve earned a pint then because we have been working for eight hours. That was one thing we did, yeah! We would discuss things over a few beers or whiskies or wine! We try and not make it like work. So we’d say “We’ll start at 10AM tomorrow” but we don’t really say what time we’re finishing. Lunch break isn’t really a thing.
I would just work through the day and not really think about lunch or anything. Then, sometimes, in the background I could hear someone eating crisps and get annoyed but, to be fair, I should probably stop but I don’t (both laugh). That’s when you get obsessive about what you’re doing. You need to do that to sort of get in the zone of the song. Definitely.
JB: I can relate to a rural setting. Before moving back to Arizona, my family and I lived in rural Colorado where you would have to drive half an hour just to get groceries and see civilization! There’s days I miss that and days where I don’t because with rural America, I don’t know if rural UK is similar and I don’t mean to slam anybody, but there are differing politics, social philosophies, etc. I found a lot of fear about border security even though the community is in the middle of nowhere, far from any border. It’s good to be back in a city with diversity and things to do!
James Bagshaw: Yeah, I think a bit of both is good because I can go a few days without seeing anybody apart from when my fiancé gets home from work. I mean, I can go out in the car and I’m only maybe a 5-10 minute drive across the valley and I’ve got shops and stuff. To be fair I can get out of here. If it’s raining, and my car isn’t practical as far as it doesn’t have a roof on it – it’s an old, ‘70s convertible, and I don’t like to take it out in the rain. So if it’s raining I am basically housebound.
JB: You can hang out in your house for a few days if you want to sequester yourself or get out in nature and hike around is always good right? So there’s pros and cons to both sides.
James Bagshaw: I think with cities, I get that when we go on tour. When we’re not touring, the last thing I want to see when I look out the window is a busy street full of pubs, clubs and loads of people because that’s sort of what touring is like (laughs).
JB: Yeah, I would imagine you would get your fill being on tour. I was reading an email about the song You’re Either On Something and in particular the lyrics and how truthful they are in the context of that song. Could you discuss the lyrical aspects of the record? I am intrigued by the nostalgia of You’re Either On Something as well as Monuments at it pertains to living in our present time.
James Bagshaw: That (You’re Either On Something) is loosely based around one particular night out which is actually in Denver, Colorado. It was after playing at Bluebird.
JB: That’s a great venue.
James Bagshaw: Yeah, that is a great venue! I remember the night, and it’s loosely based on that because some of the themes aren’t necessarily about that one particular night. They tend to blur together when you’re touring. And it’s not a song about touring in any sense, it is more about social understanding and interaction. I think with me I sometimes have a hard time, I mean I am good at socializing, I’m okay with it and not at all awkward to socialize with but if I had a gig where the sound was shit or something and everyone is going out for a drink afterwards, I’m not going to have the best party in the world. It’s like that thing of observing other people having a really good time and your kicking yourself asking “Why am I not having such a good time?”
Then it’s that wondering of “Well, are they just more carefree?”, and just not anxious about anything or are they on something? It’s intrigue really. It’s not a question you want an answer to, that’s besides the point, it’s just more intrigue. I’ve had this conversation with people who don’t get anxious and (they ask), “What do you mean anxious? What is that?” And I feel the same, “What’s it feel like not to feel any anxiety ever?” I think it’s that more than anything. It’s like trying to explain to someone who’s tone deaf how to sing in key if they just can’t find the note and you’re the opposite, “How do you not know that’s wrong?!?!”
JB: Yeah, it’s like how do you relate to opposing ideologies? Like religion vs. science, political leanings, upbringings, etc. How do people have a great time in the times we’re having right now? I can relate because when I am depressed, angry, hurt, anxious, etc., I want the world to feel what I am feeling. People move on with their lives like walking past someone on the street in need.
