Kav Temperley
Kav Temperley | Credit: Paul Kane/Getty Images

Kav Temperley: How ‘Machines of Love & Grace’ is Different to What I’ve Done Before

Kav Temperley of Eskimo Joe has released his second solo album, Machines of Love & GraceThe album came together in Temperley’s Fremantle recording studio amid the covid pandemic. Border closures and social distancing measures made it a considerably more solitary affair than Temperley’s solo debut, 2018’s All Your Devotion.

Temperley was required to wear many different hats throughout the recording and production process, which influenced the nature of the songwriting. The record was also influenced by artists as diverse as Beck, HAIM, Pink Floyd and Oliver Tree. Here, Temperley tells the story of Machines of Love & Grace and how it differs from his earlier work.

Kav Temperley – ‘Machines of Love & Grace’

Kav Temperley: Machines of Love & Grace started life in the very first week of COVID. We had just returned from the US and a day later the whole entire world shut down. I also came down with a mystery virus but it was too early in the pandemic to test for COVID. So, while everyone went into lockdown, I began to isolate myself in my bedroom, only talking to my family through a crack in the bedroom window.

I was very lucky to have had a piano in my room, so as I started to feel a little better, I was able to sit down at the piano and start to document what was going on for myself and everyone around me. As we began to pinch ourselves that what was happening all over the world was real, I started work on what would become my second full-length solo album, Machines of Love & Grace.

Working in isolation

Kav: The big difference between this album compared to anything else that I’ve done before was the isolation of the global lockdowns. Living in Fremantle, Western Australia, we’ve always felt cut off from the rest of the world. If you ever wanted to go on tour or work with anyone outside of Perth, it was four hours on a plane. I recorded my first solo album with producers John Castle and Pip Norman (AKA Count Bounce) in Melbourne, but in 2020, by necessity, I found myself working on my own in my little studio in Fremantle, taking on the roles of writer, musician, engineer and producer.

As the world started to open up again, I managed to bring in some extra local musicians to help with the playing – Elliot smith, on drums, Lee Jones on guitar, Steve Richter on percussion, Prita Grealy on backing vocals – as well some fantastic collaborations with local artists like Katy Steele, John Butler and Siobhan Cotchin. It’s an album created out of welcomed boundaries and physical limitations.

With my first solo album, I was really searching for who I was outside of Eskimo Joe. I dug deep into my influences of the early ’70s singer-songwriters like Neil Young and Van Morrison. However, with this album, there was less to time analyse what kind of record I was making because I was down in the trenches placing microphones and writing all the parts. Having to do a lot grunt work, I had to focus on one thing: “Does this sound good, or not? Great, then let’s move on.”

The result is a much more organic rock’n’roll album I definitely felt more at home in the skin of a solo artist.

Artists that inspired Machines of Love & Grace

Kav: Sometimes you don’t know what you are writing about until you’ve written it. So, once I realised that I’d written some kind of post-apocalyptic true story, I sat down to write the final song for the album, which is the opening track, ‘Emergency in D minor’.

For this song, I had always wanted to write an epic opener just like ‘Shine on You Crazy Diamond’ by Pink Floyd, complete with an un-ironic smoky sax solo. So, I asked my friend, Erin Royer, who had played with us at the 2021 AFL Grand Final, to come in and lay down some sax. I even sent her an inspirational playlist called “Saxy good times” to get my idea across.

I also utilised the Synth Lab, which is a collective of people who’ve set up a studio upstairs from my own studio in Fremantle. They’ve set the whole thing up like the inside of a ’60s sci-fi movie. It has wall to wall synthesisers, drum machines and old signal generators. A few jazz cigarettes later and voila, the song was done.

Pink Floyd – ‘Shine On You Crazy Diamond’

My go-to drum sound is always somewhere between Neil Young’s Harvest and Beck’s Sea Change albums, so I was delighted to discover Lucy Dacus with her song ‘VBS’, a beautiful autobiographical tune with lyrics about falling in love with a girl at bible camp. The recording sounds both distorted and clean at the same time.

HAIM’s album Women in Music Pt. III was such a lovely surprise and I was hugely inspired by the songwriting and production on the album, which came via Danielle Haim and her partner Ariel Rechtshaid. It’s hard to pick a favourite track because its such a strong album but have a listen to ‘The Steps’. I loved hearing drum machines and real drums seamlessly stitched together. You can hear this influence on the song ‘Graduation Day’.

HAIM – ‘The Steps’

Taylor Swift was never someone I was a big fan of. She was always way too shiny and mainstream for me, but at some point during the pandemic, while doing the dishes and playing it on repeat – much to the dismay of my family – I had to admit that I had become obsessed with the album Folklore. I even bought the limited edition vinyl and made my whole family sit through The Lond Pond Studio Sessions on Disney+.

The production and songwriting is absolutely stellar, both indie and mainstream, thanks to the combo of Taylor, Jack Antonoff and The National’s Aaron Dessner. There is not a bad song on the record, but ‘Cardigan’ is a triumph. I was inspired by the approach of this song on my song ‘Twin Flames’.

Oliver Tree with his song ‘Cash Machine’ took me back to the post grunge days of the early 2000s but still had a sound like it was coming from the future. I was inspired by the distorted acoustic sound, which I used on the song ‘Friendship Fires’.

Kav Temperley – ‘Friendship Fires’

  • Kav Temperley’s new album Machines of Love & Grace is out now.

Further Reading

Jack River, King Stingray Among Finalists For Inaugural Environmental Music Prize

Watch The 2021 AFL Grand Final Pre-Game Show Feat. Baker Boy, Eskimo Joe & More

 Love Letter To A Record: Eskimo Joe’s Kav Temperley On Neil Young’s ‘Harvest’

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