To say that The Temperance Movement are a unique rock band would be an understatement. This fledgling unit just released their self-titled debut album earlier this year, and since it’s release has gathered surprised reactions from advocates of the 1970s era of rock and roll for their slightly nostalgic approach that still keeps both feet firmly planted in the present.
The fact that there are some strong elements of vintage blues rock to be found throughout the band’s debut album is striking; this is a band that also prefers the Peter Green era of Fleetwood Mac to their later years with Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham, even though that other lineup is “great as well.”
Prior to forming the band in 2011, the members of The Temperance Movement had already gathered experience from performing alongside such obscure names as Deep Purple, Ray Davies, James Brown and Jack Bruce. It wasn’t entirely surprising that the five members would then hit it off during an impromptu jam session.
Following the release of a standalone five song EP ‘Pride’ in 2012, The Temperance Movement would soon find themselves moving from the small club gigs to abruptly performing several shows across Europe in support of the Rolling Stones.
Surely if a respected force like Mick Jagger notices something remarkable about an aspiring rock group, there’s some degree of substance to be found there. Now other rock listeners have been discovering this same point with the debut Temperance Movement record.
Music Enthusiast recently sat down with guitarist Paul Sayer to discuss the making of the new Temperance Movement album, his opinion on the vinyl format and the story behind the band’s relationship with the Rolling Stones.
There is a surplus of vintage hard rock influences to be found on the self-titled Temperance Movement album. Where would you place the band’s sound at?
Where would I place the band’s sound? It’s kind of hard to nail it down to one thing, and I can’t speak for a long time about influences. There’s an obvious kind of American rock and roll influence in there, absolutely. A lot of people mention The Black Crowes when they hear us. We’re all definitely massive Black Crowes fans. When we were out in the States last month and the past few months, a lot of people kind of said, “We can’t believe that a British band sounds like this.”
But also we’re massively influenced by a lot of British Invasion bands and later, like Led Zeppelin and Free and Peter Green’s Fleetwood Mac. You know, that whole sort of British blues explosion scene were big influences on us. Obviously we all have our own various influence, as well. For instance, I really love that 70s West Coast music like Jackson Browne and Crosby, Stills and Nash and Neil Young all that kind of stuff.
I think that between the three of us by listening to these bands, you might be surprised at some of our wider influences. I think there’s a slightly electronic feel to the music that I really like, and there’s a lot of soul and R&B music that I love. There’s definitely a wide variety between the five of us, but when the five of us get together what comes out is what you hear on the debut album.
This album is like a fresh breath of air for longtime blues rock listeners such as myself, because seldom do bands of your like find their way onto the radar. When you first united, was the chemistry between yourself and the rest of the lineup instantaneous?
The chemistry between us… it was pretty instantaneous, actually. We all kind of knew each other or knew of each other before the band. I was friends with Luke and we were kind of discussing doing something like this, and at the same time Luke had been discussing the same thing with Phil. So then Luke introduced Phil and I, and Nick and Damon I kind of knew through the music scene in London but we hadn’t really played together. From the first time that we got into a rehearsal room, we all had big smiles on our faces and we knew that we had something quite special.
The members of The Temperance Movement all come from their own musical backgrounds, but it’s safe to say you had all experience performing live prior to forming the band?
We all have played with other people as session musicians and had been involved with the making of albums before. It’s a fairly new band, but between the five of us we had a lot of history of playing music and I love that experience.
Do you feel it was this same experience that allowed for The Temperance Movement to have an immediate reaction?
I think that’s obvious to a certain extent, because everybody in the band is an exceptional musician and that helped the initial thing and in the long term, as well. I think that between us, we’ve been lucky enough to be involved with great music, and at the same time been involved with things that may not have gone quite as we wanted with the other people being around it.
We kind of had an idea from previous experiences what it takes to make something happen these days in music, and it’s a lot of persistence and not giving up. That’s how it’s always been, but nowadays it’s tougher than ever out there at the moment. These sorts of mutual experiences with the five of us did help motivate us musically, in terms of what we need to do to make a success of the band.