James Bagshaw: That’s it, yeah. I think everyone has that sort of observant thing going on. Maybe not everybody thinks about other people, for a start anyway. I look at other people who are in a worse situation than me and think about what it’s like and then think about people who are in a better situation as far as being more carefree and less stressed about things. And it’s trying to find a place in between that gets you through maybe.
JB: I always like to bring that up with bands I speak with. Things like being melancholy and if that mind set helps craft a better song. You can always hear the contrast between what’s Top 40 in the U.S. and stuff I prefer to listen to.
James Bagshaw: Yeah, there’s a lot of great stuff that came from a melancholy mood musically. You know, The Beach Boys, even with The Beatles yeah. There’s also great songs by people like The Beatles you know? (Paul) McCartney doesn’t strike me as an anxious person, maybe back in the day a little bit but he seems pretty carefree and he writes some incredibly emotive songs. Maybe (George) (Harrison) was more the quieter one and his songs are incredibly interesting and brilliant as well. Just to pick out the most cliche, British band I could! A lot of brilliant songs from different heads really.
JB: Yeah, maybe that’s driving part of it. It’s not just melancholy, a lot has to do with love and other raw emotions you know?
James Bagshaw: (Agrees). I think passion about what you do and that thing of being honest in your music, whether you’re being positive or negative. I find it hard to write lyrics. They come 80% of the time before the song comes, for me personally anyway. It may be different for Adam (Smith) and for Tom (Warmsley) but, for (You’re) Either On Something, I wrote the lyrics while I hummed the tune in my head when I was sitting on the porch near my garden.
I think I wrote it on my phone and wrote the whole thing basically. And then wrote the song around it because I knew how the melody should go. It’s nice when that happens. The fear for me was presenting that to the rest of the band going, “I’ve got this song”, and then the idea of the lyrics being panned or these lyrics are rubbish and then it would feel so … (laughs) it would feel really hurtful.
JB: Just deflating, yeah!
James Bagshaw: And I didn’t set it up by going, “These lyrics are about this”, I just shared the song and we worked on it. One lyric got changed. I originally wanted it to say, “It was an hour past my bedtime” because I’m not a super-night owl really. Maybe on tour but not at home. Then we changed it to “An hour after midnight” which is sort of the same thing. 1AM is a good time to be in England (laughing), especially in a village and there’s nothing to do. That was the lyric change and I was fine. They were really cool with these other things like the imagery. It wasn’t discussed like a board meeting, no one said anything else so I was really happy I didn’t have to compromise the lyrics too much.
JB: Does that happen quite a bit? If you come up with a melody and a set of lyrics you had in mind to fit that melody and take it to the rest of the band? I think it’s cool that Temples are a collaborative effort but do you ever walk out of a session feeling defeated like, “They didn’t buy my idea, dammit!”?
James Bagshaw: Oh absolutely, yeah! When that’s happening it’s incredibly … it’s like being in a bad relationship. There’s no way out of it because we’re not going to be able to agree on something. Somehow you find some some kind of (common) ground for compromise. There are certain lyrics where it will be like these can’t change, it has to be like that. Then there’s other bits where that can change as long as the core sentence is in there. You’ll find that the lyrics we collaborate on are the more ambiguous ones. They’re probably a little bit more like word play than story telling.
JB: I wanted to ask you about the band. Particularly, what happened with (old drummer) Sam Toms?
James Bagshaw: Sam Toms you know, we had a great time with Sam on tour and everything but it just got a bit too … you need consistency in a band, it’s like a gang of brothers. It just got to point where … it was actually a gig in December last year, it was the last gig of the year and he didn’t show up all day, for sound check or anything. He turned up half an hour into when we were supposed to be on stage. So we went on stage, played two songs and it was just embarrassing. So that’s the truth behind that. There’s no hard feelings or anything but we had to vacate that position. It happened a few times well, quite a lot of times and he’s a good guy but …
JB: So you could see it coming then?
