Artist: Luke Temple
Album: Good Mood Food
Label: Secretly Canadian / Cargo Records
In the winter LUKE TEMPLE moved into a cottage, a small one, in upstate New York. The snow fell quietly. He had frozen blueberries and bread and eggs and Coors Original. He sang and drank and played and drank and ate and shoveled snow and when the snow melted and the roads cleared he had his friends. Eliot Krimsky of GLASS GHOST (keyboards) and Mike Johnson of DIRTY PROJECTORS (drums) dug into LUKE’s hut and together they built a fire. Luke called it “Good Mood Fool”.
Frontman and songwriter for the band Here We Go Magic, Temple has returned to solo work alongside his band identity. Here We Go Magic’s rapid growth from a bedroom synthesizer experiment to a band that could play the world’s biggest festivals and which counts Thom Yorke, Nigel Godrich, Grizzly Bear and Broken Social Scene as fans and collaborators, has been well documented. Although it has always unquestionably been his band, he still describes it as “a democracy,” and it is in reaction to this that he has returned to working solo: the tension between the immediacy of live jamming and his need for control over his artistic process have driven his creation. Today, he shares the first single, “Katie” from that creation via SPIN Magazine who says of the track: “‘Katie’ is indeed funkier and more flat-out jubilant than what you might expect from the knotty complexities of… Here We Go Magic. Has Temple perhaps been rifling through his old Prince records? Never a foolish move.”
Temple is an artist – and not just in the sense that the word has come to have where it’s simply interchangeable with “musician”, either. He is an artist working in structures, materials, processes, whatever medium he chooses to express carefully mapped out concepts and feelings.
“The difference here,” he says of Good Mood Fool, “is that [solo] I could just sit and follow through an idea I had to its fruition – I would wake up in the morning with a vision of something and work solidly for 12 hours until I got close to it, I could obsess over one thing until I had actualised the image I had. In the band I don’t have the luxury of the time to do that, because there’s five other people in the band and we all have to make compromises to work with each other. This project was a way to indulge myself completely.”
But that indulgence, typically, is a disciplined one. For Good Mood Fool, Luke returned to a hyper-limited set of materials: just his voice, a drum machine, a bass guitar, and a Juno-1 synth (which, he says, “is the reason that people think this album has a 1980s sound – if I’d played it on a glockenspiel they wouldn’t say that, but the presets on the Juno-1 guarantee that’s how it gets perceived.”) He also expressly chose to use conventions that HWGM would have rejected: “There’s people in my band who say ‘I don’t want to play anything bluesy’ or ‘it can’t be too funky’, they see those as cliches – but I think if you take those seeming cliches and go into them with full conviction, what comes out when you get to the other side is actually something more unique.”
In a sense, Good Mood Fool is an extension of the first self-titled Here We Go Magic record. It was recorded with the same sense of freedom and joy. “Katie” is a prime slice of mid- 80s intelligent pop, almost So-era Peter Gabriel in its rhythms and sound. Meanwhile, “Florida” is a blue-eyed soul hit, a lazy sunny evening of summer beauty. Good Mood Fool draws from myriad influences, from the hushed soulful wail of Curtis Mayfield to the dense harmonies of Gil Evans and the Bulgarian Women’s Choir. It is meant to be clear in production and in content, hiding nothing.
As a sculptor allows the stone, wood or clay they’re working with to dictate the decisions they make, Luke allowed his chosen parameters to “force firm decisions to work around the limitations and avoid cliche”, and as a result Good Mood Fool is a joyful thing, living and vivid and indeed “the favourite thing I’ve made so far.” Shaking off the last vestiges of, as he puts it, “indie-rock haze” it transcends its supposedly lo-fi source materials and gleams like a huge, expensive, fantastically ambitious pop record. It’s something he can rightly be proud of – but of course, there is no resting on laurels to be done, and he hasn’t stopped working.
“I’ve finished a record,” he says, “so I do feel kind of dull in terms of inspiration – this is how it usually is, I’ll have a great outpouring, then feel empty for a while, then fill back up – but I’m still trying to work every day. I still record, I still play guitar all day, I still try and write even if the results aren’t anything much.” But of course he’s “keeping his engine greased” – and with a new band to tour this record with, and then the re-convening of HWGM (in “the best lineup the band has had yet”), the endless reinvention and revivification of Luke Temple’s artistic process is guaranteed to start again sooner rather than later.
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