Bursting into the national spotlight with their blustering Australian Music Prize nominated sophomore album Tales, The Peep Tempel don’t pull any punches when it comes to reflecting contemporary Australia. Hailed for their brutal portraits of life in the suburbs as well as their frenetic punk rock energy, a certain gallows humour and sardonic wit underlies a lot of their music.
Having just released their third studio album, Joy, the band are now trying to find some more positivity to throw into their music. Having enjoyed success in the past few years with a growing fan base and ever more critical acclaim, the album is in a way a celebration of all they’ve achieved since releasing their self-titled debut in 2012.
Positivity, however, is a relative term, and in the case of The Peep Tempel it’s safe to say their idea of a brighter tone is more shades of darkness than blinding light. Speaking to frontman Blake Scott about the album and the band’s creative process, it’s clear than their frustrations with Australian society are a major impetus to their creativity, which makes for some great music if not necessarily the happiest musicians. Lead single Rayguns for instance, in its pinpointed assassination of the Reclaim Australia movement, summing up how the band draws from what frustrates them to feed their art.
Music Feeds: I wanted to ask you about Rayguns – the first single off Joy – and what inspired the song?
Blake Scott: It’s a funny song. Steve the drummer, we bought him a Vox Apache for Christmas [these are awesome, Vox if you’re reading I’d love one)] which is essentially a bass guitar with a drum machine in it, and he wrote the bassline for it and he brought that in. So we were just playing that, and I wasn’t really playing anything on the guitar, but we listened to it the next day and we thought, this is really fun and this is really working. Then came the lyrics. So it’s this really fun song, and then I took it and made it something really quite nasty.
But the Reclaim Australia movement is something that is really frustrating to me and I thought I’d stoop to their level lyrically and get stuck into them and throw some stones back. It’s certainly not something that is overly productive I don’t think, but it was nice to get it off my chest. It’s been a bit nerve wracking since the clip went out though, but it’s a bit of fun, and it’s probably the most enjoyable time I’ve ever had writing lyrics. At the same time though it’s something that isn’t very useful. Fighting with fire probably isn’t the answer to this situation after all, but it’s nice to get it off your chest.
MF: Were you worried about people misinterpreting the lyrics at all?
BS: Nah, I don’t think so. If you actually read the lyrics or listen to them there’s no way I think you could misinterpret them. The only things you could misinterpret if you hadn’t heard any of the other lyrics was the chorus “the regime’s coming and they’re all on ice.” But once you hear the verse I think you realise it’s sardonic and we’re just trying to capture that hysteria of the mainstream media when they latch onto something like this. And I think I’ve said this before, but a lot of it happens because it’s convenient. It’s about distraction rather than informing people.
The only worry I had with how people perceive it is that you have people out there who will be offended, because they are the people we’re referring to in the song. You know we worry about how they’re going to react, not so much to me as I don’t really care personally, but I’ve got a duty of care to the people who come to our shows, and the other members of the band. So you kind of hope it’s not going to get too silly. But I don’t think it will.
MF: You mentioned before how good it feels to get this stuff off your chest through songwriting. Do you find the practice cathartic like that in general?
BS: I think songwriting, getting a song to point where you’re ready to write the lyrics, causes a lot of emotion. Then once you get the lyrics finished, you get to let that shit out a little bit. It’s such a strange, strange pastime really. It’s something that you are definitely looking for a release in, but if that’s all you were looking for you wouldn’t make records. There is something else at play then, I don’t know if it’s narcissism or what the fuck it is. But don’t get me wrong, I love making records and I love playing music and playing to people, but it’s one of those things that for me personally fills me with anxiety and it makes life kind of unpleasant some of the time, but I just fucking adore doing it.
When you first start writing a record, that’s beautiful. Then you get to a point where you are like, “OK we’re making the record,” that point when you’re going into the studio and turning it into an album and for me personally it’s not until all the lyrics are finished that you get that feeling of catharsis, that point where I can say “OK, I feel better now,” because I’ve been able to write, and write it down. It’s the only time I really write actually because I’m incredibly lazy and uninspired for the most part, so I usually only get the lyrics down in the week before we go in and make the album.
MF: There’s nothing like a deadline to inspire creativity.
BS: Absolutely, and unfortunately that’s just how I work. I’m a homework on the last day sort of dude. There’s just something about it that triggers the mind into that sort of let’s go state of mind, and that’s a really really beautiful and exciting frame of mind to be in. For the most part in life you’re just sort of living which is reasonably underwhelming let’s be honest.