James Bagshaw: Yeah, it was probably a long time overdue but, it’s hard because you’re like family and you’re like friends who argue and you’re compassionate to each other at the same time. We had been together since 2014 or 2013 maybe, the four of us and we got to see a lot of things together. It was hard but I think it was what we had to do because it was making us all a little bit anxious I think really. We’ve got Rens now who is fantastic. We knew him from a few years ago because his band played with us. We knew that he was the only guy who could cut it really.
JB: Is he the guy in the video for the song Hot Motion?
James Bagshaw: Yeah!
JB: Awesome. Sounds like a good fit for you guys!
James Bagshaw: He’s great man! He joined after this album. At the moment it’s a bit confusing because there’s probably photos of the three of us and then in the video Rens is in it because we did the photos before Rens … it’s a bit complicated. He’s in the band. He is not like a session guy.
JB: Did the three of you share drum duties when recording the new album?
James Bagshaw: I’ve sort of always done it so, even on the last two, back to the sort of thing of people not turning up and things. I don’t mean to bad-mouth him (both agree) but, when we recorded the first songs we ever recorded (from 2012/2013), I think I had Shelter Song and (The) Golden Throne, and Keep In the Dark and I sort of found the drum sound then that I liked and it was the first time ever really that I recorded anything I thought had a particular character. So I guess a part of me has always feared handing that over to a proper drummer. I can play but I wouldn’t classify myself as a drummer.
JB: I want to get into my love (and I know you guys as well), of psychedelia. I have loved it since I first heard Syd Barrett and The Pink Floyd when I was, I don’t know, twelve or thirteen years old maybe when I heard Pipers At The Gates of Dawn over here. I thought the sounds that were being generated were completely otherworldly! I appreciate bands like Temples and another one over here out of L.A. called Triptides. Have you heard of them?
James Bagshaw: Yeah! We know Glenn (Brigman)! Yeah, the first ever U.S. gig that we did, Triptides played with us at the Empty Bottle in Chicago.
JB: Ah, that’s great!
James Bagshaw: Yeah, we have been friends ever since. They had a line-up change but we saw them in Bristol because we were playing the same night.
JB: They were just touring over there weren’t they?
James Bagshaw: Yeah, we had a late night out with them. They are good guys!
JB: I saw the list of tour dates coming up (see below!), and I thought, “Man, you know how great it would be to see Triptides open for Temples?!
James Bagshaw: They have done it before. They played quite a few shows with us (laughs), in America. So we couldn’t just have the same support band all the time you know? Support band sounds like the wrong thing, I don’t like to use the name “support band”; just other bands on the bill. You have to get new people on.
JB: What is it that you love about the genre of psychedelic music?
James Bagshaw: I think it’s the element of surprise really. Especially in the recording quality of the golden era of the psychedelic movement which would have been, I believe, 1967. I think it’s that thing of framing a song in an alternate world which is where it should be. You’ve got these pop songs that have like an indescribable quality to them in a way. It’s not very handy to explain in words but, I think The Zombies were (are! – JB), a good example of that. They just sound like pop songs but there’s like this eerie-ness to it. Then they’ll be throwing in some unusual instrument choices and I think there’s a real melting pot of sound design in that era.
JB: All that layering.
James Bagshaw: Exactly. And then the atmosphere of the recording.
JB: Could you speak to some of the techniques you guys use in the studio during recording? I would imagine recording psychedelic-leaning music would be a lot fun to record as far as experimentation-wise.
James Bagshaw: Definitely. The great thing about when you’re making albums and producing it yourself is sometimes you can think, “Oh, this isn’t doesn’t feel very professional what I’m doing right now” when you’re plugged into something that cost 20 quid from a pawn shop! But, you’re plugging it into a microphone that cost 2,000 quid (both laugh). It can seem like this is stupid (more laughter). Surely it’s really expensive stuff or really crap stuff. Recently I’ve realized that that is a thing.
