There’s an old saying that goes something like this, “Songs can often escape the intentions of those who make them.” If you can accept such a statement, The Temper Trap’s ‘Sweet Disposition’ is without question one such song. It’s long past the point of being a Temper Trap song or even the Temper Trap song. After starting life as a modest Australian hit from a Melbourne outfit which had barely even played that many shows, it then snuck its way into the soundtrack of ‘500 Days of Summer’ and from there exploded in the US charts.
That, of course, was more than a decade ago. In the past eleven years, it’s led a life of its own, jumping into heads and hearts of untold thousands from radios, television commercials, festival stages, streaming playlists, as well as an inexpiably large number of dancefloor remixes.
In 2019 it’s practically synonymous with the words ‘indie anthem’. People have even gotten married to it, something Dougy Mandagi is still scratching his head about. “It’s not even a love song!” he exclaims, and Mandagi should know. After all, he wrote the lyrics. ‘Sweet Disposition’ is public property but it doesn’t seem to bother him all that much. The success it’s bought Mandagi, has taken him places he wouldn’t dreamt of travelling otherwise. Having received his fair share of the bargain, he’s now resigned to the fact that every time The Temper Trap play, from here on out until eternity, he’s going to have to perform the song. And when he does, he’ll no doubt sing his lungs out every time.
Music Feeds: Some people say that songs can often escape the intentions of the people who create them. I think ‘Sweet Disposition’ might be a bit like that. Would you agree?
Dougy Mandagi: Totally, totally. I mean so many people have gotten married to that song and what not – it’s not even a love song! But like you said it takes on a whole life of its own. People decipher the lyrics in their own way, and it speaks to them in its own way. So I’m happy for that. I’m glad that the song belongs to so many other people.
MF: Where was your head at, where were you at when you wrote those lyrics?
DM: Just young and excited and – I don’t know. The words were just a reflection of what the music made me feel. We wrote the music the night before I went home and pinned down the lyrics. And I don’t know, it just had this visceral kind of melancholic-but-also-kind-of-hopeful feeling. I guess the lyrics just followed accordingly to that.
MF: It’s always reminded me a little of U2. Were U2 an influence?
DM: I guess so. I mean the influence there, for us, was probably more in terms of the fact that we were using delay pedals and in U2 The Edge is the most iconic delay pedal maestro… But that’s probably as far as the influence goes. It’s not that we were listening to U2 in particular when we wrote that song. Nothing was ever really too thought out back in those days, we just wrote what felt natural you know? All the licks and the dynamics of the song came naturally to us.
MF: An interesting part of the song’s story – and this is tying back into what you’ve previously said about a lot of people seeing ‘Sweet Disposition’ as a love song – is that it somehow slipped its way into the soundtrack of a movie called ‘500 Days of Summer’…
MF: Have you ever watched it? Do you have an opinion about it?
DM: Yeah, man. We got a special world premiere. I took my mum as my date. It was good. Yeah, we got like, a special screening. [Laughs] Yeah, man. Listen, that movie really helped catapult us and that song into people’s minds. By the time we left Melbourne for the first time to play all these dives and little showcases overseas people had already heard of us because of that movie so it was great. That movie did amazing things for us.
MF: Things happened fast for you. How do you look back on that whole period ten years on?
DM: How do I look back on it? I mean, I miss it, dude. I really miss it you know? It’s kind of weird because if I could go back in time now having seen the things that I’ve seen I wonder if I would have as much fun. Going back to New York City for the 70th time is obviously not going to be as fun as going to New York City to play a gig in some crappy venue for the very first time you know what I mean?
I just kind of look back on those memories and I sort of wish I could go in a time capsule and go back. But I know that I would have a different experience if I did. So maybe it’s just best left where it was. I can always tap into those moments in my mind. We had a lot of fun! We had so much fun. Everything was the first time. So yeah, it’s kind of sad to think that we’ll never feel that way again but we’re very fortunate to have been able to experience that in our lives.
