Everybody Just Stay Cool

14 May 2012 | 6:38 pm | Mitch Knox

“For us, it doesn’t really matter whether we practice before we play a show or not. If anything, we probably need it,”

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As Lorenzo Sillitto prepares to meet his bandmates and their crew to squeeze in a final production rehearsal before their lengthy 2012 tour, it's nice to hear that success has not skewed their perception of reality. Although he concedes the rehearsal's necessity for ensuring all is well on the technical side of proceedings, “For us, it doesn't really matter whether we practice before we play a show or not. If anything, we probably need it,” he laughs.

It's a little hard to believe him. The Temper Trap are not a band who seem overly unfamiliar with their material, or as though they've even had all that much time away from it in the past three years. They toured relentlessly on the heels of 2009's debut full-length, Conditions. Lesser bands might have been content to rest on their laurels for a little while, especially if they'd picked up a couple of ARIA Awards along the way, but not The Temper Trap.

“Basically, we finished touring in January of last year and we had a little bit of a break after that last show, which was in Singapore, and then we got back in the studio in February,” Sillitto explains. “We didn't record [The Temper Trap] until the end of November, but we basically took from February up until about October to write the record and then we kind of had a little bit of production time and we went straight into the studio. All in all, the record was written and recorded within a year, so yeah – but, I mean, we hadn't done a lot of writing. We'd written a little bit on the road, but I think we wanted to go in with a kind of clean slate and just sit down and get into the writing creative mode, and we were able to do that last year.”

Of course, when news surfaced of their impending self-titled second album, there was an inevitable unspoken pressure for the band to deliver something great. Not that their first album, as an end-product, wasn't – it's just that once you've released a song such as Conditions' overwhelmingly popular Sweet Disposition and you've been synced to every TV show, movie and ad campaign imaginable, an expectation of quality arises. However, that pressure – and Sweet Disposition itself – was not high on the band's priority list as they set about crafting LP number two.

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“For the first six months, we were just given the space that we needed to go away and come up with a body of songs, and that's what we did,” Sillitto says. “It's kind of funny; we inherently just write songs that people kind of dub as anthemic, you know? I think it's just a matter of the five of us coming together and that's what the output is. We weren't really thinking about it. It wasn't until we handed in, like, thirty songs or something and people started to give their feedback and we were talking to producers and things like that that maybe there was a little bit of an inkling that people were probably expecting another Sweet Disposition, but we tried not to think about that.

Sweet Disposition came so naturally to us. We didn't have anything in mind when we wrote it; it just came together. And then the success of that, as well, was just completely unexpected, and I think if you try and force it – if we tried to write an entire record of that – the record would be shit. So it's better to just do what comes naturally, and if what's coming out is good then I think people are more likely to believe in it.”

Free of preconceptions and spurred on creatively by producer Tony Hoffer, who has worked with everyone from Beck to Air and Belle & Sebastian, the band set about crafting their follow-up. Much attention has been paid to vocalist Dougy Mandagi in terms of how he has developed lyrically, stylistically and so on between releases, but the truth of the matter is The Temper Trap is not a one-man show, and Sillitto – well, everybody, really – has brought a fresh perspective for this record.

“The main thing is, between the recording of Conditions, and the writing of Conditions, and then the writing of this album, it was, like, five years. If we look at the first song that we wrote for Conditions and the first song [for this album], it was a five-year period. Five years is a long time in anybody's life. Lots of things change musically, stylistically; obviously you grow up and in the experiences that we've had over the last three years, we've seen a lot of music and we've seen a lot of things, so you just change as a person.

“When I first joined the band and started writing, I was kind of more into blues and country and that type of stuff, and now, on this record, I probably listen to more electronic music and have tried to broaden, I guess. I have a wider range of musical influences. So that's what the massive change was, as well as just growing up. I tried to move away from just making the guitar sound like a guitar. That was the main impetus: to have guitars on the record but maybe confuse people into thinking that they're not guitars.”