A lot of people talk about capturing a bad sound with a good mic and therefore the bad sound becomes a sound with a lot of character. On this record a lot of the bass fuzzes and guitar fuzzes are not pedals, they’re not software it’s actually this old, 1970s Roland PA unit basically an 8-channel mixing console. Which is solid state and it was like trying to explode the transistors in it by turning the gain fully up. So it’s basically like a transistor fuzz because you’re distorting it but because it’s analog, it’s not digital, so it’s pleasing. That’s kind of a core sound on this album and it is sometimes into amps, sometimes it is straight in with no amp. It goes back to a (David) Bowie or the early Sundays thing where they used to have these fuzzed out guitars, maybe even early Neil Young stuff; fuzzy guitars plugged straight into the mixing console. It has a particular quality.
JB: I’m not sure if the retro thing has hit recording gear or not but the vinyl resurgence sees older, “vintage” records going for insane amounts of money. Being a music fan whose always listened to records, it’s quite frustrating to see stuff you want going for ungodly sums. I was wondering if some the equipment you may find and want to use, especially vintage gear, do see cost impacts like that?
James Bagshaw: (laughing) Yeah! It’s funny just going back to your vinyl analogy, you were saying you listen to records and that’s probably your thing and then to see this fashionable thing with vinyl and the value of things go up. To someone like you that has a record collection, you’re sitting on a gold mine you know? Because now everything is worth more money.
Well, some of it will be. The problem is, because you’ve got that love of it, you won’t sell it so what you end up having is like business men getting into vinyl spending loads of money buying off other business men (both laugh). Or like maybe some guy that’s been sitting on some records doesn’t know what he has and suddenly knows what eBay is and doesn’t know how to do reserve prices and can now go buy a greenhouse!
JB: There’s bands like yours and others with record labels that put out a limited amount of colored vinyl or whatever and these same “business men” come in and buy ten copies because they can afford it and turn around and sell them for double or triple their price before the record even sells out.
James Bagshaw: Yeah, we had that with our first 7” single (2012’s Shelter Song on Heavenly), which at one point was selling for 120 to 150 quid. I’ve got three copies but that doesn’t mean I turn around and sell two copies I don’t need to make a bit of cash because it’s more money than you make off selling the record direct. It’s not the point.
JB: I looked up your first 7” because I want one (both laugh)!
James Bagshaw: Well, I’ll have to dig one out and you can have it for 1,000 quid (more laughter)! I collect stuff and then I have a clear out of things I don’t use because I don’t like stuff not being used so I’d rather it go to someone but, the oldest thing I own is probably a Clavioline (electronic keyboard used before analog synths), which I’ve had for ten years now, but that’s like 1947, maybe 1950 and that’s the original, valve synthesizer if you like. We used on the first record and Strange Or Be Forgotten on the last record for the riff at the end, but that’s an example of older gear. It’s not really worth that much money but it is hard to find and for me, I wanted it because of records like Telstar (1962), and things like that that had that wobbly character, synth sound. I just can’t get rid of it even though it’s unreliable, I can’t sell it and don’t want to. It becomes … you become too attached to it. You don’t get that with new gear and you don’t buy a Vox delay pedal and then a year later go, “Oh, I’ll never sell this!” It doesn’t have that history to it.
One thing I wanted to get working on this record (which I can’t find anyone to fix it and it’s very unreliable), I’ve got an 8-track Tascam 3AA which, funny enough, it came out recently that that’s worth … that’s what Alex did his demos on … and suddenly the value of this thing is like eight times what I paid for it. I’m not gonna sell it (laughs). And people have been using these, loads of people like Mac DeMarco and others who are quite famous in the “indie world” who have these great little 8-track studio in a box. I think Glenn from Triptides even has one. I’m attached to it even though the only thing I can get working on it is some rough demo recordings of Beatles covers (laughs). Every time I press record now it doesn’t enable.
JB: I wonder if somebody in the states could look at it and repair it?
