Temper Trap Come Home
Faith can be an arduous ordeal. To believe in anything, one has to be willing to supplicate to a cause or an ideal, and very few of us have the wherewithal to truly give away control. In the case of The Temper Trap, faith has been an intrinsic element in their rise to public consciousness. It’s a faith that has paid off in spades with their debut album, 'Conditions'.
Tucked into a tiny café, singer/guitarist Dougy Mandagi and drummer Toby Dundas are world’s away from the hubbub that has surrounded them for the past three months. For starters, there's no sign of Kanye West, Perez Hilton or Tim ‘Home Improvement’ Allen.
“I tried not to get a grasp of it,” Dougy says of the touring and the subsequent hype that is surrounding the band, “I don't know why. You meet some cool people, you meet some stooges as well, it just shows you how to handle that sort of shit. But so much of it is just playing and building a real audience. It's probably better to just put your head in the sand and just hope everything goes okay with the shows, playing good shows,” he smiles.
The pair are in high spirits; they’ve finally gotten a UK/Europe/local release date for 'Conditions' after much label wrangling in the USA (where the album will hopefully emerge in September). Just as importantly, the band are all about to up and leave Melbourne in favour of a UK base. It’s a move they’re both excited about, especially given they’ve being added to just about every major festival for the entire European summer.
Critically, though, theirs is a story of resilience, and the pair are just happy that 'Conditions' is free to be unleashed on the record buying public across the globe.
“Yeah, it’s weird because I guess it’s been done for a little while now,” breathes Toby from across the tiny table. “Like, we finished the album between here and the UK, then tweaked some more things after we thought we’d finished it, again back in London. So, you know, we’re just massively, massively excited to get the album out, as it feels like we’ve had it finished for ages.” Dougy nods in agreement, continuing to plough his way through his pasta, “It’s weird, because the songs, to us, are getting old sitting there,” he grins, “but wow, it’s even weird to think that the album is coming out.”
Indeed, it’s been a long, long road for The Temper Trap. Having slowly risen through the local ranks with increasingly rave reviews, it 's been evident for a while now that four piece (bassist Jonny Aherne and guitarist Lorenzo Sillito round out the band) were destined for big things. Liberation certainly saw the potential when they signed them to an EP and gave them time to flesh out the album.
The period between their EP and 'Conditions' saw the band emerge as a force in their own right. Appearing intermittently, their live act grew more impressive with every outing, Dougy’s amazing voice consistently leaving audiences speechless, and the band’s soaring, wall-of-sound intensity maturing into a force to be reckoned with. A force that no one could accurately describe in music terms.
This lack of definable sound was something the band had to face when approaching 'Conditions'. “It was really, really tough,” admits Toby. “With people having opinions on who you sound like, it’s difficult to step away and try to channel your individuality into your songs. Sure, there’s music we like that, on the odd occasion, you’d use as a reference point, but it was never conscious.” Dougy looks up and agrees, adding, “We don’t like the idea of people saying that it’s all unique and everything, because, while it’s flattering, it’s more just a case of trying to make music that’s yours and yours alone. The songs themselves, well, you want them to stand up on their own, no matter what other people are doing.
“We’ve never been a band that has taken any notice of trends,” he adds quietly, “so I think that helps to make sure that you’re trying to, I guess, forge your own path musically.”
Trumpeted by the amazing lead single 'Sweet Disposition', The Temper Trap, with 'Conditions', have blazed their own, unique trail. It’s intense, ferocious, intimate, sweeping and touching. There are the pounding psychedelic-astral-disco moments of 'Science Of Fear', the mystical, flowingly beautiful 'Down River' and 'Love Lost', the choppy, new-wave-isms of 'Fader' and the icy Krautrock of 'Resurrection' – overall, however, it defies categorisation.
The Temper Trap are an enigma in this regard – listening to 'Conditions' will leave you with not much in the way of answers, but that’s part of its appeal. It subtly asks questions, and leaves it to you find your own answer. All set to a rushing soundtrack.
“I don’t think we’re ever trying to say something solid,” Dougy explains, “I think if you look for interpretation in the songs, there’ll probably be conflicting views on what stuff means. Like, not to sound wanky, but there are certain ideas that recur on the album, which wasn’t entirely planned, and I think it’s odd that’s how it worked. So people looking for answers, I’m not sure how many they’ll find you know? I think parts of it are maybe deliberately vague, and I like the idea of people attributing their own meaning to songs, rather than having it laid out for them.”
Toby is still polishing off his pizza as this is being explained, and once Dougy has finished, he adds quietly, “yeah, I think songs work better in general if they’re not overt; that goes for the music as well the lyrics. If you try too hard to be understood, then I think that usually works against you. Mystique is always a good thing, isn’t it?” he grins.