With sell-out tours, Rough Trade’s Album of the Year and a legion of adoring fans behind them, Temples headed into the studio last year for a shot at album number two.
And despite the huge expectations placed on a band’s second effort, Temples shut themselves away for six months and emerged with an even stronger album - 'Volcano'.
Their magnificent return to London at Electric Brixton earlier this month proved the Kettering four-piece have swerved that ‘second album syndrome’ pitfall, and delivered something truly extraordinary.
Bassist Thomas Walmsley says after the band had ‘closure’ on Sun Structures, they drew a line under their debut and started fresh.
“I suppose it was hard to adjust back into being creative in the studio, and I guess we needed closure on playing live first,” he says.
“We can only ever focus on performing or writing, it’s hard to do both simultaneously and it’s beyond us that bands can do both - they’re such separate entities. We like to withdraw ourselves, and we drew an imaginary line after the first album and playing live for a while to focus on writing in the studio.”
“It’s the first time we’ve experienced going from being heavily involved in performing to writing again, and it was uncomfortable at first to switch back with retrospect.”
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'Sun Structures' smashed its way into the Top Ten, attracting huge critical acclaim in the process. With that much success on their shoulders, were they apprehensive after the success of 'Sun Structures'?
“I wouldn't say so - three years between records feels like a very long time, and it felt long enough to almost disappear and come back,” Thomas adds. “I would have been more surprised if we’d come back with a replica of 'Sun Structures', we had progressed quite early on from where we were at and if anything, we were eager to get back into the studio and get that down.”
“Our sound constantly changes, and even already from playing some of these songs over the past couple of months, the songs are changing, how you view your own music changes, and it seems very fluent.”
The band entered the studio blindly second time round, with closure from touring and “no real preconception of how wanted it to sound or what direction it was going in. “We knew what we didn’t want to do, but there wasn’t an overall sound or song which defined the record and it felt very traditional. “It was really liberating and allowed us to focus in on song writing more than dressing it, or with a wash of a certain sound, and it’s not overly referential to any era. I guess that felt like a bold thing to do, we just put our aesthetic to one side and did what the songs required us to do, it was really putting our second foot forward after the first record.”
“The first one is so definitive of any band and it’s all people go on - ‘they sound like this’ - and this time round I hope people are confused and it’s not as easily pigeonhole-able. Every song is almost a different genre and a different take on an idea, which is quite sophisticated for us.”
And that they have done, blending new and old to create a swirling blend of space-age synths and sparkling guitar riffs.
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Labelled a 'vinyl junkie' by singer James Bagshaw, Thomas says the structure of an album, considered as side one and two, is an intrinsic part of the production process. With 'Sun Structures' released as a double LP but with 'Volcano' just on one, he says it was harder to choose which song ended each side this time round. “I absolutely think of a record as side one and two, and I vividly remember a discussion about which song should end side one," he says. “It’s fairly futile when you think about people listening to it on Spotify, but you have to think about the structure both as a whole and in two parts."
“I think that’s really important - it’s a definitive article as an LP, it’s something which will stand the test of tech and time. If it works as a record, it will work as everything else, which is something we always try to bear in mind.”
Despite only releasing 'Volcano' at the beginning of March, the band have already completed a whistle-stop UK tour and are currently stamping their mark on western Europe. Blending fan favourites and new material, their setlists have been around three-quarters new material - something Thomas says is a direct reaction to having played their debut for so long both pre and post-release.
“Playing live, both albums are represented as we wish to play them now, and they appear to sit well together. We found ourselves over-embellishing things, which really informed the new record and I think the songs were ready made to play live and work quite well. It’s a strange concept to have two records to choose songs from, but it’s a welcome prospect being creative with setlists."
The band now plan to spend more time on the road after their lengthy haitus from touring, taking in festivals from Glastonbury to Lollapalooza, Fuji Rock to Latitude, via a handful of shows in the US. Thomas says it is only after the next year of playing shows and reinventing their new songs that they will know where they're headed next.
“We certainly want to continue progressing, because we’re the kind of people who feel like once we’ve done something, it’s mission accomplished and move on to something else,” he says. “The second record is almost a bigger statement than the first - it rebuilds and redefines you and what you do, and we might push that even further next time and continue being subtly subversive.”
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For tickets to the latest Temples shows click HERE.
Words: Megan White