MF: Storytelling is a big part of your lyrics, is there part of you in the characters you take on?
BS: Absolutely, and even for the parts of me I don’t recognise you know. Honestly there is no part of me that is deliberately in there, but it is in there. Often I’m looking back on it and I’m kind of shocked by how close to the bone it is.
Look I think life’s fast you know, you’ve got jobs and if you have a creative pastime or play sport or are trying to maintain relationships, there just isn’t a whole lot of time to sit down and reflect. So to be able to create music and have an audience for that music, we are really blessed, and so I get the chance to sit down and write and reflect. Sometimes, even with stuff from the first album, and I don’t often go back and listen to my own music like no one does, but when you do go back to it you find things and you just go fuck, there is something going on in this song that is clearly a reflection of what was going on inside me at the time.
With something like Tales that’s pretty scary ‘cos it’s a very dark record, but there is always part of yourself in there. I think there is a certain part of Carol that is about communication between us band members as we were going through a tough time and it sort of felt like a dirty divorce or breakup and I certainly think that is partly subconsciously related to that.
So it’s very very interesting and I don’t really know how to explain it, but it’s all connected in there somewhere. I can’t just pull characters out of the air, the only character I truly know is myself and the superficial stuff you build is just what you put on top to put the skin on the character. But the heart and soul is predominantly myself, which is most unfortunate I must say.
MF: You mentioned that Tales is a pretty dark album, and Joy although being lighter is certainly not without it’s own heavy moments. Does working with those kinds of themes ever get tiring? Do you ever wish that you could find inspiration somewhere else?
BS: I don’t know if it’s inspiration, you see I don’t think that anything really inspires me except making music. There aren’t any real outside influences that come into it, this is just what comes out. It is changing but I’ve always found that dark side of the world a little bit funny because I think people deny that it exists. People don’t seem to acknowledge that there is this bad shit and bad mother fuckers so close to you all the time. And of course there is so much bad shit going on in the world, but what I’m talking about just the basic everyday experience walking down the street, and the people you meet and who you have no idea of what is going on in them. It’s terrifying.
We are a strange bunch we human beings, and for me my attitude to that on the first two records was kind of like “haha this is pretty funny,” but now it’s not. Now that people have actually asked me questions about these records it’s like “fuck, I don’t want to make fun of this sort of thing”. So I think my writing is changing and on this record, at least lyrically, I’ve tried to inject some positivity in there. But it’s funny because people see it and they think “Joy, aw shit this is going to be the darkest record ever. The Peep Tempel doing an album called Joy this is going to be a real dark one.” But we’re not always sarcastic. Sometimes we’re just happy.
MF: From what you said about the music just coming out and often in reaction to a kind of anxiety or frustration it sounds like you thrive creatively off of things getting under your skin.
BS: Look I could do without it. I mean I can make it work and I don’t think that there has to be hardship for me to make good art. I think I’d probably be much happier if things were a little easier, and I was only involved in making art. Maybe the quality of what we’re doing would deteriorate, but I would certainly love to give it a go.
The thing is it works on both sides. You’re in Australia, it’s a very difficult place to be creative, you’re working some job and you’re spending a lot of your life pretending to be someone you aren’t and you’re finding a way to inhabit Australian culture and Australian society. For the most part, the morals and ethics of that aren’t something I want to participate in. I do want to live in my little creative bubble. So it bothers me and it causes me great grief, but at the same time if you weren’t dealing with these jobs you don’t like and getting out into the real world you become part of something that doesn’t really exist and is insular and then there’s no art.
MF: What do you think of Australia?
BS: What do I think of Australia? I think we’ve missed a fantastic opportunity to be a really amazing country time and time again and I don’t think that is going to get any better. But you continue on and there’s some beautiful stuff here. The beaches are really nice and the shellfish tastes sweeter than anywhere else in the world, so we’re lucky like that.
The Peep Tempel’s new album ‘Joy’ is out now. Grab a copy here. The band will take the album on tour later this year, see details below.
The Peep Temple Album Tour Dates
Friday, 4th November
Jive Bar, Adelaide
Tickets: Wing Sing
Friday, 11th November
Shark Bar, Gold Coast
Tickets: Wing Sing
Saturday, 12th November
The Zoo, Brisbane
Tickets: Wing Sing
Saturday, 19th November
Corner Hotel, Melbourne
Tickets: Wing Sing
Saturday, 26th November
Amplifier Bar, Perth
Tickets: Wing Sing
Friday, 2nd December
Oxford Arts Factory, Sydney
Tickets: Wing Sing