Temples announcing a new album certainly made 2016 suck less.

The Midlands quartet had been rather quiet music-wise since the release of their spectacular debut LP Sun Structures in January 2014 -- my personal favourite of the year -- and although they played new material during their never-ending tour, it wasn't until October that we finally had some news regarding a proper follow-up.

I met up with band members James Edward Bagshaw and Thomas Walmsley in Paris earlier this month for a brief chat about their work and artistic approach, but also to reflect on the Brexit situation and how it may affect musicians, both British and European.

Mountain View

So what have you guys been up to since Sun Structures was released?

Thom: We toured a lot... so lots and lots of touring until about a year ago when we stopped and thought we should really focus and start working on our new album. So we mainly spent the last year working on the tracks that made Volcano, and playing the occasional show on weekends, or summer festivals. It has been very much going back to England and whacking on music, focusing on that.

Were you prepared for the success Sun Structures achieved?

Thom: Well, we certainly didn't expect it at all! And then again we were so continuously busy, even before the album was released, either playing shows or writing, that it was hard being aware of what was going on or how the album was being received. We're only reflecting on it now.

Did it somehow make you anxious about the second album?

James: It's in the back of your mind, isn't it? Subconsciously -- and maybe for a moment consciously -- you are apprehensive about that. But our output as musicians and artists is not governed by success, and if this record is less successful, so be it -- we might have to get a day-job, but that's just it, really. You can't put that kind of pressure on yourself, because if you do that, if you're always chasing this kind of invisible dragon, then you art becomes compromised. We're just trying to outdo ourselves as musicians, and I think the only stress that comes with making the second album is that we're trying to write better than we ever did before, to be creative in the most honest way. Whether people like it or not, it's kind of a bit irrelevant; when you're conceiving an idea you can't think about that, because that's what happens to a lot of bands, they ruin themselves --

-- trying to please everybody

James: Yeah, and it becomes just an awful, compromised mess. And they alienate the true fans more than what they gain from the commercial world. We just got on with writing music that appealed to us, and rang true to us. And, hopefully, it will also ring true to other people.

Thom: Yes, making music is more of a necessity than anything else, and I hope people like the new album because it's us, it sounds more like us than ever. It's a pretty honest record.

Did you already have any material written for the new album or did you start from scratch?

James: There might have been maybe a melodic line, but that's all. For Sun Structures there were twelve songs, three B-sides, and that's it. Those were the only songs that existed.

And do you have stuff that didn't make its way into Volcano because it somehow didn't fit?

James: A couple of things, but we don't have a lot. I mean, it amazes me how some people have like thirty songs or something. That, to me, sounds like a collage album, like there's not a core idea there. It doesn't seem right, having thirty fully-mixed, finished songs that you choose, wheel down, vote.

-- or you could just make a White Album.

James: Yeah, you might as well do that, release them all at once. That's more honest than putting them on the shelf. Any songs we haven't used, like three or four songs, two of them will be B-sides, or bonus tracks of re-releases. There's no such thing as a demo with us.

Influence-wise, how do Sun Structures and Volcano compare?

Thom: In terms of production, [Volcano] has less the sound of a specific era. This time around we sort of wanted to blur the edges a bit. I don't think there's one particular influence that shines over another when it comes to the album. Sun Structures was... amalgamations of different things we like, whether it be Motown, or a very dry '70s kind of thing production-wise, with a big orchestration, or a '60s technical kind of production; more garage-y. All those things came together to create a sound that made sense to us. And this album is like that too, lots of different things.

What about collabs? Have you thought about someone you'd like to collaborate with?

James: Yeah, we'd probably have a good time working with other people. It's a shame Bowie's gone, he would've been amazing to work with -- I mean, everybody who loves good music would have wanted to collaborate with Bowie. But there are people, alive, who are also fantastic -- a new breed if you like, new artists that would be interesting to work with. I don't know, maybe do a Record Store Day thing with Ariel Pink or something, that would be nice. Maybe he could re-imagine one of our songs and we'd do one of his; I mean, he's definitely an out-of-the-box thinker in terms of songwriting, production, and aesthetic. Interesting guy -- never met him [laughs].

