SXSW never ceases to amaze and delight me with unexpected magical moments, and one of those came from Temples after our day showcase. I’ve loved Temples ever since KCRW DJ, Travis Holcombe, ran into the studio a few years ago and played “Shelter Song” from their debut, Sun Structures. Fast forward to March 15, 2017 and Temples were on KCRW’s Day Showcase at the Austin Convention Center and I was pretty excited to meet them.
To set the scene – playing a show in a convention center must be the biggest bummer for a band. Think big cavernous rooms and the lighting design of a 7-11. Suffice to say, that atmosphere is never conducive to a cozy conversation. I went “backstage” to interview Temples before they played and they were, honestly, less than chatty. Who could blame them? Their dressing room appeared to be an industrial bathroom, never the best setting for a conversation.
We talked a bit about their new album, Volcano. They told me it was a big progression onward for them from their debut. KCRW’s showcase was the first of three shows they were playing that day (eight total at SXSW) and they expressed their interest in meeting fans and playing the new songs, rather than showcasing for a bunch of industry types. I assured them the room would be packed with fans.
The slightly awkward pre-show bathroom interview was not the magical moment. But then they took the stage and everything changed. They let down their guard. They were electric. The new songs sounded as rich and textured as their velvet jackets. There was a substance to the music that was far more full bodied than on their first album and they simply crushed it in the packed room.
After the show, we went backstage to thank the band and take a few pictures. Before the photographer could get in place, Tom from the band jumped on the bench at a grand piano in the back hallway and started to play. After Tom, James took a turn. And here’s what happened.
Watching James play Pure Imagination (performed originally by Gene Wilder in the 1971 film Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory) is not something I will soon forget. That song makes me cry on a good day and seeing these slightly standoffish rock musicians sit down at a piano and truly let their guard down was spectacular.
All photos c/o: Dustin Downing