Turning towards the self-titled effort, it’s not everyday that modern hard rock groups create such a cohesive album, especially for their debut. What do you recall about those sessions?
Well, we had done a fair bit of writing prior to going into the studio to record the album. We had a lot of songs and had done a few gigs, and we had a sense of what worked and what didn’t. Really we didn’t have a record label or management or anything like that, and between the five of us we all chipped in a few hundred pounds. We went into the recording studio for four days, so there wasn’t really any pressure to make an album.
We didn’t exactly go into the studio with the intention of making an album. We just went in because we knew the next chronological step to get things done would be to have some recorded music. One friend of ours, Sam Miller – who’s an awesome engineer and producer – came in with us for four days because he had been with us and seen some shows.
Obviously you could rent the best studio in the world and if you haven’t got a great guy in there with you, it may not exactly come out the way you want it. And vice-avers; you could be in a very basic studio with someone who’s great and you’ll get great results.
The studio we used was the Fish Factory Studio in Northeast London, and it’s probably somewhere in the middle. It’s by no means a scrawny studio, but it’s got some great old equipment in there and a nice big library of all these bands. When we finished the four days, we had recorded sixteen tracks and it became our album. Really going in, we just knew that we had some good songs written and we had four days in the studio that we really wanted to make the most of.
This isn’t simply a hard rock album; there are some bold flavors of relaxed blues and some electronic elements and even jazz chords to be found throughout. How do you feel such a diverse assortment of elements found their way onto a single album?
We just… I guess all those different styles of music that you’re talking about are all linked over history. When we make music as The Temperance Movement, we don’t mess with any previous albums. We don’t go in and say “We want to make a song that sounds like this” or “I’m going to work hard and sound like this person today,” but we listen to a lot of records.
Although we didn’t know each other as kids growing up, we listened to a lot of the same records. Those influences just kind of get distilled and end up coming through depending on how you’re feeling that day. I think between us we’ve listened to soul and R&B and rock and blues and jazz, and when we’re playing together and not thinking about it too much all those elements come out a bit.
One of my personal favorite tracks off of the debut album is “Only Friend,” which I felt propels the album right out of the gate with the crunching chord progressions and soulful attitude. What’s the story behind that song?
“Only Friend” is a song that may have had the initial guitar work already written [before we went into the studio]. Luke and I were over at his place on day, and between the two of us we kind of shook that into an arrangement of some sort. What often happens when we’re writing is Luke and I will do that, and then we’ll send an arrangement out to Phil, because Phil lives in Scotland and we all live in London. We’ll send something up and show Phil what we’re doing, and maybe he’ll find a bit of a melody and jot down some notes. Then we’ll all get back together and we’ll craft it into a definitive arrangement, and maybe tweet some lyrics.
So the lyric, funnily enough, wasn’t “Trouble with my only friend,” it was something else. Then when we all got back together, we slid in the word “trouble.” Between the three of us, it all sort of came together – kind of like the rest of the album, to be honest. For the rest of the album, that’s how a lot of it was written. There was this mutual idea that it all should be guitar based, and then we would send that out to Phil and he would put about 80 percent of his ideas together. Then we would all get back together again and fine tune it and finish it up.
You’ve mentioned that the Peter Green-era of Fleetwood Mac is a strong influence on The Temperance Movement. That’s such a unique period of Fleetwood Mac to focus on, especially since most fans tend to lean more heavily towards the albums with Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks. What is it appeals to you specifically about that era of the group?
I think that modern day or later day Fleetwood Mac are great as well, but I think early on it was a completely different band. I guess that Peter Green’s Fleetwood Mac is just closely related to what The Temperance Movement does, especially personally speaking. He was an awesome guitar player, someone that I’ve listened to frequently and has definitely influenced me. So straight away, I just feel a closer relationship to that era of music, even though later day Fleetwood Mac wrote incredible songs and made some great albums. It’s just that Peter Green’s Fleetwood Mac is much closer related to me as a guitar player.
Were there any classic albums that either yourself or the rest of the band turned towards for inspiration during the making of the debut Temperance Movement record?
