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Desert Daze Caravan — Temples, Night Beats, Deap Vally, Froth and JJUUJJUU
It doesn’t take too long with Temples’ second album Volcano to realise that a noticeable evolution has taken place, whilst still keeping intact all the things you loved about the band’s debut, Sun Structures. It’s there from the outset: the beefed-up beats of Certainty reveal an expanded sonic firmament, one in which bright synth hooks and insistent choruses circle around each other over chord sequences that strike just the right balance between nice and queasy. Shock-haired singer James says, “If there’s a sense of scale, it was really just a result of implementing a load of things that we didn’t know about the first time around.” Referring back to Sun Structures, a record that was recorded in his house in his native Kettering, James explains, “We didn’t even have a subwoofer to listen back to things that we did on Sun Structures, so there was nothing below 50Hz on Sun Structures. We didn’t even know those frequencies were there!” Co-founding member and bassist Thomas Warmsley describes a record in which “we discovered a lot as we went along, and the excitement at having done so radiates outwards.”
It’s a point perhaps most emphatically born out by Mystery Of Pop and Roman God-Like Man. Both songs make light work of reminding you where Temples have come from and how far they’ve travelled. On the former, Sam Toms’ brittle, piledriving rhythm clears the path for a breathless baroque pop reverie where synth and mellotron interweave to beguiling effect. “I just started with one idea. I wanted something that sounded like it was on the edge of being too fast and like you couldn’t keep up with it,” explains James. Similarly, Roman God-Like Man, in all its pulsating neurotic grandeur, spidered out from a single thought: “It’s about the pernicious effect of narcissism,” explains its creator Thomas, “But written from the perspective of someone who works in a world where that’s sort of encouraged.”
Having produced the first album themselves, Temples saw no reason to enlist outside help for their second album. “If you’re an artist who doesn’t necessarily know what they’re looking for, I can see that having a producer might be necessary, but that isn’t us.” In fact, ideas for the record were forming and being performed by the last summer. One case in point was the song which inspired the record’s name. Far more immediate that you would ever expect from a song with such an odd time signature, Oh My Saviour was written in Japan, where Temples enjoy an enormous following – to be specific at the foot of Mount Fuji, near the site of the eponymous rock festival where they played. “That’s when the album began in earnest for me,” says James. “We’d pretty much discharged our touring obligations and subconsciously, it was like I was allowing myself to write again, because I knew I could go home and quickly get to work on it. So, actually, that song came remarkably quickly, and it cleared the path for the rest of the record.”
The confidence boost of getting such a key song in the bag filtered out not only to James and Thomas, but to rhythm guitar and keyboard player Adam Smith, who opened his songwriting account with the infernally catchy In My Pocket. “That was another one that appeared at the tail end of the last tour,” recalls James, “It was a song without a chorus and we put it through the Temples filter, which pretty much every song has to go through. One thing I love about our band is that you can’t always tell who wrote what, and that’s what a band should be, I think. It’s a lot easier to make stuff by yourself, what’s easiest isn’t always best. It can be a bit nerve-racking bringing your music to the band, but it also helps you to raise your game.”
If, as James contends, the process of making Volcano amounted to “hard work, with the inevitable moments of self-doubt”, the measure of its success is that you can’t hear the struggle or see the joins. Take, for example, the undulating lysergic dream-pop of Thomas’s Strange Or Forgotten – “a song about questioning your identity, in a world where everyone is trying to stand out in some way” – or the sun-dazed oscillations of Open Air which come hitched, incongruously, to a beat one might more readily expect to hear on an old Motown record. In fact, wherever you drop the needle, the melodies seem to come effortlessly – suggesting at times that Temples have located a bounty of low-hanging melodic fruit that has somehow eluded everyone else. Presented with a song like (I Want To Be Your) Mirror, other bands might have sliced it up for use in three or four separate songs, but Temples seem to know where to go when it’s time to restock. “I don’t think you can be too high-minded about it really,” says James. “We write songs, but what’s a song without a melody? It’s music, and it might be brilliant music, but I wouldn’t call it a song. And we’re in the business of writing the very best songs we can.”
