The Temperance Movement
Ever since Jimi Hendrix gatecrashed London and Led Zeppelin were “Going To California” there’s been a trans-Atlantic crosstalk that informs great rock’n’roll. The newest addition to this fine tradition is blues-drenched, soul-dripping UK five-piece The Temperance Movement. Live on arrival, their 12-song self-titled debut album will be released in the United States on February 3, 2015 via Fantasy/Concord. “We’re just a bunch of mates wanting to make music together,” is guitarist Paul Sayer’s simple thesis. The results suggest something more.
It begins with a lightning-strike guitar riff, as a ragged, righteous voice roars: “Trouble don’t live here no more, they told me that he cut himself loose…” Meet “Only Friend,” the album’s glorious opener, a statement of rock’n’roll purpose encapsulated by the key couplet: “Mama said he’s never coming back/ he’s out there killing the blues.”
Featuring front man Phil Campbell on vocals, Nick Fyffe on bass, guitarists Luke Potashnick and Paul Sayer, and drummer Damon Wilson, The Temperance Movement are a band united. Prior to forming, the members played with legendary acts including Deep Purple, Jamiroquai, Ray Davies, Klaus Voorman, The Waterboys, James Brown, and Jack Bruce. But when the five friends got together for a jam at Audio Underground in North London in 2011, everything they’d experienced as sidemen, session men, and in previous bands coalesced into alchemy. Instantly, The Temperance Movement was born.
Gigging in the back rooms of pubs and writing songs in a dilapidated flat, the band’s confidence and repertoire started to take shape. In 2012, still without management or a record deal, they decided to see what they sounded like on tape. “We went to Fish Factory,” says guitarist Sayer of the northwest London recording studio, “which is a great sounding room but it’s ragged round the edges. We worked quickly, not worrying about perfect takes or loads of overdubs. We didn’t go in with the intention of making a record, but in four days we got our songs down and felt we’d captured the identity of the five of us together.” These inspirational recordings were too good to lie fallow. They became 2012’s five-track Pride EP as well as comprising the songs on their debut studio album, The Temperance Movement.
Produced by The Temperance Movement and Sam Miller, the album is an authentic showcase for a band blending city life with country vibes and sweet soul harmony. Listeners of a certain vintage will detect the influence of The Faces, Rolling Stones, Little Feat, and Astral Weeks-era Van Morrison. Others will hear the legacy of Bobby Womack, Waylon Jennings, and acknowledged catalysts The Black Crowes. Fact is, influence is where you recognize it, inspiration where you find it. For Record Store Day 2014, The Temperance Movement released a surprise 7-inch single of Britpop cover songs by Oasis and Blur.
“Peter Green’s Fleetwood Mac is a key for us,” says Sayer, referencing the pre-Rumors incarnation of that band. “With the Temperance Movement anyone’s welcome to bring in an element of whatever they’re listening to,” adds Potashnick. “Each guy has his special tastes. It all becomes part of our collective sound.”
The album is notable for its absence of piano and organ. This isn’t out of any inherent prejudice against keyboards, explains Potashnick, but has the noticeable effect that “instead of a Hammond in there coating the sound, we focus on our core: two guitars, bass and drums.” The result is a streamlined sound that doesn’t lack for richness. Take “Ain’t No Telling” and its monstrous, stacked riffs, Campbell’s yowl bounding across crashing cymbals and a pummeling bass line; then get down to the flat-out barn-blazing “Morning Riders.”
“Some are rockers, some are rollers,” says Sayer of the album’s flowing, varied palette. Its sweetest plea may be “Chinese Lanterns,” which begins as one man’s lovelorn rumination before all five members of the band join in to sing together, their harmonies, close-knit and warm. With its keen pedal steel, the soulful and sublime “Lovers and Fighters” becomes an invitation to survive and thrive in the face of mortality as Campbell sings: “Shine on brothers and sisters, shine on / we keep on living when the reaper breaks the dawn.”
Phil Campbell’s voice is an extraordinary gift, dipped in the grain of hard-won truths. “Everything that comes out of Phil’s mouth you want to keep,” says guitarist Paul Sayer, full of admiration for Campbell. A pause: “Well, when he sings anyway!” The resulting explosive laughter illuminates a truth about the band, who combine profound mutual respect with the sort of gentle ribbing that keeps things loose.
That looseness means the band members are free to experience their music in the moment. “There is a slight jam band element to us,” says Potashnick, mentioning the lively outro section to the song “Pride” as an example. “When we play live we expand the songs and when it goes nicely and the crowd comes along, it’s really rewarding.”
Rampant gigging has built the band a strong live rep, and the summer of 2014, at the special invitation of Mick Jagger, The Temperance Movement joined the Rolling Stones as opening act on dates in Berlin, Vienna, Zurich, and Dusseldorf. More than a quick European jaunt, the tour had deeper historical resonance. Back in 1969, the Stones were scheduled to play an open-air concert that would have been audible on both sides of the Berlin Wall. That concert was shut down – The Stones seemed to invite a revolution at a time when Germany was still divided. So the 2014 show at Berlin’s Waldbühne was a chance to settle a forty-five year old score. “When I was a kid I heard ‘Tumbling Dice’ and it made me want to pick up a guitar,” Paul Sayer says. “Opening for the Stones was an extraordinary experience. At the Berlin gig I was watching Keith perform and he was burning with purpose.”
Feeling that fire, The Temperance Movement are unabashedly enthusiastic about touring America. The band will play their first-ever American shows when they hit the U.S. for a slate of gigs with Atlanta rabble rockers Blackberry Smoke from February 18th through May 9th, 2015. The tour kicks off at Nashville’s legendary Ryman Auditorium, which is often referred to as “The Mother Church of Country Music.” “When you play an iconic venue you feel the history of the music made in a building as a living thing,” Sayer enthuses.
Finally, a word about the name. For a rock’n’roll band to name themselves after the original “Temperance Movement” – the 19th century social call for abstinence from alcohol – well, it must be a booze-soaked ironic gesture. Not so. “Phil had the name and when he said it we all just liked the sound of it,” recalls Luke. “For us it has a broader meaning. It makes me think of living in a temperate society in the sense of people looking after each other. Trying to be a little bit better to each other, more understanding and kind, temperance in that sense. It fits with what we want to do, which is make music the right way, make it honest, make it true.”
Welcome to The Temperance Movement.