PHOTO COURTESY OF ED MILES.
As the adage goes, a picture is worth a thousand words, so when taken properly, it supposedly captures the essence of its subject in a split-second. In psychedelic pop-rock band Temples' new video for their single "Strange Or Be Forgotten," which premieres exclusively below, characters undergo the intimidating process of having their photograph taken, which reveals their inner conflicts and creative urges with every click of the shutter. Some subjects are shy and hold back, some smile, some dance, and one even gets undressed. Director James Beale forms a narrative that embraces differences among people, even when those differences are not easy to capture in a quick frame. Temples' guitarist and lead singer James Bagshaw says that the video captures the spirit of "Strange Or Be Forgotten," which he explains is "about expression and not being ashamed of your personality, and embracing any kind of creativity in whatever format that is."
Temples has encountered that very obstacle—of embracing its members' individuality and maintaining their collective originality—in preparing their forthcoming record, Volcano (Fat Possum), which is out next Friday. The album comes three years following the band's sixties-inspired debut Sun Structures, which included their breakout hit "Shelter Song." Hailing from Kettering, England, the band also includes bassist Tom Walmsley, keyboardist and guitarist Adam Smith, and drummer Samuel Toms. On Volcano, the quartet maintains its rock influences (think Pink Floyd, the Byrds, the Beatles), but with a more progressive sound. "Hopefully, when people hear Sun Structures and when they hear Volcano, they both sound like Temples records," says Bagshaw. "It shouldn't sound like two different bands, it should sound like the same band with some kind of element of evolution in there."
Interview recently caught up with James Bagshaw on the phone as the band made its way to Nashville.
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NATALIA BARR: Tell me about the "Strange Or Be Forgotten" video.
JAMES BAGSHAW: As much as I could talk about it and explain how I feel about what the lyrics mean, it's very open to interpretation, as lyrics should be. What James [Beale] extrapolated from that song was really trusting. You peek into these people's lives briefly and they've all got a different story to tell. You don't necessarily get the full story, but you get insight on their personality and how different they are, and their different ways of expressing themselves—that's how I see it. As far as our videos go, I think we struggle very much to find people that will come up with a video concept that will have some uniqueness to it. This video is one of my favorite videos that we've had for any of our songs thus far.
BARR: Why is it one of your favorites?
BAGSHAW: It's probably because we're not in it that much. [laughs] First and foremost, take any of the story out of it, and take the still from any frame, and it looks great. As far as cinematography, I think it's the best cinematography to accompany our music that we've had. And then it's something that actually tells a story as well. I'm a big fan of film, and to me, it feels like I'm watching a Hollywood film. The fact that we managed to work with somebody that could make something look that good, I'm very humbled by that.
BARR: Have you performed any of the songs off of Volcano yet?
BAGSHAW: Yeah, we did. We did an in-store two weeks ago in London at Rough Trade record shop. We can actually play 10 of them already. This was the first time we've ever properly done a full production rehearsal with all of our equipment set up, not just a crappy PA [system] in someone's garage, and we managed to learn 10 of the songs. We made sure at one point on this tour we played each one of them, but not in one night.
BARR: How have audiences reacted to the new songs?
BAGSHAW: They hate it. They hate all of them. People throw bottles at us. [laughs] No, it's great. The new songs sit really well in concert with the older stuff. It's funny, I always feel a bit weird about playing songs that no one's heard. It kind of bothers me a little bit. I like to have a recorded version out. I always just want to hold back saying some line until people have heard it on the record. That is the definitive version, if you like, even though you may play it better live. To understand a song and where it came from, you need to hear the recorded piece and then it translates to live.
BARR: What songs are you most excited to perform live, or which have been your favorites so far?
BAGSHAW: We've played "Strange Or Be Forgotten" and "Certainty." Then we played "Mystery of Pop" last night. I think "Mystery of Pop" is one that's going to be a really good live one. Also, "How Would You Like to Go?" We've been rehearsing that and we've got some big ideas as far as what our lighting guy is going to do and what we're going to have with a bit of stage production as well.
BARR: Was there any song or idea that served as a starting point for writing Volcano?
BAGSHAW: "Oh the Saviour" was the first song written. It wasn't the first song completed, but it was the first idea that was brought to the table. It's a funny one, because at that point we didn't really have a sound for the record in mind. Even with 30 demos of that track, it didn't feel like it had the right approach to it. It was only when, maybe a few months later, after working on other songs, that we found the sound of this record. It was then, revisiting that and applying what we had as far as a sound, that it became a core part of the album. That was the spark and idea that started the writing process, but it wasn't the spark and idea that determined sonics of the record, the atmosphere, and all that.
BARR: What did you look to for inspiration when you were writing this record?
BAGSHAW: It's a hard one. On this record, three of us have written. Some tracks are more one person writing it, other ones are more of a collaboration. I can only speak to the way that I work and what I get inspired by. For me, when I'm writing, I don't listen to any music at all. I find that quite inspiring. When you're not writing anything good, and you're like, "Oh god, when am I going to write anything again?" I don't think of going towards the record player to try and semi-plagiarize it. The inspiration comes from everywhere. It doesn't have to be from a musical one. It can be from something you're reading. I try and not listen to songs, because I feel like I inadvertently will accidentally rip them off, and I don't want to do that.
BARR: How much is the writing and producing a collective effort, and how much of it is each of you on your own?
BAGSHAW: There's a thin line between it, really. I have a studio at my house, and on some songs people will bring sounds that they have, and I've got a demo of the song. There might be a synth sound, or a particular electric snare sound that they're set on. Then they bring that into the studio, and then it's almost like post-producing it, but then having it in the pre-production of the song. As far as getting it to sound good, everyone has ideas of how they want it to sound, and generally I'll be able to steer the ship as far as technicalities and actually crafting the sound. It varies on every song. With "Roman Godlike Man," Tom had an idea of how he wanted it to sound, and I worked with him so it sounded right. On other songs it would be an idea that I had that we didn't even need to talk about in production; it was just there.
BARR: You've mentioned that you've learned a lot more about technical music production since your release of your last record. What about the production on Volcano is different from Sun Structures?
BAGSHAW: Technology has been used in the same way as on the first one, but I think you constantly evolve and not realize. I still feel like I can make a record that sounds better than this record. I think for this record, it's got that contemporary vibe to it. People can't call this "a sixties retro record" because it's more forward-looking than back-looking as far as production.
BARR: Sun Structures was very highly acclaimed and popular. How are you approaching the release of Volcano following that success?
BAGSHAW: I try not to think about it, I guess. [laughs] There's an element of it being daunting...we had something to live up to. I guess what happened is, we released our first single, which was "Shelter Song" from the first record, and then straight away, you realized you had to follow it up, and then the album needs to be as good as that. So it's no different, really. I feel like this record is better, so hopefully other people think that. I guess it's to not be afraid to pull away or pull things in a different direction. No one wants to repeat themselves. Some fans will want you to repeat yourselves, but others really won't. I guess as artists ourselves, we don't want to sit there on our previous work. I'm excited. I can't wait for the "Strange Or Be Forgotten" video to be up, and I can't wait for the next single after that, and I can't wait for the record. It's not long now.
VOLCANO (FAT POSSUM) IS OUT MARCH 3, 2017. FOR MORE ON TEMPLES, VISIT THEIR WEBSITE.