UNDER THE INFLUENCE presents
The Temperance Movement
Tuesday 7th November, 7.30pm. £15adv
Some music is too powerful to ignore. For proof, please meet White Bear, the raucous rock 'n roll animal from The Temperance Movement.
Based in London and Glasgow, The Temperance Movement
are a five-piece band featuring front man Phil Campbell, bassist Nick Fyffe, guitarists Paul Sayer and Matt White, and drummer Simon Lea. Prior to forming the band, the members each played and performed with prominent acts including Deep Purple, Jamiroquai, Ray Davies, The Waterboys, Jack Bruce and even James Brown. When the friends got together for a jam in 2011, everything they'd experienced as sidemen and session men coalesced, and The Temperance Movement was born. 2012's five-track Pride EP introduced them to the world, and their debut studio album, 2014’s The Temperance Movement announced the arrival of a major rock band. White Bear is their giant step forward.
So much stadium-ready rock today seems computer designed to function as such. Mass appeal without excessively apparent commercial aspiration, that's one way to put it. White Bear is the sound of a band whose songwriting and musicianship have reached a rare kind of equilibrium.
Among the album’s clutch of up-tempo burners is "Oh Lorraine”, a song combining traditional blues with future funk and Phil Campbell's unshackled vocals. "Lorraine is quite a popular Glasgow name, and I actually did once know a girl with that name, I put a move on her and got beaten up by her boyfriend. But it's not about her specifically,” the Scottish born singer explains. “It's about bad behavior being cyclical, and moving on from self-defeating behaviors." As the lyrics go: "Lorraine is a potion that can slow ya down..."
Which leads us to the album's lead track, "Three Bulleits." The title is not a typo. Bulleit Bourbon is the name of a Kentucky whiskey the band encountered on tour. "We have a bottle of bourbon on our rider," says Phil, "that's our pre-gig drink of choice." "Not in a Guns 'N Roses way, more like gentlemen in a drawing room," clarifies Paul with a laugh. "So one night before we're going on stage someone was saying who wants a drink? And three hands went up. The comment was made, that'd be a good title for a song...."
A smash-and-grab rocker, "Three Bulleits" finds Phil clambering atop escalating riffs to open with the sobering couplet: "I ain't saying' more than you been told / got high on information bought and sold." Throw in a lyrical nod to The Who's "Wont Get Fooled Again" as well as the telling line "There won't ever be a right when it's all so wrong" and surely the song has to do with news media and current events.
"It comes from an attitude that's a twisted mix of anger and apathy," clarifies Phil. "We see the crisis in Iraq or the bombing in Paris or someone in London hacking someone's head off with a machete, but I believe there's more to life than all of it, and trying to have some fun in the face of all of it is still worthwhile."
The song gets to the very core of the album: the idea that communion can still be achieved through secular music, specifically rock 'n roll. "While it's quite cool in life to have a religious experience," believes Phil, "I don't think religion is essential to have one. I don't know that there's one religious truth above all others. All of my life I questioned that more than anything else." He points out new track "Battle Lines" as being about natural selection, and his own experience becoming a father of a young son, "something that's made me look at life a bit more optimistically."
While rockers abound on White Bear, the band all agree "I Hope I'm Not Losing My Mind" is the album's magical slow-burn ballad, their "At The Dark End of The Street."
One stunning aspect of the new album is its cover image of a girl and a bear, interlaid and overlapping in magical realism, the creation of celebrated rock n' roll photographer Steven Sebring, director of the award-winning Patti Smith documentary Dream of Life. "We met up with Steven in New York so he could take some photos of the band," explains Paul. "He took us out for pizza, to the top of a skyscraper, to a guitar shop, we just really hit it off. He mentioned that he had this new multi-dimensional photography system, and he offered to do our album cover. We're really stunned and proud of the result."
The cover photo concept originated with a line from Russian writer Fyodor Dostoevsky’s Winter Notes on Summer Impressions: ‘Try to pose for yourself this task: not to think of a polar bear, and you will see that the cursed thing will come to mind every minute.’” And so is it with White Bear the album: It's simply too strong to ignore.
Based on White Bear's sonic coherence, it's a surprise to learn the album was recorded piecemeal in different studios at different times. "Our situation dictated it," Sayer explains. We were touring a lot around the time we knew we had to record this new album, so we did two days back at Fish Factory [where the band had recorded their debut album]. We didn't call it the start of album two, we just went back in with our co-producer Sam Miller, and we recorded a few things. Then we went away for a couple months on tour, and after that tour we went to Rockfield in Wales" – the famous studio where bands including Queen and Oasis recorded – "and we were there five days. We finished up with a couple of days at Angelic - another great residential place near Oxford.” In between they had an opportunity to record at Abbey Road, but as Paul sums it up: "I don't think you can tell which tracks were from Rockfield or Fish Factory or Abbey Road wherever we are it still sounds like us."
Listeners will detect the influence of The Faces, Little Feat and Cream. Others might hear the legacy of everything from Otis Redding to Radiohead. Actually, it's not hard to imagine White Bear's "Magnify" being sung by Aretha Franklin. ("Go on, make that happen!" is Phil's raucous response to that observation.)
Critical acclaim has poured in and on both sides of the Atlantic the album has been multi nominated as best of 2016 by the likes of Classic Rock Magazine (UK), Loudwire (US) and OUI FM (FR) who recently nominated the group for Best Acoustic Session and invited them to play at their prestigious awards ceremony in Paris next month.
It is by no coincidence that the band have developed this 'unplugged' approach to their skillset as needs required a portable format to take to the many radio stations they would visit on tour around the States and which has matured into a full live presentation we now see playing in intimate spaces outside the usual tour towns and cities.
"It's a chance to take our music back to it's roots in a way, playing up close and personal with some of our fans who've been there from the start and in some very special places."
Check out www.thetemperancemovement.com for the latest announcements on all dates and news.