Summer Festivals 2012: Here We Go Magic - interview
The band's Luke Temple gets ready for their slot at T in the Park
Arriving late to music following a spell as a painter, Luke Temple of Here We Go Magic is aiming his songwriting sights high, finds David Pollock
‘I’m kind of a late bloomer, really,’ testifies Luke Temple, singer and songwriter in chief with Brooklynite indie-pop contenders Here We Go Magic. ‘I didn’t start writing songs until 2000, until I was about 25, and up ‘til then I’d only listened to instrumental and jazz music. After that point I had to teach myself about the whole canon of songwriters – I hadn’t even heard much of The Beatles by then.’
It’s a fact which one suspects accounts for the freshness and eclecticism of his band, whose new album A Different Ship combines breezy, summertime guitar pop with a hint of post-punk bite to create a sound that’s sophisticated but utterly infectious. Temple, in fact, didn’t even want to be a musician when he was growing up. ‘Music was just a hobby for me,’ he says. ‘I would get together with friends and make noise, but I didn’t take it seriously. I went to art school in Boston, and when I moved to New York it was with the intention of showing my work in galleries. But I kinda got sidetracked.’
What being sidetracked involved, he recalls, was writing a few songs, being booked to play an informal show sight-unseen and inviting a few friends along. ‘People seemed to think my voice was nice,’ he muses, ‘and there was a certain rush from playing live that I didn’t get from the visual arts.’ It snowballed, as such things do, into a low-level solo recording career and then, in 2009, a band formed to take his latest album Here We Go Magic on tour. They liked the name and working together so much they carried on with 2010’s Pigeons and now the new record.
So was smart East Coast guitar pop’s gain the art world’s loss? ‘I was a figurative realist painter,’ he says. ‘There’s a long line of portrait painters on my mother’s side and that’s where my aptitude lies. Alice Neel, Velasquez, Vermeer, that’s the shit I’m really into. But portraiture’s a pretty hard sell in the contemporary art world, it goes in and out of fashion pretty quickly and it has to have some kind of post-modernist slant to be viable. I found that frustrating about the art world, whereas music seemed more open and less cloistered.’
Temple’s latterday musical exploration soon found him a new hero, however. ‘I started off with Bowie’s Hunky Dory,’ he recalls, ‘and that was the first impression of songwriting that really dug its hooks in me, “Life On Mars” freaked me out. Trying to ape early Bowie was kinda my MO for a while.’ How did that go? ‘Erm, you know,’ he laughs. ‘If you wanna write a song as good as David Bowie you’re gonna be disappointed. But it leads you on to other artists, which shows you the different ways you can have an emotional effect, which helps you figure out what your own voice is.’
One fact which links Here We Go Magic to the canon of which Temple speaks, not counting their own honed abilities, is the presence of Radiohead producer Nigel Godrich in the studio on the new album. He saw the band at Glastonbury in 2010 and offered his services not long after. ‘It was a coup for us,’ says Temple, ‘we would never have been able to afford him or catch his attention ourselves.’ Godrich’s input, he says, has created a ‘clear, deep record, very simple but with a lot of structural integrity. It’s subtle, and there’s a lot of great interplay between us because we’ve grown so much as a band.’
Here We Go Magic play T in the Park, Sat 7 Jul.