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Temples' lead singer/guitarist James Bagshaw, seen here at Coachella this weekend, stops in to the Casbah in-between desert sets.
Every so often, a band comes along that's so good, it doesn’t matter how or when it ended up on our stereos -- all that matters is that it did. Temples, the U.K.-based psych-pop quartet, is one such band.
Originally begun in early 2012 as a home-recording project for guitarist/singer James Bagshaw and bassist Thomas Warmsley, the music caught the ear of Heavenly Recordings, which released the band’s debut single, "Shelter Song," later that year. Fast-forward to 2014, and Temples have now played such major festivals as Reading and Glastonbury, opened for the likes of Suede and Kasabian, released their debut album, Sun Structures, to critical acclaim and embarked on their first North American headlining tour, which will bring the them to the Casbah on Wednesday night.
In short, the record is phenomenal. The most obvious recent comparison is Tame Impala, who mine a similar territory of psychedelic indie rock but seemed to lack -- or actively discard -- an ear for hook-heavy pop songwriting. Temples are not weird for the sake of being weird; they write melodic pop songs hidden underneath a psychedelic expanse. Grandiose statements be damned: Sun Structures might as well be the very-belated follow up to the Zombies’ 1968 masterpiece, Odessey and Oracle.
Swirly, hypnotic pop nuggets like "The Guesser" and "Colours to Life" sound as if they were recorded at Abbey Road Studios in between sessions for the Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Heart Club Band and went unreleased in an oversight of epic proportions. Mesmerizing background harmonies and echoed guitar leads accompany the Lennon-esque tone of Bagshaw’s vocals and deep, pounding drums that reverberate across the tracks. The fact that the album was recorded entirely at home with relatively cheap equipment makes it all the more endearing.
Sandwiched between Coachella performances, the band visits San Diego for the first time, and as expected, the show is sold out. We were lucky enough to chat recently with Bagshaw about the band’s instant success and where it goes next.
Dustin Lothspeich: The band started as a home-recording project. It’s definitely changed, yeah?
James Bagshaw: Yeah, we didn't think of it as anything other than just recording music. We didn't expect to get offered gigs. Certainly, early on we didn't even think about that. But we knew that what we recorded felt good, if you get what I mean.
DL: The band has really blown up. Have you been able to reflect on what's happening around you?
JB: Yeah. Some days it seems crazy, and other days it seems kind of normal. I guess what we try to do is try to detach ourselves from the music and try to think of it as people who are into us -- they’re into us for the music we create. I think that's sort of the sacred thing here. I think the music seems to transcend across people, and that's great. Obviously, it's our work, but we're not spokesmen, in that sense. The music does the talking.
DL: It will probably get even crazier. Is there still a "We've got to conquer America!" mentality as a British band?
JB: [laughs] I don't know. I think that's all a bit of bulls---, anyway. I think people put too much pressure on themselves -- like, "You've got to break America!" I don't care what we do because musically, from the forefront, we're confident about what we do, in that respect. We're not going to try to change things or write singles that will break us stateside or anything like that. I think if it translates across the whole of America, we definitely wouldn't resent America for it. We'd embrace it, and we'd be very humbled by that kind of love.
DL: Well, everyone seems to love you guys. Even [the Smiths guitarist] Johnny Marr and [Oasis guitarist] Liam Gallagher have praised the band in the press. How do you feel about that?
JB: I think to people who aren't in bands -- or to people who are in bands that only play in pubs every so often -- to them, it seems like more of a big deal. I mean, it's obviously nice to get credit for anything we do. It’s only a positive thing. But it doesn't make us feel like we can kind of relax and take that for granted. For us, it's very humbling, and they're people who we certainly look up to, especially as younger musicians and people in bands. It's great -- I'm glad they've heard the music and they like it. People need to speak out about things if they're passionate about it, whether they love it or hate it.
DL: People are definitely passionate about the album. The term psychedelia will inevitably be thrown around when discussing it. Does that bother you guys?
JB: Yeah. I think we have a pop sensibility in our songwriting. Psychedelia is in there, of course; it's an influence from the production point of view. But we like that they’re basically pop songs in the disguise of psychedelia. I think there are psychedelic elements. We like a bit of Motown as well, certainly with the rhythm section. There’s also some Scott Walker, with the big, orchestral, cinematic, croon-ery kind of music. I'm in no way a crooner [laughs], but there are elements of that in there.
DL: What kinds of things influenced Sun Structures?
JB: We're influenced by many things: film, music, art, literature, poetry. Personally, when writing, I don't listen to a lot of music. I won't listen to any songs for a few days in the moment of writing because I think you do kind of, without even knowing it, subconsciously get influenced by it. I like the idea of being very pure and in the moment. If you're a musician, you're influenced by what you hear. I don't like to bombard myself with ideas from other groups because you'll end up with a compromised version of what you're trying to say.
DL: The record sounds very warm, like it’s been sitting on a turntable for the past 40 years.…
JB: Well, our whole album was recorded on our laptop. We're not purists in any way. I think there are so many positive things that come from digital recording and analog recording. We love both ways. People say '60s music was recorded kind of badly or sounds kind of harsh to your ears. To me, that was when music was recorded at its best. Nowadays, you get a producer and you get his sound; you don't get the band's sound.
DL: So you won’t be heading into a big studio any time soon?
JB: The best recording studios are the worst recording studios. There's too much stuff to play with. People will plug in a microphone into a preamp and tell you, "This is the best vocal sound you can get," and I think it's a lot of bulls---. For our whole record, the vocals were recorded with a 70-pound mic. It kind of puts all that bulls--- under the carpet. We're very proud of the record. I wouldn't change anything about it; all the imperfections are perfect.
DL: What are we in store for on the next one?
JB: For the next record, it'd be nice to get a real orchestra. That might be cool. That's one thing you can't do at home -- unless you've got a big mansion, which I certainly haven't.