Temples Return with Sophomore Album, 'Volcano'

Temples Return with Sophomore Album, 'Volcano'

On their sophomore album, Volcano, the British band evolves beyond their psychedelic roots and embraces a lush new sound.

On their sophomore album, Volcano, the British band evolves beyond their psychedelic roots and embraces a lush new sound.

Photography: Sam Hiscox

Styling: Tara St Hill

Text: Joshua Lyon

A year before Temples released their 2014 debut album, Sun Structures, former Oasis front man Noel Gallagher gushed to the press that their songs were “cosmic space music…[that] should be played in an empty Death Star.” His choice of venue was a reference to the sheer enormity of the band’s sound—a swirl of psychedelic rock with heavy doses of the Byrds and early Pink Floyd. That first record should probably have come with a warning label for listeners of a certain age about potential acid flashbacks, and the boys’ retro appearance—bushels of untamed hair and clothes that looked as though they’d raided Anita Pallenberg’s closet—completed the package.

In fact, they were almost too perfect. One revered U.S. outlet charged the band with simply paying homage to the music they loved instead of truly making their own. No one can make the same argument about their follow-up album, Volcano (out now on Fat Possum), a lush collection of songs that exhibit a sophisticated songwriting evolution and might just herald the return of power Britpop.

Let’s rewind a bit: musical influences obviously have to start somewhere and Temples lead singer James Bagshaw has his parents to thank for his earliest education. “They were huge on the Motown stuff in the ’70s,” he recalls. “They went to soul nights, saw Diana Ross in concert.
 I remember hearing those songs, whether it was Marvin Gaye, all those soul groups. I was brought up on that kind of music, but also the Beatles’ box set of LPs. I remember playing those on a record player.” Like any good rock star, his interest in expanding his knowledge was born out of rebellion: “We didn’t have any Bowie,” he says. 
“I remember my mum not liking him. I think she preferred a more conventional approach to performance and found him a bit unnerving. Which made me want to listen to it!”

As a teen, Bagshaw began playing in bands around his hometown of Kettering in the U.K., which is how he recruited bassist Thomas Walmsley for the first iteration of Temples. “We uploaded some songs online without a picture of us or anything, just sort of like an old painting,” Bagshaw explains. “We got asked to do some gigs literally a week later and we’re like, ‘We’re not a band! We recorded these songs, but we can’t play live. This is all just at home!’”

Luckily, the Kettering music scene is fairly small. The boys were familiar with many of the local players, and  Bagshaw had developed a bit of a friendly rivalry with some of them. “You get annoyed if someone does a really good gig, because you’re like, Damn, I wish we were that good,” he says. The upside was it made 
finding great musicians much easier. The addition of guitarist/keyboardist Adam Smith and drummer Sam Toms completed the band’s lineup, allowing them to start performing songs live.

After attracting a producer, they continued to play shows, received Noel Gallagher’s public stamp of approval, and scored major accolades for Sun Structures after its release. (That one grumpy American reviewer must have choked when the record was named Album of the Year by the venerable Rough Trade record store.) With such a flawless combination of ’60s sounds and style, other bands might have shied away from messing with the formula. Not so with Temples. “We wanted to introduce different sounds and different sonic characteristics,” Bagshaw says. “We didn’t want to repeat what we did on the first record. We were trying to come up with our own identity as opposed to just sounding like our influences directly.”

There is one bit of source material that found its way into the composition of “Certainty,” the first single from Volcano, but Bagshaw didn’t even realize it was there until after the song had been recorded. He’s spoken about it before, but worries that his words have been taken out of context. Which must be especially frustrating since the musical inspiration he cites—Disney films— is about as far from rock as one can get.

“They just think, like, Frozen, or some modern, really watered-down Disney film with watered-down music,” he vents. “I wasn’t brought up on Disney. I only discovered them in the last couple of years. And this is like the 1940s, 1950s films, the eras in Disney where the music is incredibly complex but eerily happy. ‘A Dream Is a Wish Your Heart Makes’ is an unbelievable melody and it’s incredibly sad, but uplifting and a bit spooky. The string arrangements, everything. It puts modern film music to shame a little bit. [With ‘Certainty’] you wouldn’t be able to go, ‘That sounds like Disney.’ But if you made the comparison, you can hear what I mean.”

He’s right, especially since he rhymes “Neverland” with “everland” and “another land” in the lyrics. With the actual arrangement of the music, though, it’s more like the spirit of those older songs flitted through and left behind a trace of aural ectoplasm. It’s a joyful track, tinged at its heart with longing, and the rest of the album is just as excellent. The catchy hooks and sweeping crescendos beg to be howled along with and prove that the band has worked hard to carve out a niche of their own. “You’ve got to move forward,” Bagshaw says. “It took a while to discover the sound of this record, but the music is the most important thing. We just want to do that justice.”

Volcano by Temples is available now on iTunes.

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Credits: STYLIST ASSISTANTS: ALEXANDRA BICKERDIKE AND CELIA ARIAS

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