The band’s confident approach to writing new material must in part be a result of the critical acclaim Sun Structures received (“Tremendous” – NME; “60s experimentation smashing stunningly into the present day” Clash). Following on from the enthusiastic reviews, word of mouth continued to spread in the period following the release, songs such as Keep In The Dark, Shelter Song and Mesmerise have dispersed into the collective consciousness. Record shop proprietors soon discovered that if you had it playing, you’d always be sure to sell a few copies. Among the more vocal converts were Johnny Marr and Noel Gallagher, but they were by no means alone.
Indeed, by the end of 2014, Sun Structures had charted in eighteen countries and become the year’s biggest-selling vinyl album in independent British record shops, with early pressings of Shelter Song changing hands on Discogs for up to £150. Less than a month after Sun Structures landed, the group played to a packed Shepherds Bush Empire. Downstairs, young fans who either didn’t know or didn’t care about the archival inspirations for Temples’ febrile pop spell jettisoned their inhibitions and turned the entire area into a touchy-feely mosh-pit. On the balcony, older fans gazed at the scene below them, somewhat taken aback by the realisation that, in the right hands, psychedelic pop can still say something to you about your life, or even better, allow you to take leave from it for a little while.
One thing you do notice, however, this time around is that it’s harder to spot the influences. Mystical language has been supplanted by something a more direct. They’ve been broken down and blended together – fossilised into a single source of creative fuel, so that what you can hear this time around, sounds like nothing so much as Temples. This is the sound of a band squaring up to their potential. It’s hard to make it seem this easy. But don’t be fooled. If it really was that easy, everyone would be at it.
Danny Lee Blackwell – guitar / vocals
Jakob Bowden — bass
James Traeger — drums
Night Beats play pure psychedelic R&B music that spikes the punch and drowns your third eye in sonic waves of colour. Theirs is a bastard blues, contorted and distorted into new shapes for 21st century wastoids — once tasted never forgotten. This is music to melt your sorry little minds.
Make no mistake: their new album Who Sold My Generation sounds like it has been created against a backdrop of burning Stars and Stripes flags and with the whiff of napalm hanging in the air — an alternative universe where ‘Helter Skelter’ is the national anthem and Charlie Manson is still on the loose. Acid-test heaviness is Night Beats’ currency, but this is no out-right nostalgia trip either. Instead of Nixon and Vietnam, Night Beats have their own epoch of God and guns and bombs and drones to rail against…or flee from. Besides, bad vibrations, blues jams and id-shattering explorations are timeless pursuits – why shouldn’t today’s young generation be allowed to take a ride down the slippery spiral that sits within the centre of each of us?
Deap Vally landed in ‘2013’ with their rock debut ‘Sistrionix’. The LA duo bombed down the Transatlantic speedway, lighting psych-blues fires throughout the US and Europe. Lindsey Troy’s whiskey-soaked vocals and killer guitar riffs were chaotic, but found a degree of order in the heat of Julie Edwards’ drumming. After several loops around the world, they returned from their travels and decided it was time for a gear shift. The change was inspired by the pair’s need to create their vision on their own terms, without label input. Lindsey and Julie needed to be able to operate in a way that didn’t suck the living joy out of their creations, otherwise that blues synergy of rock’n’roll (forged between them at a knitting club in Echo Park some five years ago) would simply not be able to reach its pinnacle.
So the two-piece took a risk, parted ways with their label (amicably so), and wielded the time they needed to reassess matters by themselves, even doing short stints as touring bass players: Lindsey in White Lung and Julie in JJUUJJUU. “We were given this gift of time to make the record,” explains Julie, optimistically. “We kept writing, recording, exploring all these flavours. It was a real luxury.”
It’s a luxury many bands don’t get, and it’s strengthened their identity, which has now become an “ism”: specifically ‘Femejism’. That’s the name of the second record. “We don’t ever wanna do what people expect of us, we always want to do the opposite of that,” says Lindsey, ever the rebel. “Like after a break-up when you cut your hair, dye it, and just explore being free on so many levels.” Julie intercepts, “But, y’know, within the confines of guitar and drums.” Their new labels – Cooking Vinyl and Nevado Records – have put their faith in the ladies’ vision entirely.
