King’s students like to start bands. It’s a well-documented tradition. Nothing brings a group of Kingsfolk together like the words “dude, we should totally jam.” The floor landings of the Bays are haunted by the ghostly presence of raspy-voiced, overly earnest plaid-clad folkies who have an entire record’s worth of songs they wrote while tree-planting: not-quite-there tunes, vaguely reminiscent of an early Neil Young (or worse, Eddie Vedder circa the Into the Wild soundtrack). In my first year, I was gently rocked to sleep by my Sonic Youth-adoring, shoegaze-worshipping neighbors through the wall, my slumbers gently being carried away by tiny looping pedals.
We’re also notorious for buzzy King’s bands fizzling out. Blame it on an overabundance of ambition (‘we’re going to make a concept record about Charlemagne!’), a real-life schedule that involves school, societies and part-time jobs, or a lack of space to practice. We even did a feature on the breakup of the scrappy songbirds New Providence back in our February 2011 issue. It’s not uncommon to see King’s bands splinter off, and then find new roots in other groups, usually in different permutations of bands that came before them. King’s bands work because of flash-in-the-pan talent, constant interaction with the guys in the band, and regular gigs in our beloved Wardroom, the least judgmental venue in town.
Every once in a while, though, a King’s band has to rise above the gentle camaraderie of beers shared amongst friends, of whispery mid-afternoon djembe drum jams on the library steps, or of Morrissey-aspiring wordplay that never quite reaches that level of conviction. Every once in a while, a King’s band has to rise to power-pop glory, where Queen-esque arpeggios and girl-group synths can share the same space. Every once in a while, a King’s band has to go from being some crappy band your friends play in to being something more.
TemperTemper is the band we need right now.
“I’d like to address that whole ‘proggiest band’ thing,” says Thomas Hoy, singer, lead songwriter and bassist for TemperTemper. He’s talking about a bit The Coast ran last month, calling TemperTemper ‘Halifax’s proggiest band’.
Prog rock gets dealt a bad hand these days. It’s tough to be a Phish-head in today’s music climate and forty minute jams about futurism can’t really cut it in an age of hashtag-rap (#FreeEarl).
“When I think of prog-rock, I don’t know about you, but I think of Godspeed or Do Make, probably going back to King Crimson. I don’t think we sound like those bands, because those songs are all about really long, epic slow builds, and we’re about really crisp, tight changes. So far as the word ‘progressive’ goes, I’d say we’re less about prog-rock and more about progressive pop. We’re taking the pop format in a new direction, compared to prog-rock which has sort of been done for years.”
“It’s cool that they’re using ‘progressive’ to define us,” chimes in Leah CL. The whole band is crammed together on the steps as the Wardy-bound kids are abuzz about the show upstairs. CL’s the bead-strewn, neon-scrunchied synth player and other singer in the band, a stage presence that’s equal parts Stevie Nicks and 80’s mall-pop staple Tiffany.
“It’s a much better word than, say, ‘indie’ or ‘alternative’.”
“Alternative’ has to be the stupidest word to define music,” says Hoy. “I mean, it’s supposed to be alternative to what?”
It’s clear the band is comfortable at this point in their career, and they talk with a short hand of friends: a bevy of inside jokes, knowing glances at each other and pop culture references that span anywhere from the pompousness of Bono to how totally rad the chapel choir Bach Mass in B Minor is going to be. It’s all a part of a joyful sound Hoy likes to call “Mozart-electro-pop”.
“Man, if anything, I’d say we should be called ‘Halifax’s orgiest band’,” says drummer Jeremy Dutcher.
He’s a big presence behind the drum kit, wagging his tongue out during fills. Dutcher’s perhaps the most rock-leaning member of TemperTemper, with a four-on-the-floor sound that is one part Meg White and two parts Keith Moon.
TemperTemper’s actually gotten a lot better as a band lately. A handful of early shows at the Wardy and Gus’ showed promise, and these guys play their hearts out at every gig, but stumbled a little bit when it came to the tricky chord progressions or complicated rhythm schemes. We loved them anyway because they were ours. Since then, TemperTemper has gone from being a scrappy band with a big heart to being a bunch of musicians who kick ass. At the LP release party for their debut album at the Bus Stop Theatre, their sound had markedly improved, and this carried over to their most recent show at the Wardy. Hoy and the gang let the songs breathe and were more comfortable with extended jams in the set.
“That’s the plan for the next little while, and the next batch of recordings,” says Hoy. “We’re just going to play music in our living room, really focus on jamming and playing together as a band. Then, I’m going to listen to those recordings, transcribe the interesting parts that stick out to me, and sort of blend them together.”
Everyone in the band plans to stick around Halifax for the foreseeable future, avoiding the upcoming 4-month dry spell a lot of King’s bands experience when bandmates go home for the summer.
“We’ve got an upcoming 2013 world tour,” says Dutcher. “Bono’s going to be opening for us.”