It is almost too easy for a musician to get cocky after a taste of fame. But for The Temper Trap, it seemed to be anything but the case. The band were in Singapore for an acoustic session with MTV Asia last week, and we sat down with them for a short chat, not even half expecting the humbleness and openness they approached everything with. After all, they had broken big time with their debut album, Conditions, and lead single ‘Sweet Disposition’, and have seen the world touring with their music for almost ten years now.
Yet, the band came off as reserved, a humble bunch that seemed more worried about their upcoming acoustic session than anything else. They were certainly not afraid to lower our expectations with confessions of the set possibly including “mistakes, profused sweating and awkward moments”. Still, they try to have an optimistic outlook about it all, acknowledging that although it’s not really their thing, to play acoustically, that they were going to “strap on [their] acoustic guitars and hope for the best.”
They’re “not really a jam band”, Dundas notes, because of the multi-layering in certain songs and the amount of sonic depth involved. When it comes to live shows, they like to keep focussed on reproducing the exact sounds on stage rather than straying too far from the record.
“I want to make — not necessarily for the world or for critics — the perfect record for me.”
And on the topic of playing in small concert halls compared to stadium arenas, The Temper Trap is not too fussy about the numbers. “It just really depends on the crowd. You can have a great show to two people, or 20,000.” Dundas and Mandagi begin to reminisce about a certain gig in Paris. “We played to 500 people, and the energy in that room that day was just off the scale,” Mandagi says.
The response from the audience will always be more fulfilling to the quintet than the actual measure of people in the crowd, and one way to get into their hearts is to sing along, according to the Dundas. “It’s always amazing to have that kind of crowd singing the words back at you louder than Dougy can sing through the PA, it’s always really special.”
When the conversation hooks right about to the time they spend in the studio, Mandagi and Dundas tell us that the progression from their first to their second release was about experimenting with “some new toys, because we couldn’t afford them back then. I guess naturally, we just started writing with those instruments.”
“It’s always amazing to have that kind of crowd singing the words back at you louder than Dougy can sing through the PA, it’s always really special.”
And as for the upcoming third album that had us on the edge of our seats, the band keeps tight-lipped, saying that the specifics hadn’t been mapped out yet. “The plan is to have no plan, because it’s still in its early days, and I guess its good to still have an open mind,” Mandagi tells us. “We don’t really know the direction as such, or if there will even be one. We can kind of dabble in a few different styles or genres, while still making it uniquely us — I think that’s kind of our thing.”
Mandagi did however, mention a personal goal that he has had in mind for any new releases. “I want to make — not necessarily for the world or for critics — the perfect record for me. One that I can be like, “Yeah, that’s it.” But that’s impossible, really. Even to come close would be a really good feeling and a personal achievement.”
“The plan is to have no plan, because it’s still in its early days, and I guess its good to still have an open mind.”
But for now, The Temper Trap has a bigger role needed of them soon enough, and that is opening for The Rolling Stones’ 50th anniversary show at Hyde Park this July. Here, the humility shows through again through Dundas. “We’re very honored to get that chance. It’s going to be a pretty special gig, 65,000 people in Hyde Park. We’re all kind of big Stones fans so I think more than anything, we’re really excited to get to see them. And us getting to go up there and play is just kind of a bonus.”
With such sweet dispositions (pun totally intended), it should not be so difficult for The Temper Trap to continue climbing up the ladder of success — and maybe one day soon enough, they will be the ones headlining a show at Hyde Park.
By Tryne Ong
Photos by Maria Clare Khoo
MTV Sessions with The Temper Trap will premiere on MTV SEA Saturday, June 1 at 11.30am (WIB), 12.30pm (SG/HK/PH) and 1.30pm (MAL).