When I went to Warped Tour in 2010, I decided to head into town a day early and visit various friends and family, and see who was playing in town that night. Turns out, The Temper Trap was in town that night, in support of their debut album, Conditions. I decided to check the band out on a whim, never hearing any of their music before, and I was blown away by their live performance. Since then, I continued to hear the band's music on various television shows, movies, and commercials. The Temper Trap's self-titled sophomore effort came out in early June, marking a noticeable maturation in the band's sound, to some fans disappointment.
I had a really excellent time hanging out with drummer Toby Dundas, and talking about the new album, and what lies next for the band. If they happen to be in your area, don't miss them, as they are still one of the strongest live acts that I've seen around. Look for them to open for some band called Coldplay when they come back to Australia.
First off, how's the tour been so far?
It's been real good, we like touring in America. San Fran last night was probably the best show of the tour so far, so yeah, we have a couple more left, so we can beat that.
Coming from Australia/New Zealand, how do the crowds there compare to here in the U.S.?
I think different places in Australia and the U.S. have different vibes, you know? Melbourne and New York can be a little bit cool, places like Los Angeles, San Fran, and Portland are more like Sydney, where people are a bit more enthusiastic, we like that.
How's it feel to finally have a new album out after a few years?
It's great, it's nice to have some new songs, nice to be able to change up the set a little bit. Now that it's come out, people are becoming a bit more familiar to the new songs, which is nice.
Did people's initial reaction to the record and first week numbers live up to your expectations? Where they what you were expecting, or was it a bit different?
Stateside, I haven't seen the numbers, I think it's doing OK. Australia, we got #1 in the first week, which is nice; luckily, we were doing shows there at the time, so it was nice to be able to soak that up at the time. It's definitely a nice one for the memory banks.
This album was taken in a bit of a different direction musically. What inspired that shift?
Just experimentation, not wanting to do Conditions again. We bought some synths and keyboards while we were touring Conditions, just to fatten up the sound; having those around in the writing process, we've always been a band that searches for new sounds that interests us as a way of songwriting. Just having those around as our "go-to" instruments, as opposed to pulling out a guitar for every song. Now we have a bit more of a mix of sounds, which is great.
I understand you guys like to write primarily in the studio, correct?
Yeah, we don't really write that well on the road. We did have a couple things that came out of touring, but once we got back to London, and started working on the new album, we just went to our rehearsal space and started working there.
What sort of things came from touring?
You know what, none of them made it on the record. There were two songs; we recorded one of them, but then when we were cutting songs for the album, we left it by the way side.
Is there any chance we might hear it as a b-side in the future?
No, we were playing it live, we've actually probably played it here in Portland in the past. It just didn't turn out the way we thought it would, so we thought we'd leave it and save it for album number three. We recorded 17 songs, put out 12, there's a deluxe version that has 15, so there's a few b-sides.
Did you feel any sort of pressure to release a new album, after touring on Conditions for as long as you did?
Yeah, you're getting torn in two directions; you want to have something new that you can have, so you can get out and tour, but at the same time you don't want to rush it and put out a shit record. I think we let it happen naturally. It took a year or so to completely write and record it, and then it takes a few months for the record label to get their shit together and put it out.
Going into the studio, what was your biggest goal as a band? Was it to differentiate from Conditions, or was it something else?
Yeah, just to make something we were really proud of. When we made Conditions, we were in a much earlier stage of our musical career. This time around, we a lot more time to get the sounds and arrangements completely right. We just wanted to make something that we felt was an evolution from Conditions, and that we could look back on and feel like we'd taken a next step.
Did you feel pressure with some of the stuff from Conditions being on various television shows, movies, and commercials?
I mean, obviously there was much more of an expectation. When we made Conditions, nobody really knew anything about us, so there was that blank slate. I think we did a pretty good job at keeping those pressures at bay for as long as possible. When you start having to choose between a big body of songs, you go "What songs are we going to record? What songs are going to pre-production? What songs are going to be done in the studio? What songs are going to make the album?"; those pressures definitely start to come up, and the conversations you start to have with your label and management. I think we're all pretty happy with the way the record came out.
What is your personal favorite song off the record and why?
Favorite song is one called "Miracle". It was something that Joseph and I were working on at the time. Johnny's wife was pregnant at the time, and he sent us a sample of the ultrasound, the heartbeat being used a rhythmic element. I'm really happy with the way that one turned out, it's been connecting really well with audiences, so it's kind of cool that they let us explore our musical horizons.
That being said, would you consider that song to be your favorite song to play live?
No, to play live, I've been enjoying "London's Burning", it's been what we've been playing first in the set, kind of a moody and tough opener; it's a fun one to play on the drums as well.
You're scheduled for an 80 minute set tonight. Can we expect most of both albums?
I think we've been playing 16 songs, so it's about half and half [between the albums]. The live show is really important to us, and I think we're a better live band than we are a recorded one...
What do people get when they come to a Temper Trap show? What can they expect to see? I saw your last show here in 2010, and there was so many things that I saw that impressed me -- lights, water stuff, etc.
We've still got a few of those tricks up our sleeves, the water trick is still there. Production wise, I think the lights have really stepped up a notch. We're still trying to play our hearts out, but just having those extra tiny bells and whistles add to the theater and production of it. We have a great new lighting guy, and he's been getting a lot of comments about the lights, so hopefully that will be a step up. There's a few things that worked well in the live shows during the Conditions touring cycle, those we still have in the mix.
You mentioned that Heartbeat is one of the songs that's gotten a good response. Are there any other new songs people are responding well to live?
Trembling Hands, it's our new single that's coming out soon. There's a pretty amazing vocal performance from Dougy, really getting up into his high ranges, people really like that from him, and there's few moments where he gets up there.
Looking at the album, what's it all about lyrically?
Dougy writes all the lyrics, there's quite a few songs that's about a relationship break-up he went through while we were touring, and that makes up a large bulk for the first half of the writing process. London's Burning is about the riots that happened in London, and there's a few things like that. But the main thing is the breakup.
How do you guys come together as far as the writing process goes? Does he come to you guys with the lyrics first and then you go from there?
We kind of just get into a room together, and we always come up with the music first; any one of us can come up with a little riff, and then we just take it from there. Generally, we evolve it and get a structure going, then Dougy will work with the lyrics and come up with some vocal harmonies, and continue to shape it. But yeah, music is always the first part of that process.
What's one thing about your band that people may not know?
Our music is quite serious, people might get the idea that we're super serious all the time. We're probably the most juvenile guys around, we prank a lot.
Is that where the music videos get their light-hearted feel?
Yeah, that's true. There's been a couple that have turned out really well, like the "Need Your Love" video, and the "Love Lost" video. Some of the ones that were a bit more serious, didn't really work -- visually beautiful, but subject matter a bit tongue and cheek.
What are you guys up to as far as touring goes from here on out?
We wrap up this U.S. tour, we have two more shows after tonight in Portland. We go to Europe and play some festivals, then head to the U.K. and play some festivals, and then we'll be back in the States, right around Lollapalooza. We got a 2 week tour in the middle part of America, places like Kentucky and Indiana -- it's a big country, and there's still a lot of places we haven't been to. We're looking at some Australian dates in the middle of next year, and Southeast Asia...
Are you guys looking to continue to headline?
Yeah, for the most part. We're going to support Coldplay in Australia, some of the stadiums they're playing at hold 60,000 people or something like that, so that'll be a cool experience.
Anything else you'd like to add?
Check out the new album, we're really proud of it. Hopefully the fans that liked some stuff about Conditions will get into it.