Wednesday 30 September 2020

LISTEN: Tempesst - 'Must Be A Dream'

“With this LP, we’ve created something we’re really proud of that truly cements our identity as a group, at least.” 

As the days (and nights, and, well, all of the time) start to suddenly get chilly, a record which appears audibly sun-drenched is exactly what we need, right? Luckily, London via Australia quintet Tempesst are on the case with their debut album Must Be A Dream, released today via their own label Pony Recordings. Produced by the band’s longstanding collaborator Elliot Heinrich and mixed by Claudius Mittendorfer, the record explores themes of ‘identity, purpose, ageing, love, loss, substance abuse, the death of loved ones and remembering the beauty beneath it all.’ 

For me, it’s a soundtrack for sunnier days. Years in the making and long anticipated but more than worth the wait. The band describe the process - “over the past four years we’ve been carving our own path, finding our feet and forming our identity. It was pretty obvious that a traditional path in the music industry couldn’t provide us with the autonomy and potential for longevity that has always been important to us.” 

“So, we’ve built our own studio, created our own record label, filmed our own videos and set ourselves up to keep doing this for as long as we want to. The luxury of having our own space has allowed us to evolve creatively and to experiment in ways we haven’t been able to before. Musically, there is an element of surprise and it never gets too comfortable, as if in a dream.” 

The quintet started life more than a decade ago in the small Queensland city of Noosa, on the Australian coast, with twin brothers Toma and Andy Banjanin. Coming from a musical family and members of the Pentecostal community, their first steps into the world of music were as members of their church band at fourteen. Performing four times a week for four years, Toma recounts that they “picked up a lot from that whole experience, including working with older guys who taught us music theory and important things about playing as a band.” It is also where they met Kane Reynolds and Blake Mispieka, now the keyboard and bass player for Tempesst

Leaving home to explore a wider world of music, the brothers took to the UK, before leaving for Brooklyn, NY - the heart of the indie movement in the 2000s, figure-headed by the likes of The Strokes, Yeah Yeah Yeahs and Vampire Weekend. A furiously creative and community driven DIY scene, through which the brothers expanded their musical interests, discovering as much as they could. 

With the expiration of the visas bringing them back to the UK (Hackney, more specifically) the band was formed, with Kane, Blake and Eric Weber completing the line-up. Andy explains the band’s desire to create their own studio space in which to record and practice - “we had a really kind of basic production studio that Toma kept at his house, and at the time we actually were looking for rehearsal space because in London - one of the biggest challenges that you have is that you can’t really make noise. So we came across this warehouse and it was way bigger than anything we were looking for but it had us wondering what it would actually cost to set up a studio. So we decided on this space thinking that into the future, we can use this to enable our creativity.” 

Desiring to carve their own paths in the industry, they set up Pony Recordings while piecing together their studio. Without the time or financial pressures that a regular studio set-up would bring, owning their own made the process far more free, creatively. Andy explains - “we’re quite hands on anyway, so to record in our own studio just makes sense [...] with the studio, we have the time to work on all these key things that are quintessential to our sound but also experiment and add an element of surprise, whether that is a weird synth solo or a key change. It’s those little departures that keep the listener on their toes.” 

The record is recognisably Tempesst, taking elements that I’ve come to love from the tracks of their two EPs, but it is filled with exciting new sounds and influences. Must admit that I was not expecting a saxophone solo but that I am completely here for it. Stepping slightly sideways from psychedelica in parts, the record incorporates various sonic influences, with Phil Spector and “everyone from Scott Walker to Jeff Buckley to Nick Cave” proving influential in the record’s creation, while the vocal arrangements “were definitely inspired by Eagles and the first Crosby Stills & Nash LP, as well as the narrative storytelling of Joni Mitchell and Blue.”  

The album manages to keep you on your toes, not falling at the hurdle of being a bit same-y. Currently, as I write this at 1am on day of release, a favourite track is Age of the Bored but I’m genuinely loving the entire record. I feel like I write that about every record that I ‘review’ - but I don’t review albums, I recommend them, so… you know. This one passed the test. It’s superb. Now I just need to while away the time before we can see them performing it live!

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