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Rock 'N' Roll Redemption: The Temperance Movement Return With 'White Bear'

Wednesday, 20 January 2016 Written by Simon Ramsay

Widespread critical acclaim for their chart-bothering debut album. The patronage of Jimmy Page. Supporting a little known band called the Rolling Stones. It's been a wildly successful few years for the Temperance Movement, and that heady ride looks set to continue courtesy of 'White Bear', their hugely impressive sophomore effort.

The dedicated British road dogs are currently racking up the miles as part of their latest UK tour and we spoke to guitarist Paul Sayer about the new album, the Stones, the value of experience and why it's worth building solid foundations.

How have you kept your feet on the ground after your wonderful recent experiences, because that kind of immediate success would send a lot of bands off the rails.

The thing about something like the Stones support is that it's almost like a holiday, it's not very connected to what you're doing on a day-to-day basis. And we're very aware, even when on stage playing to 80,000 people before the Stones, that a week later we'll be playing to a thousand people at one of our own shows. We've all done bits of touring and stuff like that before. We know how it works and know it can be quite a rocky road, and there'll be ups and downs. And normally, when there are downs, it's when you get a bit too cocky. So I guess: experience.   

Everyone wants a glimpse behind the Rolling Stones curtain, so what was it like being in their orbit?

I guess the most obvious thing was that, in some ways, they're very similar to any other band out there. Before they go on stage every night they make sure they spend some time hanging out together, and the stuff that is on their mind is the same as us. Just on a very different scale.  They're thinking about what the sound's going to be like on stage, what the crowd's going to be like, what day of the week is it, what kind of mood are people going to be in at the show. It's very reassuring in a way that, despite how huge they are, they still connect to their music in the same way.

Let's talk 'White Bear'. There were no expectations on your shoulders when you released your debut. Given the last few years, how different was it this time?

There was a little bit of pressure and expectation, which is cool, that's just the way it is. I guess once you've got a following you don't want to let your fans down with your next record, and at the same time we wanted to move on a bit musically. So, maybe getting the balance right between the two things. And also, just squeezing making a record into a fairly hectic touring schedule as well.

It sounds like you've taken the live energy from the road straight into the studio.

That maybe bled into the album a bit, but we're a very live band anyway and when we record it's live in the studio. We all play together and it's generally a complete, consistent take. So that's kind of in the DNA of the band.  

Aside from Losing My Mind, there are less acoustic numbers on this record. Was that influenced by having to record quickly inbetween stints on the road?

Maybe. I think what we wanted to do with this album was get some of the light and shade from the first album, that you had across different songs, going on within the same song. Like White Bear, it's kind of very mellow in places and very full on in others. That's something we were quite conscious of I suppose.

There's much bigger production to this album, too.

I totally understand why you would say that, but the different sound is coming from the band. A lot of the sounds on the album which you might think are 'production', it is a form of production, but was done in the session as we were playing. We just had more time in the studio than the first record, to experiment and give each track a different sonic imprint.  

Your debut was the sound of a group of mates making the music they loved for the fun of it, but 'White Bear' feels like a fully pumped up band who are determined to make the most of the opportunity they've been given.

When you make an album, it's just a representation of where you're at at that moment in time, and it's impossible to cover all your musical interests, influences or the stuff you love on one record.  We felt like we'd made the first album and didn't need to make it again, and just wanted to explore something a bit different.

That's brave, because it would be easier to play it safe and do the same thing again.  

I think you're quite aware that your fanbase is there and very loyal, and know there's a chance that if you make a record that sounds quite different, you may gain a load of new fans, but some of your old fans might not be into the new record. It's something that goes through your mind, but all you can really do is go in and make the best record you can, and to do that your heart has to really be in it so you can give it all the love and attention it deserves.  

Luke [Potashnick] described your debut as being "about friendship, good times and redemption – losing your way, then finding it – over and over."  How would you sum up 'White Bear'?

