Temples (Photo by Ed Miles)

Three years ago, TEMPLES caused quite a stir with their debut album Sun Structures and their love for psychedelic pop-rock songs that was shared around the globe. All the extensive touring that followed the release didn’t stop the band from quickly writing new material once they were back home in England.

Ready to talk about their follow-up titled Volcano, we met with band members Tom Walmsley and Adam Smith in Berlin to learn more about their thoughts on mortality or their temptations of doing something completely different.

The inwardly explosive side of the volcano

But, wait. Volcano? The album doesn’t quite explode musically. Neither are the songs erupting to an extent that is anywhere near the effects of a quivering earth. Even Tom and Adam seem calm, yet cheerful during our conversation. However, their explanation dissolves the mystery pointing to the lyrical content of the record as Tom reveals: ‘Lyrically the album builds tension and that is probably more of the explosive side. The inwardly explosive side of the volcano. Our creativity was a very steady flow. It didn’t erupt.’

In fact, a flow that started shortly after they were back in their native home of Kettering. Despite all the touring, TEMPLES didn’t worry much about plunging into the more creative part of their work again. During our talk, Tom Walmsley does admit that the aftermath of their tour wasn’t all sweet though:

‘You get so used to the momentum of touring and being in that mindset that it can feel a bit of a shock all of a sudden when you stop playing and you’re not doing as much. It can feel a bit bleak at times until you really step back into being creative again as a songwriter.’

It only took one simple advice for the band to get their focus back on writing as Adam Smith tells us: ‘The best thing to do is to ignore the bleak moments and to carry on writing. Get busy again. We pretty much did that as soon as we got back home.’ Reflecting on the success of Sun Structures, he adds:

‘I wouldn’t say we felt haunted by our debut. We used it as something to get perspective. Not to move away from it, necessarily.’

While TEMPLES explore more gloomy topics in their lyrics on Volcano, the music itself doesn’t reflect this darker path as Tom Walmsley points out: ‘It made perfect sense to make the music sound the exact opposite to all the sincerity and big questions. It creates an interesting balance of light and shade. That was a bit of a challenge to keep a brave face in the face of perhaps more gloomy subjects.’

Such as mortality, for example, that inspired the song How Would You Like To Go? A topic that demonstrates well how far TEMPLES have progressed personally and as songwriters. The slightly vague and mystic lyrics on their debut have made way for a new approach Adam Smith says: ‘There was a conscious decision to be more lyrically direct on this album than the last one.’

Less Mysticism

Something his bandmate Tom Walmsley confirms: ‘As for mortality, I think it is something you think about more and more when you’re in the autumn of your 20s. I’m glad we have a song about it on this album. That is the level where are on now. Maybe less of age and mysticism and more posing questions about things that affect us all. Very much like the D-word.’

Perhaps, Werner Herzog played a little role in shaping the lyrical content of Volcano, too. At least, Adam Smith seems to be very fascinated by the director’s work: ‘There is a really interesting documentary by Werner Herzog called «Into the Inferno». It’s actually quite terrifying when they get very close. I’d really like to go and see more of a volcano though. We should go now that we’ve done an album that’s called «Volcano».’

It wouldn’t be the first time the band has been near a volcano, Tom Walmsley remembers: ‘We were close to the volcano Etna once as well as Mount Fuji.’ While Adam Smith recalls another trip much to Tom’s surprise while we talk: ‘I have been to Pompeii with my family when I was younger, but I didn’tgo anywhere near the Vesuvius volcano really.’

Photo by Ed Miles

The comfortable distance TEMPLES have kept to all kinds of volcanos so far does not match the feeling they are striving after when being together in the studio, though, as keyboardist and guitarist Adam Smith emphasizes: ‘You should never get too comfortable in your approach in creating something. If you feel too comfortable, it’s probably not that good.’

‘Those first few months of making the album were sort of uncomfortable for us which was a good thing.’

Once again, TEMPLES decided to record their second full length album close to their homes and produce it themselves, too. Bassist Tom Walmsley names a very practical reason for doing so: ‘We recorded at James’ house. Wherever he lived, that’s where we would record. It was near home still. We just felt this record needed to be done in that way.We would never rule out recording somewhere else or working together with other people though.’

If any producers are out there who are interested in taking the job in the future, you might keep one thing in mind, Adam Smith jokes: ‘We are very stubborn and probably not very easy to work with. A lot of people have said that, actually. I would feel sorry if we worked with somebody else, to have someone come in and to witness it all…’

However, producing the new record themselves taught them an important lesson, according to Adam Smith: ‘It is all about perseverance. It’s difficult when you are producing yourself as well because you only have your own perspective. It was good to reproduce ourselves and come back as something different on our own rather than work with somebody else and then change.’