The Temper Trap
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The Temper Trap

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In terms of achievements, The Temper Trap have well and truly scaled the heights of success…

The great philosopher Khalil Gibran once said that it was our aspirations rather than our achievements that defined our true character. In terms of achievements, The Temper Trap have well and truly scaled the heights of success; they’ve played at every major musical festival in the world, sold out Festival Hall, delivered one of the finest debut albums of late and won two ARIA Awards, but it’s their aspirations – elevated by reaching out in the truest sense – that continue to epitomise this Melbourne band. Touring Indonesia (frontman Dougy Mandagi’s country of birth) last month was, idealistically, more significant than any award or accomplishment. Who knew that one day, Indonesian music fans would not only have Australia’s biggest band performing in their cities of Bandung, Bali and Jakarta, but have its lead singer speaking to them, fluently, in their native tongue.

Those who have followed The Temper Trap throughout the years have been witnesses to their flourishing potential, but the astounding reach of their 2009 debut album, Conditions, made them one of the greatest Australian music success stories of the past decade. One definite change will be apparent when the indie-rock giants release their highly-anticipated sophomore album – The Temper Trap will officially be a five-piece. Guitarist Joseph Greer may’ve been known as the additional touring guitarist, but he’s become a full-time member of the band.

That The Temper Trap won the Most Popular Single ARIA for Sweet Disposition was hardly surprising, but winning the Best Group ARIA must have felt particularly rewarding? “Yeah definitely,” Greer affirms. “It was really nice to have that recognition; we’ve been working really hard the last few years and it’s nice to see that people have recognised us and it’s a great honour. Everyone was really happy about it.”

The Temper Trap accepted the awards from their manager’s house in London where they were, apparently, babysitting his kids. “It was a little bit staged,” Greer admits with a chuckle. “It was, you know, just trying to make it a little bit funny, but yeah we had the manager’s kids up there; it was all for a little bit of fun.”

The Temper Trap relocated to the London suburb of Hackney last year and have spent most of the past two years overseas. Greer moved to Australia five years ago from New Zealand, so adjusting to another new home has been, well, another exciting challenge. “It’s been such a crazy time,” says Greer. “We’ve probably spent more time out of London than actually in London, so I still don’t feel like I’ve adjusted to living in London yet. We’re only there every now and then; it’s probably some of the girlfriends of the band that have had to adjust the most. But next year we’ll be spending more time there when we write the new album, so that’ll be the real test, I think.”

Greer describes their tour of Indonesia as “amazing” and “very special”; indeed, taking their music into various cultures has been mind-expanding and fulfilling for the group. “We still have to pinch ourselves… just how far it’s come from playing in Melbourne and around Australia to being embraced by so many different places that we never could’ve imagined. It’s a very lucky situation for us to have…opportunities to go to places like Indonesia and Brazil… it’s very rare that bands get to do that and we just want to keep playing as many places as we can.”

On July 24 this year, The Temper Trap played to a sold out Festival Hall. “I remember when it was massive thing for us to sell out The Corner, you know,” Greer chuckles. “You really only know of big international acts playing at Festival Hall – when we found out that we were doing it, we were like ‘can we play there, will we have to actually sell it out’? And when we did, it was a little bit surreal. Even the last time we came back and we played The Forum – that was a massive deal for us as well.”

There’s no doubt that the group’s fan-base is now extremely diverse, but Greer believes that their live performances will always reaffirm the band’s true vision. “I think it’s because our music’s been used in things that allow us to have a mainstream audience such as commercials or movie soundtracks, but when people come and see us play, they see that we’re actually quite diverse and it’s not all pop songs that are for commercials. We really are a band that wants to make good music and I hope that when people come and see us play, they realise that. It really is a diverse audience and range.”

Indeed, it’s amazing that it was only a few years ago that they played at the East Brunswick Club to an intimate – albeit, vehemently enthusiastic – gathering. “I definitely feel that the ambition was there; it always felt like it was going forward… whether or not we thought it would come this far… I think we did, but maybe not so quickly. We’ve been very fortunate to have such success.”

The Temper Trap have also been supporting the Buzz Off campaign in the fight against Malaria in the world’s poorest countries, which bassist Jonny Aherne has passionately incorporated into the band’s responsibilities. “Jonny’s very involved with charities and always has been, and it’s a very big part of his life,” Greer expresses. “It was really all his idea; he came up with the concept of getting the postcards together and he works really hard to set it up. It’s slowly starting to come into action… I was talking with Jonny’s dad the other day and he was just saying how it’s actually really helping in Burma or a place like that.” The son of missionaries, Aherne’s Christian faith remains vital to him. “One of the great things about the band is that whether or not someone has a belief in whatever, we’re very tolerant of it and there’s a lot of freedom,” says Greer. “We’re not all one denomination or anything like that, but there’s a freedom in the band for any belief or opinion, and no one’s going to judge anyone.”

While The Temper Trap’s impact on the local music scene has been profound, they’re becoming more aware of the need to tie in a sense of social and cultural poignancy. “We’ve been really lucky to have quite a lot of success and you start to think about other things other than just trying to be a band and how you can actually make a difference,” Greer ponders. “Obviously Jonny’s charity work has been really inspiring and I think as a band we try to make a difference in that we donate money quite a lot and when we can, and just to be aware of that kind of thing and try to send the right message. As things get bigger, you start to become role models and it’s important to have a good message and not just waste away, partying or something like that.”

To add to their list of milestones, The Temper Trap will be headlining Pyramid Rock Festival alongside N*E*R*D. “Pyramid Rock is kind of our first proper headline festival show ever,” Greer enthuses. “We’ve done smaller stage headliners overseas, which have been great, but this is another one that’s still really surreal. It probably won’t kick in until we go up on stage,” he laughs; “it’s another great honour, definitely.”

After a frantic and thrilling couple of years, The Temper Trap are now looking forward to writing new material. “We’ve been touring for close to two years, and we’ve had maybe a two week period of time that we had off,” Greer reflects. “So it’s been really full-on and it’s been hard to write as well, just because we haven’t had time to get into a studio and it’s quite hard to write on the road. So we’ve planned to take a month off after the Pyramid show; we’re all going to do our own thing for a month just to spend time with our loved ones and get inspired again. And then we’re leaving Australia to play Laneway in Singapore and after that we’re going to regroup in London early February… that’s going to be the start of sitting together in a room and trying to come up with something good,” he grins.

“It’s such an important thing for us – the second album – and sometimes having success with the first one means that all eyes are on it. So we want it to be good – we don’t want to release something just for the sake of it and be rushed to do so… we really want to be happy with what we’re doing and hopefully that happens quicker rather than not. We’ve had a couple of ideas that we’ve been working on – whether or not they’ll end up on the album is hard to say – they’re quite a departure from what we’ve been doing, I think. One of the things about the band is that there’s not really any set way of doing things.”

THE TEMPER TRAP’S sophomore album is due out next year, until then you can catch them live when they headline PYRAMID ROCK FESTIVAL on Phillip Island over December 29-January 1. Tickets and info from thepyramid