The Temper Trap
It’s a little known fact that the five men who formed The Temper Trap first met one another during a brief stint working at Melbourne Central’s General Pants. Since then, they have relocated to the UK, made an album that sold nearly a million copies worldwide, had sold-out tours throughout the world over and have received a bevy of accolades from ARIA Awards to Brit nominations. The glowing reception from their first album, Conditions has propelled the band onto an international platform and into an extended period of intense, relentless touring that only concluded at the beginning of 2011. With a new self titled album to be released, I speak with drummer Toby Dundas and new “keytarist” Joseph Greer about what they have in store for us.
Dougy Mandagi (vocals, guitar), Lorenzo Sillitto (guitar), Jonny Aherne (bass) and Toby Dundas (drums) had barely relocated from Melbourne to London when they made a tour bus their home-away-from-home. They’d arrived in 2009 as a band wet behind the ears but armed with songs fit to headline festivals and an ambition that was keen on getting them there. Having recorded Conditions with Arctic Monkeys producer Jim Abbiss, their debut was released in Australia in June 2009 to an overwhelming response. With a handful of awards, including two ARIAs, tucked under their belt, it was clear that Sweet Disposition may have been their not-so-secret weapon, but they backed it up with an album of nuanced epic-pop perfection. Toby says of these awards, “[It feels] great. It’s nice to get recognition from peers and people in the industry…those things that happen along the way are nice little bonuses to what you’re doing.” Adding Joseph as a fifth permanent member only seemed right, seeing as he was always involved with the band. As Toby puts it, “We couldn’t get him to go. He kept showing up.”
And so, it was in these triumphant circumstances that The Temper Trap reconvened after a shorter-than-expected holiday to begin work on their second album. With minimal writing having taken place amidst the whirlwind of the Conditions touring cycle, the band entered sessions for album two with a clean slate and little idea of what would surface. Situated in their adopted home of Hackney, the band approached the writing sessions much as they did their debut by sitting there and nutting things out. By the time they were ready to head to the famous Sound Factory studios in Los Angeles to record with Beck collaborator Tony Hoffer, they’d written 35 songs that were whittled down to 17 to record.
“Being in LA was the right choice for this album,” explains Joseph. “Tony has his own studio so we didn’t need to spend a lot of time trying to get things sounding right. On top of that, the weather was amazing the whole time and I’m sure that did a lot to elevate our moods.”
What emerges is their self-titled second album, a record of two distinct personalities, one of melancholic, mesmeric balladry and one of synth-led, anthemic powerhouse pop. “It’s a progression from what we did last time with a few more elements and more synthesisers,” says Joseph. Toby adds, “There is a bit more programming… Conditions was quite varied but this album will push the walls out a little bit more I think. Dougy’s voice is still the focal point though and is something that ties in all those different musical styles. He experiments with a few more lower registers too. A few more Barry Whites in there.”
Dougy had gone through a break-up prior to the writing sessions, which he admitted to influencing some of his lyrical content. “I think the lyrics tell much more of a story about what you’re going through,” Joseph says, “When you listen to the album there’s a lot more to it than that. I think he probably had some of that to get out, but he definitely got to a point where it’s not just about that anymore.”
Musically, Toby says he was motivated by the gear around him. “[I was] inspired by what extra toys we have around us for us to have a play. For Conditions we had a few extra guitar peddles and that took us into a world. But this time it was having more of a Moog Voyager, so we were starting to write songs on synth sets, which changed the way we wrote.”
When it comes to the meaning of their music, The Temper Trap take the ambiguous route. “It’s not written with a direct message, it’s more what you can take from it,” Toby explains, “[We prefer to] provide a canvas that people can take something from, rather than a direct This-Is-What-We’re-Trying-To-Say message.” Joseph adds, “It’s like if you think about your life and you think about certain songs that meant something to you at a certain point, hopefully this is what other people will feel.” All in all the guys hope their music leaves people feeling inspired and motivated.
The Temper Trap are more than excited to perform in Melbourne. Toby says, “It’s always going to be special. Often there are a high percentage of family and friends who can make the shows and this makes us want to put on a good show for them. Coming from Melbourne and having played all the small places and having places like The Forum be there, imaging one day if we could play it, always makes it really special.”
BY TAMARA VOGL
THE TEMPER TRAP play The Forum Theatre on Tuesday May 29 and Wednesday May 30, along with playing the Vivid LIVE Festival in Sydney on Thursday May 31 and Friday June 1. The Temper Trap is out now via Liberation.