It feels like a long time since we’ve heard from The Temper Trap. After their huge debut album, Conditions in 2009, the Melbourne band went from strength to strength, reaching 200 million streams on Spotify, a number one album in their homeland, arena support tours with Coldplay and the Rolling Stones and winning a number of ARIA Awards to boot.
But then they hit a roadblock. Founding member and lead guitarist, Lorenzo Sillitto decided to quit, following the aforementioned Rolling Stones support show at Hyde Park, in the summer of 2013.
This is where we pick up the conversation as I chat with drummer Toby Dundas and bassist, Jonathan Aherne.
Making light of Sillitto’s departure, drummer Dundas jokes, “I think Lorenzo wanted to tick the Rolling Stones support off and that was it.” Realistically though, losing a member is a big hit for any band, no less a founding member who you’ve also grown up with.
“Loz and I were friends since we were 12. He was just kinda moving into a new stage in his life, having a kid and getting married. I guess he wanted to step off the crazy roundabout life that being in a touring band could be.”
Fast-forward to the present and rising out of the ashes, the now 4-piece are about to release album number three, entitled Thick as Thieves. “Naming the album ‘Thick as Thieves’ is us trying to give a name to that new bond we’ve forged over the last 4 years together,” Toby explains.
The album has been a long time coming according to Aherne. “I’ve been a little bit short-sighted at times. Every time we do a song I’m like, ‘yes, we’re to ready to record,’ when we weren’t ready at all. We’ve taken this amount of time to do it so it’s been a whole new experience doing this record for many reasons.”
One of those reasons was a relocation to England and a brand new studio space which the band built themselves at Tileyard in North London. Having a central hub to write, rehearse and record allowed the band to bring in outside collaborators for the first time ever. According to Dundas though, this was all triggered by one particular high profile collaboration.
“We did some song-writing with a producer called Malay, who did Frank Ocean’s Channel Orange, on a trip to LA, really early on, before we built the studio. That started the whole process. We had a really great experience with Malay on the song, ‘Summer’s Almost Gone’ so that really opened us up to collaborating with people after that.”
Working with an award-winning producer didn’t just open up the doors for further collaborations all around the globe, it also allowed the band more freedom in recording the album, Dundas explains.
“The guys would go off on song-writing trips or we’d bring people into the studio. It gave us that flexibility that we didn’t have the clock ticking the whole time. The second album we had a little rehearsal room and we went off to LA and recording happened in a month. It was very segmented.”
[include_post id=”478738″]Indeed, the list of collaborators on Thick as Thieves reads like a who’s who of music today with producers such as Justin Parker (Lana Del Ray, Sia Bat for Lashes), Damian Taylor (Bjork, Prodigy, Arcade Fire, the Killers) and Pascal Gabriel (Ladyhawk, Goldfrapp) all chipping in.
“When you come across someone new and they think about music differently, you learn something. That’s what we love, the art of songwriting and how it all fits together,” Johnny beams. “The whole thing’s been a privilege.”
For an album with so many collaborators, Thick as Thieves feels stripped back with a leaner, more guitar driven approach. Dundas describes this as a combination of losing a member and a natural progression from their more melancholy second, self-titled album.
“We certainly had it in mind to make it a more guitar based record while Lozenzo was still around. Obviously when you lose a member it’s just less layered. The second album, for all the amazing things on it, was a less uplifting, sadder record. I think that sort of toughness that we had from the first record was something that we missed.”
Any other band might simply try and copy a winning formula, as in the chart-topping, global success that was ‘Sweet Disposition’ and cash in. This hasn’t been the case with Temper Trap, as they’ve continued to take risks and push themselves to get the best out of each other to further the band’s sound.
“’Sweet Disposition’ has done so much for our band and we like that song,” says Dundas. “We wanna be able to write stuff we like and also have that success. Occasionally we’ve tried to write pop songs for the radio and forget about the integrity but they sound terrible.”
At its heart, Thick as Thieves sounds like a band breaking through barriers and re-connecting with why they fell in love with music in the first place. Raw, anthemic and more direct, the songs appear to come from a joyous, natural place. Dundas concurs.
“Certainly I feel we’ve gotten back to our roots and recaptured the vibe and energy that we had. The songs, “Tombstone” and “Alive” are good examples of that. It’s been great to start playing some of the new ones live and get that feeling and that connection with the audience. I hope it can connect at a whole new level.”
Thick as Thieves is out June 10 through Liberation/ Mushroom Records.