MF: I don’t know about you but when I heard Conditions was turning 10 it freaked me out a little. I thought, “Heck! It’s been 10 years already?! What have I been doing with my life?”
DM: It’s pretty trippy, it definitely doesn’t feel like 10 years. But I’m thankful that people are still talking about it. ‘Sweet Disposition’ is still getting a sh*lot of streams on Spotify.
It’s funny, [living] in Berlin, I’m really into electronic music now so I’m kinda sourcing out DJs and whatnot – DJs are still dropping remixes of that song. [Laughs] So yeah, it’s probably taken on a different meaning you know? It’s great! And to think that I had a part in creating that is really special.
MF: How you look back on Conditions as a whole?
DM: I think me, as a musician, and most musicians are all just cursed with a mostly critical mind. So if I was to go back and listen to this album from top-to-bottom I think I probably wouldn’t be able to help myself, I’d be critical of certain things. But at the end of the day, the thing that makes a record special is that once you’re done with it and you let it go it’s kind of not yours anymore. It doesn’t really matter anymore what you think or that you think, “This guitar was too loud!” Who cares? You know I mean?
I’m just happy that it became the soundtrack to so many people’s lives. That’s the most special thing about that record to me. It’s more what other people take out of it you know? Mostly it’s been amazing for me because it’s afforded me [the opportunity] to do so many things, to visit so many different places and experience all these amazing things. But the true meaning of the record is, to me, how special it is to other people.
MF: You’re doing some anniversary shows for the album. Have you started preparing?
DM: Well we haven’t started preparation just yet. It’s going to be challenging because we all live on different continents. I’m in Europe, the bass player [Jonathon Aherne] is in New York and the rest of the guys are in Australia. So it’s going to be a little bit of logistical challenge but we’ll get there.
I’m excited! We’ve obviously played all of those songs from Conditions before, but they’ve always been in different order. To go on tour and play [the album] the way it’s been put together on record is going to be exciting. It’ll be interesting to see how that feels live because obviously on record we thought about it a lot and it was very intentional to have these songs placed the way they were on the album, but we’ll see how it translates live.
MF: Is it possible you could record again? Have you considered doing anything with Temper Trap in future after this whole anniversary thing?
DM: Oh, for sure. Yeah, yeah, yeah. For sure. At the moment we’re all just kind of musically, creatively busy working on solo projects. Jonny [Aherne] has got a solo project, I’ve got my thing going. We’ve been together for a long time and I think it’s good to get off your chest whatever other creative things are in there that will probably never see the light of day in a Temper Trap context. It’s good to just go off and venture round and do other things for a while.
And we still have things like this anniversary or little shows here and there that are an excuse for us to see each other and to reconnect with each other and play live. So it’s good. But we’re definitely going to write some music, new stuff, I think. I’m sure we will.
MF: Is it the case that you only write new stuff when you come together and don’t do much before then or do you have ideas when you’re apart that you sit on until you’re back together?
DM: Probably the latter. I already have a bunch of stuff in the Temper Trap folder. When the time comes, I’m sure the other guys will have a whole arsenal of ideas as well. So when that time comes we’ll have a head start.
MF: Any closing thoughts?
DM: I don’t know. I guess just reflecting on everything – this is all just going to sound really cliché, but I’m super thankful that people give a sh*t! [Laughs] 10 years later! Hopefully, the songs have aged well. And yeah, I really appreciate the fans. I’m just excited for whatever is next.
In celebration of the 10th anniversary of The Temper Trap’s acclaimed debut album Conditions, the boys are heading back home for a string of tour dates this December. See dates and details below.
The Temper Trap 2019 Australian ‘Conditions’ 10th Anniversary Tour
Frontier Members pre-sale via frontiertouring.com/thetempertrap
Runs 24 hours from: Tuesday 25th June (2pm AEST) or until pre-sale allocation is exhausted.
General public tickets on sale from Friday 28 June(12pm local time).
Wednesday, 4th December
The Forum, Melbourne 18+
Thursday, 5th December
The Tivoli, Brisbane 18+
Saturday, 7th December
Enmore Theatre, Sydney All Ages