815 V St. NW
Washington, DC, 20001
Doors 6:00 PM
It is one of the brilliant facets of recorded music that while it can frame forever in time one of humanity’s most fluid art forms, those captured sounds themselves can go on to become an active launchpad for the ideas, memories, emotions and feelings of those listening. Returning with their third album, Hot Motion, Temples have not just provided a strong demonstration of this dual static/frenetic nature, but they’ve created a record that revels in this beautiful contradiction.
A brilliantly crafted, thoughtfully recorded collection, the album’s propulsive, seemingly immediate songs soon reveal an impressive depth of ideas and energy with subsequent listens because, as its title warns, Hot Motion is not a record that stands still.
“I’m excited for people to experience these songs for the first time,” declares singer and guitarist James Bagshaw. “They are constructed in such a way that the album should feel relatively instantaneous, but we did not water down our creative ideas. Getting that balance can be hard, perhaps on the last record on some songs we used too many layers to create depth, but making this album we discovered that depth doesn’t simply come by layering things, it can come from the intensity of an idea.”
While proud of 2017’s electronically orchestrated Volcano, the trio – completed by bassist Tom Walmsley and guitarist Adam Smith – feel they have reconnected with the verve and spirit of their debut, 2014’s Sun Structures, although Hot Motion proves as unique and forward-thinking as any Temples album.
“There’s something more primal about this record,” suggests Walmsley of its energy. “We didn’t want to complicate things. We wanted it to have a more robust feel to it and focus more on guitars. Having less on there, but making everything sound as big as possible. I’ve always wanted our records to sound quite grand and larger than life, but we achieved that with some more earthy sounds in this time.”
As with the band’s first two LPs, the group recorded the album themselves in Northamptonshire, although this side of Temples as evolved too. “We’ve gone from bedroom to living room to a dedicated space. We could all set up in the same room and allow things to play out a lot more like a band. That played a huge part in the sound of the record,” says Walmsley, although despite the extra room Hot Motion remains a home recording like its predecessors.
“The room is a 300 year-old outbuilding at my house,” continues Bagshaw. “I spent two years fixing it up because it had a leaky iron roof on it. It was nice to work in a space which had a little charm to it but still felt like home recording.”
That space fed directly into Temples vision. While retaining their enviably poppy instincts, the band created a host of brand new guitar sounds for this record and also took a lead from the “simplicity” of some 70s rock recordings which ensured the fundamentals behind each track are organic and original. “We were hiding less behind synth sounds and delays, which meant that the pureness of the melodic construct of each song was more thought through,” explains Bagshaw. “There was an element of less is more in some places.”
A glorious technicolour infuses much if the album, but there is a David Lynch-like undertone that adds a gravity to Hot Motion’s soaring moments. “It felt like there was a darker edge to what we were coming up with and we wanted to make sure that carried through across the whole record,” says Walmsley. “It’s not a ten track, relentless rock record from start to finish, it’s got a lot of light and shade and more tender moments, but that heavier, darker sound for us is something we wanted to make sure was in there and explore further.”
The exemplar of this is the opener and title track Hot Motion. Starting with a seemingly innocent, crunked ice cream van-like riff, the song quickly bounds through a sonic landscape of shadowy valleys and exalted highs as the track captures Temples at their inventive best, and shares an expansive, irresistible energy with the listener.
“Hot Motion is the feature piece,” declares Walmsley. “It was one of the first songs we put together for the record and it felt like it had all the marks and inspiration that we wanted the whole record to have, that was an important track.” Bagshaw agrees, suggesting that it set a tone for the next phase of Temples’ development. “Hot Motion is a better song than I ever dreamed it could be,” he says. “There was something in essence of that song to conjure with.”
From the impressive opening, the rest of Hot Motion similarly boats an initial immediacy before unfurling greater depth and ideas, although each song cascades onto its own unique territory. Tracks like The Beam, It’s All Coming Out and Step Down offer swirling, enticing mini journeys, while the groove on Context “huge and a bit of a nod to an old school hip hop vibe” according to Bagshaw. “Songs like The Howl and Holy Horses have a slightly harder, heavier than we’ve done before,” adds Walmsley. “It felt like it was very important to retain that element on the record because it allowed us to open up with tracks like Atomise.”
Lyrically too, this record has seen Temples embrace “purer, primal” feelings.
“I’m really proud of You’re Either On Something lyrically because I feel deeply connected with the words – they’re so truthful,” admits Bagshaw. “On that track, I can hear influences of stuff that I listened to when I was growing up. There’s almost a nostalgia to that track, even though it’s very forward-looking. Equally, while the words on [album closer] Monuments are a little cryptic, it’s very much about the time we live in. I wouldn’t say it’s a political song but you can’t help but write about the things that are happening otherwise you’d just be a hermit.”
Fizzing with ideas, bursting with kinetic energy and balancing an immediate impact with an enduring, timeless intensity, Hot Motion is an album that very much provides a snapshot one of Britain’s most progressive bands’ soul, while offering its audience a starting point for their own flights of emotion and imagination. Indeed, one of its creators is jealous that he cannot experience it anew too.
“This record has really got me excited,” declares Bagshaw. “I really want to be on the receiving end of it more than any other record we’ve done. While we were making it I was thinking I wanted to be able to hear what it sounded like without working on it – I’d love to hear this out of the context in which it was made. I was really longing for that as we worked on each song, so I’m excited for people to experience these songs for the first time.”
Don’t delay this life-affirming trip, Hot Motion awaits.
Watching her onstage, that brown bob of hers whirling like a cyclone as she unleashes her brash and husky riot of a voice, it’s hard to imagine Mattiel Brown was ever anything but a natural-born performer, a tried-and-true self-empowered presence.
