by Wilson Standish
When I think of the current trend back toward washy acid rock and indie-folk, a few bands come to mind (Beach House being a front runner)and one that is sure to go to the top of the list is newly formed Brooklyn based quintet, Here We Go Magic. Led by singer songwriter Luke Temple, Here We Go Magic got a dizzying amount of attention from SXSW bloggers and music writers, and we were able to talk to Luke after the Austin madness, while he and the band prepared for their first American tour. We talked about Luke’s obsession with sound and repetition and a love for limiting musical mediums. And don't forget to check out Here We Go Magic open for White Rabbits this Sunday (April 25th) at The Metro.
UR: I know you guys just finished up your week at SXSW. So, where are you now?
Luke Temple: We’re actually at a swimming hole in Austin. We came down to play SXSW and our first US tour is starting in Virginia in about a week. So, we thought instead of going back to New York we’d stay down here and rent a house.
UR: Moving from your solo career to Here We Go Magic, what did that allow you to do that your couldn’t do with your solo stuff?
Luke Temple: Get a lot louder. I get to be a part of something rather than the main focus, which I always felt sorta uncomfortable about. And it’s less narratives in terms of the song writing. It’s ensemble-based music and needs to have more participants. My solo stuff I could perform with just an acoustic guitar: clear lyrics, clear stories, more traditional song structure.
This feels more like an exercise in repetition and sound-scapes. Where just getting a sound is more important than the song per say. I still write all the songs for this, but I keep them a lot simpler.
UR: Why has sound been such a focus for you and Here We Go Magic?
Luke Temple: That’s always the stuff I respond to the most. I love Dylan via Highway 61 Revisited because of the way that band sounds. They captured this whole big rough stroke. Or the way the Velvet Underground records sound; everything is just part of the whole and they’re all smeared together, and it has a specific tonality to it. On top of that you get amazing songs.
Regardless of if you know what they’re saying or not, the overall sound of a song, an album or the band has a specific color to it and has a consistency in that way. It’s really exciting. I find the singer songwriter stuff can be a lot more fractured and all over the place and every records different because you’re playing with different people. We’re actually becoming an organism from playing so much together and it’s becoming a sound. We’re not being overly conscious about trying to craft it…it’s just evolving naturally.
UR: So, what’s the color that’s coming out of all this?
Luke Temple: I don’t know. Other people would have a more objective view on it. We keep it pretty simple. Two electric guitars, bass, drums, things like that. We tend to not use many effects besides delay pedals, and everything is straight into our amps. We have a lot more vintage instruments so it has jingly sounds to it. It’s pretty dense, the way the guitars are constantly working together. There’s a lot of intersecting lines. Like they’re not playing chords as much as they’re playing these tiny little lines that together create this big tapestry. And there’s an emphasis in repetition.
UR: Everything about you mentions how you made a leap from focusing on painting to music. What sparked that change?
Luke Temple: There wasn’t really a transition to music…I’d always played music since I was 11. They (music and painting) had always existed together in some ways. It just came time to decide what my focus was going to be in terms of potentially making a living doing something. And then I found the music scene to be more agreeable than the art world. Obviously there is something more visceral and communal about music; you get to play in front of other people you get to work with other people. Art can be so solitary. I had to make a choice on what I’d like to spend my time doing more.
UR: How have you kept your painting alive through music?
Luke Temple: I try to bring it into the music by designing my album covers and stuff like that and I keep a sketchbook and shit like that.
UR: Looking at the aesthetic counterpart to your music, you have this fascination with raw art from Polaroid’s to recording on a 4-track tape player. Where does all that anti-digital come from?
Luke Temple: I find that I’m more creative when I’m faced with limitations, and for instance 4-track is a really limited medium and it can only take you so far. So, you have to be thinking about an arrangement that will make it sound as full as if you had 100 tracks to record on. You have to use your brain more, and trick it into sounding full with the least amount of information. And in that why it sparks more creative thought and that’s interesting to me.
With a lot of analog gear there are a bunch of imperfections about it. In recording, dealing with tape which is an actual physical item that bends and stretches and dealing with a motor that is playing the tape back and it’s always going to be playing at different speeds, it’s never going to be quite the same. It also has an interesting way of compressing music because there is only a finite amount of space that sound can fits. So, the more you add to it the more it compresses it and it has this crazy effect.
All that stuff is great because you can’t predict it, and that’s what’s fun about it. You throw a bunch of stuff together and then you put it in the oven and you go away and you don’t know what you’re going to get when you take it out. It’s much more exciting than the digital world where there are so many options and you can fix things infinity. Like pitch shift stuff so that all the vocals are perfectly in tune and quantize the drums so the rhythm is exactly perfect…life’s not like that.
The same goes for that “Tunnel Vision” video. We were inspired by Stan Brackech (sp?) who was this avant-garde filmmaker and he used all abstract images that he would take with Super-8 film and collage them together and do stuff like bake it in the oven to make it melted for certain frames. That video is a direct rip-off of his stuff. But the same principal applies to that. When we shot on Super-8 there was no way to see what we just captured, and not really sure what it was going to turn out like in the end. So, there was a lot left to chance.
UR: What are you hoping to get out of touring with the band?
Luke Temple: We’re hoping more and more people with come see us play and we just hope to get better as a band. There’s no way to do that other than playing. Rehearsal only goes so far because you can always stop and try it a different way or rethink it. But when you play live you have to commit to the moment…you can’t stop. It really gives you a sense of what’s working and what’s not.
UR: Because there’s five of you and that’s like the perfect sitcom size. If Here We Go Magic was a sitcom, which would it be?
Luke Temple: I guess it would be Three’s Company probably. Except there’s five of us so I don’t know how that would work…somebody’s got to be Mr. Roper and if I designate someone they’re going to get offended. I don’t want to say Friends either…that’s like exactly our band…five people. I don’t know man; I don’t know TV well enough.