James Bagshaw: Probably could it’s just shipping it over because it weighs an absolute ton. Maybe I should ship that over with our gear.
JB: There you go. I was thinking as you were talking about equipment and you’re not saying, “Oh, it’s great because it’s worth so much”, you have a mindset of the historical aspects and you dig the sounds coming out of it. If you talk to some “record collectors” the first thing they dive to is “How much did it cost?”, not “How does it make you feel?” or “What do you think about it?”
James Bagshaw: Absolutely. I think with music and art basically it’s hard to put a value on things and with studio gear, it’s not really “Oh, I’m going to sell something because it’s suddenly worth ten times the price”, then I’ll hold on to it because it must be good! That ridiculous idea. I just want stuff to get used and people have sold me things over the years and I think back to one of the first basses I got, before making the first album, a friend sold me a Höfner violin bass, not a reissue but one of the good ones. He needed the money and said, “You can have it for 150 quid”, I had 150 quid and I don’t know if it’s my kind of thing but, that seems ridiculously cheap so I bought it and that’s the bass that is all over the last two records. Only on this record I used a Höfner club and Tom used a Höfner club. It’s always that Höfner sound on the recordings.
JB: I want to stick with the psychedelics theme for a minute. I don’t know if you agree with that tag for Temples or not but, all press for Hot Motion have been “there’s a darker edge to this record.” I think it’s different from your previous two because when I listen to tracks like Holy Horses or It’s All Coming Out I think of stuff of the prog era from the mid to late 1970s. Even some Roxy Music and I think that’s what separates Hot Motion from your earlier work.
James Bagshaw: I think it was something Tom had said that was (darker edge) and we discussed this because I think the context of it is read into. The themes of the record aren’t necessarily dark so I think it’s the intensity of some of the decisions on instruments and it’s a more guitar-driven record but, they’re not “safe” guitar sounds. It’s sort of wobbly like an old gramophone or something when its clean.
When it’s distorted it isn’t just a little bit of overdrive, this is like thick fuzz. When there’s a darker element that’s been referenced here, I think some of the melodies are uplifting and some of the lyrics are as well but it goes back to that Lynch thing. Where you can have a scene where it’s essentially normal but can be thrown off by a twist.
JB: Ever since the video for Hot Motion came out, I been watching fan comments on YouTube and the remarks have been predominately positive. I think the track and album are killer, there’s a lot of excitement being generated which I hope will translate to a lot of fans coming out and seeing you guys in the U.S. Can you discuss the process from a band’s perspective on how a video is conceived through to production? Is there a lot of give and take?
James Bagshaw: Definitely! We’ve always, up until this point because we haven’t shot the video for You’re Either On Something yet, but basically that will be the first storyboard idea that I had for it. It’s been a collaborative thing as far as finding like-minded people into us as a band that can bring some sort of vision to us and the video. To visually represent the song in an interesting way. It’s always a bit of a push and pull because we’re not directors or video producers or any of these things so something that might seem simple for us may not be achievable, certainly on an indie budget, to get across. You learn from that over time. You go, “Oh yeah, we can’t be able to expect to get that for this price”, because to hire that for a day is basically our (entire) indie budget.
Especially when you’re into David Lynch or any sort of (Quentin) Tarantino movie and suddenly you realize you can’t make it look like that without spending a heck of a lot of money. Firstly on the cameras, the lenses and then the team, the location, the props and all this stuff. So it’s always a bit of a compromise there. Never with the music because I feel like we can achieve a record that sounds like it was recorded anywhere. You can’t film something to make it look like a Hollywood short you know (laughs)?
But with Hot Motion that was just a concept that came to us from a director and originally meant to have water on the floor but that became impossible to do because you’re basically trying to hire a soundstage where you can flood it temporarily. Water and electrics and all sorts health and safety laws to be broken so there was a compromise! The floor is slightly reflective so imagine it is water, that’s what I think we should do (both laugh). That wasn’t even our idea, that was his (director’s) idea! He’s a video director so he should know better (both laugh)!