“Honestly though I never even believed I could do this,” Mattiel, one of rock’s most thrilling young talents, says. Still, dig deep and she’ll admit to those times when she’d let herself dream: of one day stepping onstage, gripping that microphone and showcasing her skills. Then, she imagined, could at last let it all go, unleash that deep-seeded passion of hers for melody and rhythm and intricate storytelling and channel her pent-up ferocity into something real and palpable and powerful.
“But,” adds the singer, whose youth was shaped by an eclectic range of music - from folk to punk and hip-hop - and who for years only sang by herself in private, “I remember thinking all along, “Yeah, I would love to do that but it’s out of my wheelhouse, right?” Mattiel pauses and smiles as if to say she now knows she was capable of becoming a masterful frontwoman all along. “I guess I just really had to break out of my skin.”
It’s a damn good thing she did: following encouragement from Jack White during a
chance encounter in Nashville with her chief musical inspiration and eventual touring partner, Mattiel made the crucial decision to jumpstart her musical journey by writing and recording with Jonah Swilley and Randy Michael — two contributors who’s songwriting is rooted in gospel, rock n’ soul, hip-hop and new wave. Less than five years later Mattiel stands as one of the most singular and buzzed-about acts in rock music. She is no longer a teenager afraid to sing in front of strangers, but rather performing for rapt audiences across the globe in the wake of her acclaimed eponymous 2017 debut LP, released via Burger Records; wowing viewers with their fiery TV shows like last year on “Later... With Jools Holland” and more recently “Last Call With Carson Daly”. And now, she’s gearing up to release her highly anticipated second album, Satis Factory.
“It’s all still wild to me,” Mattiel admits with a laugh of her whirlwind past two years. “It’s so incredible knowing I’ve invested my time in something that has really started to work.” Swilley chuckles when hearing of the singer’s typically humble take on the present day. Having become Mattiel’s most trusted musical ally and bandmate since they first began writing together in 2014, he’s seen her evolution firsthand. “I believed in her from the get-go,” Swilley says. “Because when you hear her sing” - a blend of Grace Slick and Screamin' Jay Hawkins with the ferocity of a punk-rock head-Thrasher - “you instantly know it’s for real.”
Mattiel, for her part, is hardly one to sing her own praises. But having seen their debut album (released on iconic indie Heavenly in the UK and Europe) be so embraced by such well- respected outlets like the BBC’s Radio 6Music , even she can let herself admit her collaborators may have been right all along. “Randy and Jonah were so confident about how well my debut would be received,” she recalls. “They were like, ‘The real music fans are going to get this.’ And they were right.
While she may be patting herself on the back, Mattiel’s recent success has most
importantly given her the confidence and creative ammunition to go for broke on Satis Factory. To Swilley’s ear, the album is “a true rock n’ roll record,” with timeless influences ranging from The Clash to The Velvet Underground and even hints of Roger Miller. “It was a completely different experience than the first album,” he says. “It was a lot more about trying new sounds out and putting weird keyboards through amps. It was a little more experimental where we’re having fun playing with different sounds.”
Mattiel acknowledges their new LP is a hard-hitting and occasionally bruising affair, what with her voice regularly sizzling above searing, serpentine guitars (“Heck Fire”). But on a deeper level, she says, the album is a collection of highly personal and thematic stories. Satis Factory, she explains, nods to the never-ending search for self-gratification. And until recently, having worked full-time as a graphic designer for technology firm MailChimp while simultaneously pursuing her musical dreams, it’s a struggle she knows well.
“I spent about a solid year-and-a half juggling both jobs full-time,” she explains, and the idea of finding pleasure in the process of self-discovery is a concept she directly explores on the reverb-drenched “Millionaire.” The first song she penned for the album, the droney jolt of self- reflection directly wrestles with her love-hate relationship with the voyage to personal and creative fulfillment. “Some people become satisfied doing one thing for a very long time, and don’t have the motivation to pursue anything else,” Mattiel says of the impetus for “Millionaire.” “But I’m happiest when I’m continually searching for that satisfaction even though I may never reach it. Because if I’ve totally reached it, I know I’m doing something wrong. It means I’ve become too comfortable.” Moments later, a similar sentiment is dished up on the garage rocker “Berlin Weekend,” with Mattiel snarling, “And when the time comes to get down and invest/Get the same house and the same yard and a white picket fence/What now and what then when you’ve got a means to an end?/ What are you gonna do then?”
For Mattiel, learning to honor her achievements remains a work in progress; it’s something she admits to only acknowledging when onstage and hearing her lyrics sung back to her by her ever-growing audience. “I wish that I had more time to enjoy the “It’s all happening” part,” she says, “but I’m busy doing so many different things.”
Yes, despite her growing profile the self-admitted perfectionist has remained extremely hands- on with all facets of her career. “It’s very hard for me to give someone free creative reign on something unless I know them very well,” Mattiel admits. To that end, alongside filmmaker Jason Travis, the multi-talented artist served as the food stylist, location scout, wardrobe stylist, and prop buyer for the music video to the album’s single “Food for Thought.” Shot at a farm house in Alabama, and finding the singer devouring plates of colorful 70’s cookbook creations, Mattiel says shooting the video “felt like I was back in the design studio with Jason — we’re both able to fill the role of about 10 crew members when we put our heads together.” In other words, this is comfortable territory.
And now, despite the excitement surrounding Satis Factory and a forthcoming tour of North American and Europe that kicks off in May at Third Man Records and finds the group gigging in locales from Montreal to Madrid, she and her longtime musical compatriots are keeping their eyes forward.
“We’re just trying to keep on challenging ourselves and put ourselves in uncomfortable situations to make good music,” Swilley offers of Mattiel’s promising future. “This is something I always thought I had inside me,” Mattiel says. “I suppose when the time was right these things fell into place as they should.”