Who Are…Temples

Simon Price

By Simon Price

on 02.11.14 in Who Is...?s

File under: Nouveau psychedelia, ’60s Revival, acid rock
For fans of: The Brian Jonestown Massacre, the Electric Prunes, the Warlocks, Iron Butterfly
From: Kettering, UK
Personae: James Bagshaw (vocals, guitar), Thomas Warmsley (bass), Adam Smith (keyboards, guitar), Sam Toms (drums)

Nobody will win any prizes for pointing out that Temples sound as if they’ve been teleported forward in time from 1968. Their uncanny ’60s literalism has earned them the respect of their Brit-rock elders, including Johnny Marr and Noel Gallagher, who has anointed them “the best new band in Britain.” Formed in the light industrial East Midlands town of Kettering by James Bagshaw, previously of indie acts Sukie and the Moons, with fellow Moons member Thomas Warmsley, Temples was originally conceived purely as a bedroom recording project, till snowballing interest forced them to recruit a full band to bring it all to life.

They’re disarmingly open about their retro influences, which include everything from the music of Syd Barrett to the films of Kenneth Anger; those touchstones are abundantly evident in their acid-rock sound and their kaleidoscopic videos. But Temples are at their best when they transcend the vintage trappings, as on the cracking glam-pop stomp of “Keep in the Dark” or the multi-layered overload of “Colours to Life.” Having spent 2013 releasing a succession of singles and supporting Suede, Kasabian, the Vaccines and the Rolling Stones, 2014 sees the arrival of their debut album Sun Structures, as well as a slot on the NME Tour and at the Coachella festival.

Simon Price spoke with the corkscrew-haired Bagshaw about aiming for ’60s authenticity, and why music is a natural high.

On making a noisy rock record in a small terraced house:

I’ve been building up a “studio,” if you wanna call it that, a box room with a load of gear in. I’ve apologized to my next-door neighbor Mick, but he’s very supportive. He actually gave me a box of records before we started Temples, including a copy of the Stones’ Their Satanic Majesties Request with the hologram cover, which is worth a bloody fortune.

On aiming for ’60s period accuracy:

That’s the sound that we love, but we didn’t want Sun Structures to just sound like a ’60s record. And there are so many facets of “’60s Recordings.” You’ve got the Phil Spector stuff, which is very lo-fidelity but brilliant, and you’ve got the Scott Walker albums, none of which sound like they were recorded in the ’60s: They’re insanely well produced. We wanted that with our record: that cinematic, orchestral feel where it’s bigger than just a band. Also, Motown is a really big influence, when the drum kit and the bass play together and it’s almost one thing. There’s also some early ’70s glam in our sound, even prog.

On getting signed to Heavenly Recordings:

We put four songs on YouTube, with no press photos or information, just a picture of this old oil painting. We just wanted this very straight, in-your-face piece of art that didn’t deter people or distract them from the music. Then Jeff Barrett [owner of Heavenly] rang and said, “I really love the songs, I want to do ‘Shelter Song’ as a 7″,” so we did that on a handshake. He didn’t know how old we were or what we were into. We’re all in our mid 20s, but for all he knew, we’d been around in the ’60s and this was our tape from then that we’d never released.

On whether psychedelia means drugs:

It was a different lifestyle in the ’60s. And I don’t think psychedelia is defined by drugs in any way. The music gives you, I don’t want to say a “natural high,” but maybe it does. For me, psychedelia has emotional connotations: It gives you an odd, otherworldly feeling that standard pop, rock ‘n’ roll or jazz doesn’t. And if you feel inspired, you don’t need acid. People who don’t have the brain capacity for their own ideas rely on drugs, as far as I’m concerned. There are great records that are drug-heavy, like the Velvet Underground, but there’s a lot of shit as well, stuff that’s really out-of-tune and just awful. Obviously they thought it was good, but they were off their heads!

On the significance of the name Sun Structures:

It’s just cinematic imagery. Everyone will pull it apart in a different way. The “sun” being something that’s been around for millions and millions of years, and the “structures” as being man-made, and the mixing of those two worlds, and the shadow that’s cast. We just liked the two words together, and what it conjured up.

On their nonsensical lyrics:

I see the vocals as an instrument, not just as a way to tell a story. An English teacher would probably have nightmares over our lyrics and say “They’re not grammatically correct,” but we’re not writing a novel. We really love poetry. Warlock of Love, the book by Marc Bolan, there’s some really great poetry in there, but there’s a lot of ridiculous imagery and silly wordplay as well. I guess we like that. Our song “Move with the Season” is very contemplative, about growing up, and we’ve got other songs with more mythical imagery. Sometimes the effects will mask the lyrics, but we’re not Bob Dylan and we’re never going to have a “dry” vocal. Our lyrics aren’t as profound as that. It’s not a problem to admit.

On the idea that if Noel Gallagher likes you, you must be doing something wrong:

People like Noel, who are older and have gone through the industry, are always going to look out for bands, and they’re never going to stop liking music. To say we’re the best new band in Britain is really nice of him, but it doesn’t really do anything other than get more people to come to a gig. It doesn’t mean we actually are the best, and people aren’t going to test that out or say “Actually, no they’re not!”

On supporting the Stones:

We thought we’d be on the same stage, but we weren’t. We got to hang out backstage, but we didn’t get to meet any of them. We gave Charlie a little nod, and he did the same back.

On the future direction Temples will take:

No idea! We’ll know when we sit down and go through the same process as this record, I guess. We won’t do the same record again. But we won’t all be playing synths either. That’s the classic thing that every band does. I’d like to get an orchestra in. But let’s see how many copies this album sells.