Saturday, 10 November 2012

The Temper Trap

Sometimes a song can take on a life of it's own. There are countless artists who, despite their best efforts will forever be remembered for a single three or four minute track.

Soft Cell, Dexy's Midinght Runners and A-ha have each released numerous albums over careers spanning several years and yet they are all remembered for just one song. It's doubtless that when it came to recording their sophomore album, The Temper Trap were painfully aware of that fact.

The runaway success of their single 'Sweet Disposition' made the band a household name seemingly overnight. It appeared on every radio playlist, in commercials and was played at every sporting event you can think of. For a period between 2009 and 2010 the track had a bizzare omnipresence, such that it felt like only a matter of time before you would hear it again.

Blame these two.
So when the time came to record their second album the band were determined not to fall by the wayside. They refused to bow to expectations and set about simply making the best record they could.

“At first we just kept all that stuff away, it was just us again in a little rehearsal room. We were trying to be in the place where we were when we were writing the first album and there was no expectations and no pressure. For the most part I think we were able to achieve that.

Obviously when you start playing the songs to your label and to producers you become more aware of the expectations and the pressure mounts a little bit then. By the end of it certainly there was a bit of that but overall I think we were able to do it very naturally”, drummer Toby Dundas says.

Though the band were wary of record label expectations, in particular the need to match the success of Sweet Disposition, they saw no point in trying to recreate the song. The new albums first single 'Need Your Love' is a hook-laden, synth-heavy bombast in comparison to the slow burning heart-tug of it's counterpart, as bassist Jonny Aherne is keen to point out.

“It's one of those things. For Need Your Love, everyone was invested in the hope of what that song could possibly do. Some of us thought it had quite a pop sensibility and then others thought it might be flying a little too close to the sun. Anytime we talked about Sweet Disposition, or trying to recreate it, we all knew that we didn't create that song on purpose. It just sort of happened. To try to mimic another song would have been really weird and wouldn't have come out right. As Toby said earlier we were all trying to just write and not worry about anything else”.

For the most part the band have stuck with the key ingredients that made their debut album Conditions a success and added elements to expand on what has gone before.

“When I think about this band, at the centre of it has always been a desire to experiment with new toys and always develop our sound. I don't think we've ever felt that we've come to a point of arrival of what we want to sound like. We've introduced some new instruments and solidified our touring member Joeseph to become a proper member of the band” Jonny says.

A key element in the band's development has been the recruitment of Tony Hoffer as producer. Best known for his work with electro and synth focused bands (M83, Phoenix) Hoffer proved the perfect catlyst for the bands 80's influenced pop.

“He saw what we were doing and obviously with all our synthesiser influences that's a world he's pretty familiar with and he's got a great collection of vintage gear. We headed over to L.A. to his studio. It was a really great, relaxed recording environment compared to other times we've recorded. It felt like a very creative space and everyone was bringing up ideas. If we had sounds in our heads that we wanted – for example I'd say 'I want it to sound blue' – Tony would dash off into his synth cupboard and suddenly there you go, it sounds blue!” an entusiastic Toby tells me.

Hoffer's influence on the album is telling. Where many bands might have crumbled under the pressure – and many have, as mentioned earlier – The Temper Trap sound more relaxed and confident on their second album than they really have any right to be.

The self titled sophomore release stays true to the bands original sound. But there is enough of a development (as well as some damn catchy singles), to ensure they won't be remembered for the wrong reasons.  

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