I guess redemption is a theme in the Temperance Movement, so there's a bit of that. But I know that lyrically Phil – who writes 99% of the lyrics – just wanted to have a bit more fun with words on this album. And although musically it may be a bit heavier - and I don't necessarily mean rockier, just deeper and wider - in some ways it's lighter, less introspective and a bit more of a look at society rather than a look inside yourself. Especially songs like Modern Massacre and Get Yourself Free. Even Hope I'm Not Losing My Mind, the sentiment is: ‘I hope we're not losing our mind.’ So it's a bit more universal.

Talking of redemption, there's a gospel quality to your music, with your choruses have a religious fervour to them and feeling like a profound release. What do you attribute that to?

I think, partly, it's because Phil comes from a church music background and having been brought up around quite a lot of religion, but not being too sure about it yourself. And almost poking fun at it is a pretty good representation of what's going on inside him.

Since finishing the record Luke has quit the band and been replaced by Matt White. What happened?

It's pretty uninteresting. He just doesn't want to be away [touring] as much as we are. There wasn't a big fall out or anything like that. Matt is someone I've known for years and most the other guys in the band have known him, or at least met him at times over the years, and he comes from a similar background to us, which is a fairly sort of session musician theme.

Oh Lorraine has huge crossover potential and, for me, is a hit single in waiting given the right exposure. How hard is it to get on the radio or a show like Jools Holland?

Well, we haven't been on Jools Holland so I guess my answer would be quite hard. Honestly, it's hard for anyone to get on the radio and get a great slot on a TV show. Maybe it's a bit harder for us because we're on quite a small indie label, and because of the kind of music we make, or the perception of the music we make. We get great radio play from your speciality rock stations, but your average national radio station, they're fairly narrow in the music that they represent and where they're placing themselves.

How ambitious are you guys?

I think we're very ambitious, but to me ambition isn't dreaming about filling a stadium, it's about putting everything you've got into making sure you achieve the next thing down the line. There's not really any point in me sitting here and saying 'In two years time I wanna be at Wembley Arena'. Before we do that we need to get to Brixton Academy and the Roundhouse. That's what I'm really hungry to achieve, because then I know from there you move to the next step and the next, and that's how you end up in Wembley Arena eventually. It's having your eyes set on the things that are actually within reach and making sure you're doing everything to get there.

How can you ensure this record reaches as many people as possible?

Just make the best music you can, whether it's in the studio or every show you play. I'm a firm believer that if you somehow manage to jump a step on the ladder it'll come back to bite you. I don't think there's really a quick route to a healthy career. There might be a quick route to doubling your audience, but if it's not built on a strong foundation, at some point you will find yourself back down a couple of steps. When I speak to people about our band it feels like things have happened very quickly, and they have, but by us being out there and playing a lot of shows and people being into it, not really by jumping any steps.  

The fact we haven't had huge support from TV, if you look at that in a positive way, we've managed to get the band to where it is without the support of TV and national radio. So if those guys do come on board at some point, it will notch things up again. And we'll have the foundation of all these people that have discovered us through word of mouth, friends or because they're really into a certain type of music and buy the right magazines. Hopefully you end up with both types of people at your show, which is the perfect situation.

What do you feel when you hear people claiming rock 'n' roll is dead?

Well, I just think come to a Temperance Movement show and stand with 2000 other people that don't think it is. Honestly, I don't worry too much about all that kind of stuff. I don't think of us as a rock ‘n' roll band or a blues-rock band or whatever you want to call it. I just think of us as the Temperance Movement and don't really feel a part, or not a part, of various genres or scenes. I just think we're us.  

The Temperance Movement Upcoming Tour Dates are as follows:

Wed January 20 2016 - GLASGOW Barrowland
Thu January 21 2016 - NEWCASTLE UPON TYNE O2 Academy Newcastle
Fri January 22 2016 - LEEDS Leeds Beckett Students Union
Sun January 24 2016 - MANCHESTER Manchester Academy 2
Mon January 25 2016 - BIRMINGHAM O2 Institute
Tue January 26 2016 - CARDIFF Cardiff University Students Union
Wed January 27 2016 - LONDON O2 Forum Kentish Town

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