‘Femejism’ has been two years in the making. “This is what we wanted: total freedom,” says Julie. The pair explored new territory at recording studios in Downtown LA and the San Fernando Valley. They had a third character in the mix, too, Yeah Yeah Yeahs guitarist Nick Zinner, who lent key production skills to the pair’s own chemistry. “He’s pushed our songwriting a lot,” says Lindsey. The pair also explored new territory at recording studios in Downtown LA and the San Fernando Valley, this time honing their producing skills too. The track ‘Julian’, for instance, was produced entirely by them. Both ladies insist that theirs is a love/hate relationship they’re incapable of explaining. “It’s a mystery that neither of us understand,” says Julie, the yogic yin to Lindsey’s dramatic yang. “We’re giving ourselves to an alchemy we don’t control but it creates art. It’s raw, hot and loud, you know?”
The duo always keep their cards close to their chests when it comes to offering explanations. “What do you think it means?’” defers Julie on the subject of titles, lyrics, etc. Although they take what they do seriously, Deap Vally try not to take themselves too seriously. There’s a sense of humour that catches you off guard. The only thing they do offer is that true crime and historical characters have inspired some songs. Maybe the self-produced ‘Julian’ or ‘Little Baby Beauty Queen’, but who knows? They both kick like a mule regardless.
“I always want there to be some philosophical endgame,” adds Julie. “They’re personal songs and they’re universal. Nothing’s too mired in emotion.” Lindsey agrees. “We wanna give people music they deserve.” Take ‘Teenage Queen’, which comes over like an Alex Turner anthem. //I’m gonna live forever, Snapchat, sex and cigarettes, life is but a dream for a teenage queen// hollers Lindsey. It’s a feverish poke at societal ills, without getting too preachy. In ‘Critic’ there’s a stripped-back grunge vibe as Lindsey drawls //everyone is a fucking critic, a fucking cynic// in a way that’s so blasé as to be positively liberating. The song is sonically the “biggest departure” for them.
“It was hard sitting on this record for so long, not knowing what was gonna happen,” says Lindsey. But that waiting made the pair even more ambitious. Julie went ahead and had a baby. “The baby came out, then we found the perfect partners. It was like it had to happen that way,” Julie muses. Lindsey adds, brazenly, “Now that we have a home I just wanna put out a tonne of records.”
“’Sistrionix’ was a document of the early years of Deap Vally”, Julie concludes. “’Femejism’ is a document of the metaphorical desert we’ve been crossing between towns.” Make sure you bring a bottle of Jack for the ride. You might need it to take the edge off.
Formed in 2013 in Los Angeles, Froth first garnered attention with their debut LP, “Patterns.” Originally intended as a small-run cassette release, the album quickly became an underground sensation in the Southern California music scene, catapulting the band to local fame and prompting a vinyl re-release in 2014.
2015 saw the release of the band’s sophomore album, “Bleak.” A more dynamic, adventurous effort, the record matches lush shoegaze soundscapes with driving krautrock beats. Froth toured extensively across the U.S. and Europe in support of the album, opening for acts such as The Drums, Tamaryn, Pond and Craft Spells.
After signing with Wichita Records in 2016, Froth is set to share their third album, “Outside (briefly),” on 2/10/2017. This time around, the band has dialed back the noise, revealing delicately beautiful melodies, intricately arranged instrumentals and some of their most experimental songwriting to date.
JJUUJJUU is an astral union, an arcane ritual, and above all, a conversation.
Harnessing an unspoken energy, the duo have exponentially blossomed from a sonic experiment to a forceful, telepathic dialogue of distinct-but-aligned vibrations. Releasing this dynamic on an expanding spiral of planned and impromptu live shows in the American southwest, the magnetism of the duo only continues to grow, along with its devoted, traveling coterie of entranced acolytes