JB: There’s a lot of factors that sound similar to what we were discussing earlier when you were recording the album and all the considerations to achieve your vision. It sounds like the same type of ordeal in the video world. I’m torn either way because my wife and I were discussing the other day after a commercial advertised a “reality” show for MTV where we brought up the days when music television actually only played music videos. I don’t know if they play videos anymore …
James Bagshaw: I don’t think they do.
JB: Yeah, so you have social media and YouTube now to publish videos and, perhaps, reach a lot more people. I remember discovering a lot of great bands on MTV, particularly 120 Minutes featuring a lot of UK bands and I miss that. Feeling nostalgic.
James Bagshaw: I think that was the golden age of the music video because you’d have a budget to do it and it could break a band. It could absolutely break you into the stratosphere if you had a video that was played on MTV. I can think of so many bands that I discovered through watching MTV. I would see a Nirvana video on MTV and simply that was enough. But nowadays because you have YouTube, everyone is an armchair producer and just choose their own MTV so that’s obviously a great thing. Maybe you don’t discover things as much when you have “YouTube recommends” that recommends similar artists which, I think, is a good move. Having said that, MTV back in the day if there was a producer that said, “We’re not going to play their video because it’s not the right thing for this audience”, so it’s basically just a change of format.
JB: Well, I will close by wishing nothing but the best on your upcoming tour. I’ll be by Meow Wolf for sure.
James Bagshaw: Thanks and definitely come by and say hello!
Pick up Hot Motion by Temples here:
2019 Tour Dates
10/14: Echoplex – Los Angeles, CA
10/15: The Independent – San Francisco, CA
10/17: The Commonwealth Room – Salt Lake City, CA
10/18: Gothic Theatre – Englewood, CO
10/19: Meow Wolf – Santa Fe, NM
10/21: Granada Theater – Dallas, TX
10/22: Scoot Inn – Austin, TX
10/24: White Oak Music Hall – Houston, TX
10/25: City Park – New Orleans, LA
10/27: Voodoo Music + Arts Experience – New Orleans, LA
10/28: The Masquerade – Atlanta, GA
11/16: Shimmer Sounds at Tramshed – Cardiff, United Kingdom
11/17: Shimmer Sounds at The Mill – Birmingham, United Kingdom
11/18: Paradiso – Amsterdam, Netherlands
11/19: Le Botanique – Bruxelles, Belgium
11/20: Trabendo – Paris, France
11/22: Mascotte – Zürich, Switzerland
11/23: Locomotiv Club – Bologna, Italy
11/24: Circolo Magnolia – Sagrate Mi, Italy
11/25: ROXY Prague – Prague, Czech Republic
11/26: Festsaal Kreuzberg – Berlin, Germany
11/28: Gruenspan – Hamburg, Germany
11/29: Loppen – København K, Denmark
11/30: Luxor – Cologne, Germany
12/2: Komedia – Brighton, United Kingdom
12/4: Riverside Newcastle – Newcastle, United Kingdom
12/6: Rescue Rooms – Nottingham, United Kingdom
12/7: Engine Rooms – Southampton, United Kingdom
12/8: O2 Shepherd’s Bush Empire – London, United Kingdom
2020 Tour Dates
1/20: 9:30 Club – Washington, DC
1/21: Webster Hall – New York, NY
1/23: The Sinclair – Cambridge, MA
1/24: The Foundry at The Fillmore – Philadelphia, PA
1/26: L’Astral – Montréal, Canada
1/28: Lee’s Palace – Toronto, Canada
1/30: The Shelter – Detroit, MI
1/31: Lincoln Hall – Chicago, IL
2/1: 7th Street Entry – Minneapolis, MN
2/4: Fox Cabaret – Vancouver, Canada
2/6: Doug Fir Lounge – Portland, OR
2/7: The Crocodile – Seattle, WA
More in interviews