To be totally honest with you, we’ve kind of been listening to records before making the band that became The Temperance Movement. When we made the record, we weren’t really listening to lots of albums with the band specifically in mind. We were really listening to various things, and then in our playing some of those things ending up coming out into one album with four other people who had been doing a similar thing for the past however many years.
There wasn’t anything specific, and I think that’s why we hopefully managed to make a retro-sounding record without making it sound like this band or that band. People will often say to us, “You remind me of these three bands,” but the funny thing is that they’re always really different and are a really wide range, as well. We don’t hear the same ones over and over again, and I think that just comes down to our range of influences and the fact that we weren’t trying to make a certain kind of record at all. We were just getting together and writing and playing, and obviously as individuals we’re all differently motivated by certain things. In the moment, we were just making music that came directly from us.
You’ve talked about listening to different records during your personal development. Would you like to support the vinyl format in The Temperance Movement by continuing to release entire albums instead of just a standalone single? There are many newer artists who seem to just be focused on writing a catchy single to hit radio, but The Temperance Movement doesn’t appear to be that seem breed of artist.
Yeah. I mean, I think definitely as a band and personally, I kind of believe in an album as a body of work. It’s really important to us to show a different side of what we do, and talking about what people have been writing about is the different styles and sides to the band. Obviously just listening to one single you wouldn’t get that.
I think that in terms of what artists should or shouldn’t be doing, it’s really hard for us at the moment and people really are just doing whatever they need to do (laughs) to get their music out in the world.
I kind of wouldn’t judge anyone that was choosing to put out singles instead of albums. I think what everyone is trying to do is just make music and get it out to enough people that like it so they can continue to make music and not have to go work in a bar. For us it’s really important and as a listener it’s really important, as well, because I like listening to actual albums.
I’m the same way. It’s quite something that such a prominent voice in rock and roll was one of the first to introduce The Temperance Movement to the world. How did Mick Jagger come across the band even before the debut album was released?
Funnily enough, one of my friends’ younger sisters was working as an intern at a live agent. She was seventeen, just out of college and she got an internship for two weeks working at a live agent. One of the things that a live agent was working on were some Stones shows in Europe last year. She was just coming in with a tray of coffee and overheard the fact that the Stones needed a support band for some of these shows, so she just said, “I’ve got the right band for you. They’re called The Temperance Movement and here’s their website.”
The outcome of that was we got an email back from Mick Jagger saying, “I’d like to invite The Temperance Movement to open for us in Germany.” So it was kind of a funny story, but I think that the awesome thing is that once Mick heard the music he just instantly loved it.
That is a rather unique story. You would think someone like the Rolling Stones wouldn’t really need a supporting act, but it really worked out to your favor in this instance.
Yeah, man. It’s awesome and you’re absolutely right. They don’t need one but they kind of chose to have one to support young bands and new music.
Speaking of which, you’re about to serve as the opening act for the Rolling Stones here in Orlando just later this week. What are you looking forward to about the upcoming gig?
You know, playing to a crowd that size and also playing in a situation where there’s so much rock and roll heritage. What I’ve learned from opening for the Stones last year is that it really feels like a massive occasion and kind of an important day for a lot of people in the audience.
The Stones are in their town or their state or their country touring, and it’s obviously not only a massive opportunity for us to introduce our music to that many people in one day but the fact that we’ve already gotten sort of this seal of approval from the Stones means that some of the people in the audience are already with you because they respect the opinion of the Stones so much that they’re willing to give you a chance. It’s a combination of a massive opportunity for us and it’s definitely something you’re going to tell the grand kids about.
Well absolutely! The Rolling Stones have managed to keep moving for the past five decades. Would you like to see The Temperance Movement have a similar longevity?
Absolutely. I don’t know how realistic it is, but they’re pretty unique in that respect. They still have at least three of the original members in there, and Ronnie has obviously been doing it for a really long time. No one celebrates the day that a great band breaks up and I think everyone would like to see them going for as long as they possibly can, but at the same time the thing about the Stones is that they still play great shows and make great music. That’s what’s important, as well. So I would say that comes first. Making great music that can carry on for years and years comes first, but I would like to do it for as long as possible.