The Temperance Movement release their eagerly anticipated second album White Bear today before embarking on a full UK tour.
RUSHONROCK editor Simon Rushworth caught up with guitarist Paul Sayer ahead of the biggest year in the band’s brief but brilliant career.
RUSHONROCK: It’s two and a half years since the band released its debut album – is it a relief that there’s finally some new music out there?
PAUL SAYER: There’s been new music from The Temperance Movement kicking around for some time but because of the way that the music industry works on both sides of the Atlantic now it’s been a case of keeping our powder dry as far as the full album release is concerned. We’ve been playing a lot of the new music live already but of course it’s a totally different reaction when you play for crowds who have had time to hear it all before at home. And I have definitely felt the same way as the people who have been following the band from day one – there’s been an appetite for new music for some time. We had to do things differently this time. When we brought out the first record we weren’t really part of the ‘industry machine’ – and that’s not a negative comment – so we could release the EP and then the album in our own time. With White Bear we’ve had to wait until we could release the record all over the world at the same time and that’s meant waiting for some countries to catch up!
RUSHONROCK: When the first record came out the band was relatively unknown but these days you’re regularly touted as rock’s next big thing – is that exciting, frightening or both?
PS: Honestly it is a little bit exciting. Or is it? I just don’t know! You’re always your own worst critic and when a new record comes out you just keep your head down and get on with what you’re trying to do. Naturally with a second album everyone feels the pressure to an extent but for me it’s more to do with the fans and how they react. I’m not too worried about the press but this time we have a lot of people who’ve been waiting for a new record for a good while. We don’t want to let them down and we don’t want to let ourselves down. There’s been a lot of blood, sweat and tears gone into White Bear and we want that hard work to pay off.
RUSHONROCK: There’s been a lot of talk about a change of musical direction on White Bear but has this been over-exaggerated?
PS: I understand why people have said that. Sonically it is quite different I suppose. When you make an album it’s just a snapshot in time – a glimpse into how you were feeling and what you wanted to do at that point in your life or career. The first album is exactly that. It reflected where we were in 2012/13 and what we wanted to do right then. An album can never be a total representation of everybody’s interests as it simply wouldn’t be coherent enough. But for us White Bear is a very natural album to make. Why can’t it be different to the first one? I don’t think anybody wants a re-run of what’s gone before. When we made the first record we’d all been doing various amounts of session work and The Temperance Movement was the antithesis of that: we felt there was a hole in the music industry for a band that could cut an album entirely live. We were keen to prove a point and hopefully we did. We didn’t need to do that again and maybe that’s where White Bear is different.
RUSHONROCK: Was the recording of White Bear more conventional given the fact that the band already had a deal under its belt this time?
PS: Not really. The first album was made in four days in one studio. We weren’t on the road very much at the time. By contrast the recording of White Bear had to be fitted into a pretty hectic touring schedule. It was three different sessions in the end – but only 10 days in total. It probably took us six or seven months to complete but we were only in the studio for a week and half. We did three days, then five days and then another two days. But like the first album the bulk of it was recorded live. There are a few overdubs on White Bear but it was still five guys in a studio at the same time playing live. In that respect it’s nowhere near as much of a departure from the first record as some people are suggesting. But there is a distinction. The writing is different and we had more time in the studio to experiment with the sound before we cut the songs.
RUSHONROCK: So many of the guitar parts push the boundaries and breathe new life into the band – did you enjoy pushing yourself on White Bear to an extent that simply wasn’t possible in the past?
PS: I don’t want this to come across as patronising in any way – because it’s not meant to be – but it wasn’t just about pushing myself. It was about pushing the listener too. I love Paul Kossoff and Rich Robinson but I’m also a big fan of Nels Cline and guitarists who are more ‘out there’. With a lot of my work on White Bear it was an attempt to get the two to meet in the middle and play some stuff that wasn’t necessarily immediately what rock fans would expect to hear in our music. I tried to take the new music in a slightly different direction where possible. As a band we like a lot of different music and we wouldn’t be doing ourselves justice if we stuck to writing songs that sounded like they’d been recorded between 1968 and 1974.
RUSHONROCK: Luke [Potashnick] has left the band since the recording of White Bear was completed so will you be taking a second guitarist on tour?
PS: Yes we’re playing with a guitarist called Matt White. He’s been a friend of mine for years and someone I’ve known probably longer than I’ve known Luke. A few of the other guys had met him before – he comes from the same London sessions scene. I knew that he liked The Temperance Movement because he was always turning up at our shows and getting into the music. We took him to Sweden at the back end of last year to play a few shows and bed him in away from the spotlight. It was a baptism of fire for Matt but he dealt with it well and it sounded great. We all got along well and everyone’s looking forward to hitting the road again this month.
RUSHONROCK: As a member of a band that is both ambitious and keen to push musical boundaries how do you feel about the sad passing of David Bowie?
PS: First and foremost I was a fan. I guess he embodied what it means to be an artist who is truly great and what is missing from a lot of people who play music. Not only did he make incredible music but there’s a bravery about everything he did – to constantly put out different material when you have no idea whether people will like it or not takes a strong personality. For me that approach is almost as impressive as the music itself. To do something different all of the time and follow each project through with conviction is an impressive trait. He did that and saw his music accepted by a wider audience as a result.
RUSHONROCK: What do The Temperance Movement hope to achieve in 2016?
PS: We just want to keep on doing what we’re doing and keep on growing. I don’t mean I want us to play Wembley overnight. I just mean that I want us to keep making music that people will still want to hear at live shows – that’s what has to happen for this band. It’s why we’re here. We’re not about to sidestep any part of the journey along the way because that’s going to come back and bite us. We’re in this for the long haul.