LUKE TEMPLE'S new MO? Downsize. Take a step back, take a night off.
Temple's made his way musically with solo work and as the brain behind Here We Go Magic, a sonic amalgam of prog-rock, pop, and psychedelic flair. After reaching a level of success that included working with Radiohead producer Nigel Godrich, Temple decided to simplify and write, perform, record, and produce a new Here We Go Magic record solely with long-time collaborator Michael Bloch. The result is Be Small, a collection of easy-yet-clever pop tunes. The album's been praised for its accessibility, and for Here We Go Magic fans that might feel like a red flag, but in this case, accessible doesn't mean watered down.
"I mean, accessibility is subjective," Temple says. "I live in a little strange world of people who listen to strange music, and the people I bounce things off might have a different relationship with the idea of accessibility. I don't think about accessibility in terms of demographics, I just happened to be interested in a certain kind of simple song structure when I was making that record."
Be Small is not just simple, though there are plenty of simple moments on the record. "Candy Apple" has a glam-campy element in the way the line "here in the New York City" stretches out like taffy. And the album has a strong, cyclical, chugging, '80s synth feel—not a modern polished or ethereal synth sound, but more like stacked colored Legos, where it's all blended together, with dents and flaws.
"I want it to sound like nature as much as possible," Temple says. "If you follow a line in nature, it kind of moves into the next thing really naturally. It's one sort of continuous line, equally formed by chaos as it is by order. [My songs] are structured because they're written, they have a form, there's a balance, and there's sort of a mathematical geometric structure to them. But then within that, I like to add a chaotic, free-flowing element that will counterbalance that. I think in the end it sounds sort of lucid."
Along with the sonic simplification on Be Small came a lifestyle change as well. Temple decided it was time to kick booze.
"It was more about getting older and wanting to stick around for a while, and establishing better habits," Temple says. "You can kind of coast in a way when you're younger. I turned 40 this year. It was time to grow up. It's one thing to stay sort of drunk while you're touring constantly or making records and living in this sort of dream mode, but when that stops... we had this long break between our last record and we weren't touring, but I was still drinking the way I was when we were on the road and it was just time to pull in the reins. For me, it's much less tumultuous and much more productive to work sober. I think I had to go around the whole wheel to figure that out."
Temple seems to be proving how much scaling back can amplify all the right parts. "Our culture is pushing us to be bigger and better, faster, stronger, and I think it's getting us into trouble," he says. "I think we have to minimize that, and think smaller [rather] than bigger for once."