The result… well, the result is not exactly Sweet Disposition. But that's the point, and one Sillitto and co. are all too happy to have made. The Temper Trap is filled equally with boisterous anthems, such as early singles Need Your Love and the just-released Trembling Hands (see sidebar), and introspective, less animated fare, such as the beautifully maudlin Miracle. Despite its duality, though, the album's flow seems effortless – but that's a far cry from reality.

“It's tricky – the tracklisting is always something that people probably overlook a little bit, in terms of the time and the thought process that goes into it to try and make it seem seamless between songs. A lot of time and effort went into that, to try and make it not feel that there were any lulls or anything, and that those more introspective songs came in at the right time to give you a break from the bigger things, to complement each other. I think for some of us, some of those more introspective songs are the songs that we really like; they're the ones that are the growers on the record, and the more times you listen to them, I think, the more you're gonna get out of them.”

The same, however, cannot be said for the album's title. Ever a point of speculation when a band takes the self-titling route, the meaning behind it is not – no matter how much you might want it to be – some deep proclamation of having “arrived” or anything so pretentious.

“It's, like, the most boring story in the world,” Silletto exclaims when asked for the lowdown on the decision. “It's so boring! Basically, there were a few names and none of us could come to a decision, or could agree on one that was the right name for the album. That was between, like, us as a band, and also management and record labels, so we were just like, 'You know what? Let's just self-title the record.' That's the way it came about, because basically we couldn't decide.

“It was so funny; we were in Europe and people were like, 'Oh, is The Temper Trap describing that you've finally arrived as a band, and that you've found your sound?' and getting all philosophical about it, and we're just like, 'No.'”

If not in their naming practices, then at least you can expect depth from the band when – once they've tackled Europe – they make their way back to their old home for the ol' East Coast Run, as probably nobody calls it. Although they won't make it to Brisbane (well, not on this leg, but Sillitto predicts the band will be touring “until sometime at the end of next year”, so don't despair), they'll at least be stateside for triple j's One Night Stand in June and, if you're among those planning to go, it's unlikely you'll face disappointment.

“We're all really, really pumped to play, so there's gonna be a lot of energy from us on stage, I can guarantee that,” Sillitto enthuses. “By the time we get out there, we would've played at least fifteen shows, so we're going to be well ready and hopefully like a well-oiled machine.

“Playing in front of Australian crowds is always really fun, and playing hometown shows is always particularly fun because you have your friends and your family there, and it's where it all began. You get to play in venues that you went to as a kid, where you went and saw your first shows. That's pretty exciting. Obviously the Opera House is a massive deal for us – even to play in there, it seems weird for a rock band to go in and play there, and it's the first show we're playing there, so it's a special time for us.”



Let's face it – Sweet Disposition, The Temper Trap's 2009 mega-hit from debut LP, Conditions – was kind of a fluke. Nobody, especially not the band, saw it coming. But with their eponymous second album, they've returned a little older, a little wiser, and a little more self-assured. Not that any of that remotely helped when it came to the genesis of their first two single releases from the album, anthemic opener Need Your Love and follow-up jam Trembling Hands.

Although the latter, admittedly, seems to have come together more naturally (“With Trembling Hands, I guess … it had an emotion that we wanted to enhance, but pretty much the moment we came up with the song it had that feel already, so it just needed to be treated in a way that was gonna make it come across that way,” Sillitto explains) the same can't be said for Need Your Love, which very nearly ended up on the cutting-room floor – so if you dig it, you can thank album producer Tony Hoffer.

Need Your Love was one of the last songs that came together. We had the song, we'd kind of discarded it, and then Tony was like, 'Just for the record, I really like that song, and you should think about revisiting it.' So we revisited it and then Jon [Aherne – bass] came up with the main synth line that starts the song, and automatically, from the moment you put that song on, it sounds big. So that song, I think, just inherently had this vibe to it that wanted it to sound massive, and when we got into the studio Tony really took a hold of that and just pushed it forward with the synth layering and everything that's going on in there. Even the type of reverb that he put on the drums makes it sound like it was recorded in an arena.”