What about the visual side of your work, is it an important thing to you? I mean, it's integrated with what you want to say --

Thom: Oh yes, especially with the album cover. The videos are more of a time stamp, while a cover visually stimulates a record directly. We wanted to have something different this time around to articulate with the music, provide it with a visual sense.

On a different page: How does Brexit affect you as musicians and individuals?

James: We don't know. We all voted "remain", of course, we're European citizens as much as British citizens, and European people are as British as British people. That's the way that we think, because we're broadminded and, uhm, nice [laughs]. We didn't vote "remain" because it affects us directly anyway, we voted due to how it affects other people; you're voting for your beliefs, and it just happens that our beliefs are caring about others. And we didn't vote "remain" because we were worried about touring, it didn't even cross our minds. I mean, we might struggle touring in Europe from now on, with more paperwork and all, but so be it -- we're not gonna stop coming here because of that. People want to come and see us play shows, we'll go there. We can't think about how hard it will be to come here now because there's nothing we can do about it anyway.

Thom: It could make it more difficult for new UK bands to play across Europe though, due to things like taxes and paperwork. And that is going be the most unfortunate thing, because it's going to create a gap between those who can and those who can't. If that is the case, they should create an artists' fund or something -- although they're just probably gonna cut even more -- to get bands to play abroad and pay for costs, which I know that countries like the Netherlands do, they invest in new bands and music. Maybe that will come around, but I'm doubtful because of who's in charge at the moment in England.

James: I hope it doesn't affect the stuff that comes into the UK as well! There's a lot of amazing stuff happening European-wise and I hope that it suddenly doesn't become impossible to deal with for those bands -- the borders, too much paperwork, too many taxes. I mean, we've always talked about how we feel about this; we're not a political band or anything, but it's important that people talk about it --

-- which is not just political anyway, it's social.

James: That's it, I mean, on a completely non-political level it affects everybody's lives, and I feel it's given British people a bad name. I feel -- in one word -- embarrassed, because I don't want people to think that we're knob-head English people, disgusted by someone who is not of British heritage. I know that's not what it is, but that's how my mind works, we look disgusting.

Well, but that would be saying every American is disgusting because Trump won.

James: But that's how some people, say Bernie Sanders' supporters, feel and maybe that's why they didn't vote at all. I mean, Bernie didn't get in and they didn't want to vote for Hillary, didn't want to vote for Trump, and therefore there's lots of non-votes. And you got a country that's also embarrassed about what's happened.

On a lighter note: would you rather be very relevant now and forgotten later, or lesser-known now and then rediscovered?

Thom: The latter, probably. I'd prefer having some sort of legacy, I think, more than just instantaneous success.

Which were the last three records you bought?

James: I got the Lemon Twigs' record, and before that -- and I know I'm a bit of a late-comer to this -- the Alabama Shakes' record, which I really really like, more so for the production than anything else. And also this guy, C.W. Stoneking, an Australian guy who does -- I don't know what genre it is, it's very strange -- but it's influenced by people like Howlin' Wolf and old Blues people, but at the same time it sounds like jungle-y -- not jungle music -- very analog, very old sound. Sounds like someone who's been locked in a vault.

Thom: A great singer called Weyes Blood, who sort of sounds like Karen Carpenter and Joni Mitchell crossed together, and it's a great record. I also got Todd Rundgren's Faithful recently. I didn't realise before but it's largely a covers album, which makes perfect sense because it's called "Faithful". And then a band called Shoes, their record Black Vinyl Shoes, great late-'70s power pop.

You know Rolling Stones just released a new album --

James: Did they?

Haha yes. So I have to ask you: would you still perform 'Shelter Song' at 65?

Thom: I think we might, yeah [laughs].

James: I think we'll be playing it on Theramins but then it will be like laser Theramins, on Mars. [laughs] It's funny because the guitar will still be relevant in that many years from now, you just know it. Guitar's still gonna be there, to the very end I tell you.


Their highly-awaited, self-produced album Volcano is due out next March via Heavenly Recordings.