Written By Laura Curry
The Temperance Movement – Finding Joy & Community in Rock ‘n’ Roll
In sharp contrast to the social movement from which they take their name, The Temperance Movement’s music encourages listeners to shed their inhibitions and embrace rock ’n’ roll with open arms and ears. They provide listeners with soulful vocals, rousing lyrics, layered guitars with plenty of solos and an invigorating live performance that work to rile up the crowd. Show-goers will be unable to abstain from a rowdy night out when they go to see The Temperance Movement.
The U.K. based blues rock group consists of five very experienced musicians: Phil Campbell on vocals, Paul Sayer on guitars, Nick Fyffe on bass, Damon Wilson on drums and Matt White on guitars. It’s no surprise that their talent landed them two shows opening for The Rolling Stones in 2014. By this time, their discography consisted of the five-track “Pride EP” and their self-titled debut album. After spending most of two years touring, they released “White Bear” in July of 2016 and embarked on another lengthy tour.
While they played a few shows in the U.S. in July, they are happy to be back in the States for a longer tour, especially now that fans have had time to memorize songs off of “White Bear.” The rest of their tour stretches to February 4, and fans in both Canada and Europe will be able to experience the vibrant, rock ’n’ roll music of The Temperance Movement.
Last year, as the band geared up for a show at Wonder Bar in Asbury Park, we had the opportunity to interview guitarist Paul Sayer about their tour, their new album White Bear and the fully collaborative nature of their songwriting process. Although the interview was over the phone, Sayer conveyed their passion and effervescent presence and it was easy to visualize a performance in which all listeners’ eyes and ears were glued to the stage, fully immersed in the music.
From the interview with Sayer and their live performance, it became clear that the main theme of White Bear, which focuses on rock ’n’ roll music providing a sense of community, manifests in both their music and the band itself. Rock ’n’ roll brought these talented musicians together and helped them become a close-knit group whose members are in sync both in songwriting and on stage. They feed off of each other’s energy during performances, and there’s a palpable connection between them.
This theme also ties into how they regarded their fans after the show. Although they were exhausted and hungry after a long performance, (Sayer racked up a hefty appetite for the Wonder Bar’s burgers and fries after so many intense guitar solos) they showed their appreciation for the fans who stuck around after the show. They didn’t just accept compliments or give half-hearted replies; instead, it was clear that they genuinely loved embracing their fans and hearing what they had to say.
Sayer sees the truth in the theme during their performances as he observes the enthusiastic reaction of the listeners.
“A rock ’n’ roll show is a place where similar-minded people all get together and there’s a kind of communion spirit to it,” Sayer said. “With the music that we make, it’s not Top 40 stuff that gets pumped out constantly to you, it’s more of the stuff that people speak out—a stronger feeling of like-mindedness between the people who come to the show. They not only feel a connection with the band, but they also relate to each other.”
Another theme at work on White Bear focuses on persevering and finding joy in life despite all of the negativity occurring in the world. This theme is strongly represented in “Three Bulleits,” which is a catchy, anthemic rock tune featuring the lyrics “There won’t ever be a right when it’s all so wrong.” There’s a heavy meaning behind these words as they connect to our current world situation. Sayer described that when we turn on the TV, we just see so many horrible crimes and disasters happening, and it’s hard to stay positive.
“It’s basically a theme of the generation,” Sayer said. “We live in a time where if you look out into the world, there’s not a lot of optimism. That sense of optimism has to come from inside you and your close group of friends.”
In terms of the sound of The Temperance Movement, listeners might find their ears noticing similarities to the music of The Black Crowes, The Rolling Stones, The Beatles, Aerosmith, AC/DC, Deep Purple, Bon Jovi or The Black Keys. However, this type of categorizing strikes a nerve in Sayer.
Sayer explains that today, it seems like bands are judged by what inspires them, and it impacts how people perceive their music before listening to it.
“It annoys me sometimes when people make up their minds about whether they’re going to like what we do based on what we say influences us,” Sayer said. “Although we are influenced by it, you need to listen to what we do and decide for yourselves if you like it.”
As an example, if Sayer told you that they’re influenced by The Black Keys, and you dislike that band, you’ll jump to conclusions and think that you won’t like The Temperance Movement before you even hear them.
“We are influenced by The Black Keys, but we don’t sound like them,” Sayer said. “It’s just a part of the picture, and the only way you’re going to get the whole picture is if you listen to what we do, and not base it on whether or not you like the people we’ve been influenced by.”
As Sayer discusses their songwriting process, it’s evident that The Temperance Movement discovered a community spirit for themselves from writing rock music together, and it helped them reach a more cohesive sound.
Sayer thinks they’ve gotten more in tune with each other from one album to the next. “On the first record, three of us sat in a room and wrote songs,” he said. “With “White Bear,” a lot of initial ideas came from the five of us jamming in sound checks and stuff, while we were on the road. It’s more collaborative. And of course, it’s the same five guys as the first album, so there’s going to be a similarity between them, but they were written in a totally different way.”
The process happens a couple different ways, Sayer said. Inspiration hits and a nugget of an idea forms. Campbell takes this golden nugget and writes the lyrics and vocal parts. Sometimes, Sayer takes his guitar and sits with Campbell or White to write parts of songs, and other times, Sayer has an already-formed structure of a song minus the vocals, and then they work it out.
As one might imagine, it gets difficult at times to write a complete song from start to finish with five people, Sayer said, so they tend to break up the process with another useful songwriting technique. They’ll go off in pairs to brainstorm and write, then come back together as a band to jam it out and tweak any parts.
Everyone in the band had previously worked on his own as a musician, so each brought a uniquely spiced flavor to the plate. There is a high level of musicianship between all of them, which is dangerous if it becomes the main focus of what they are doing.
“The most important thing to us is the songs,” Sayer said. “This means giving the songwriting precedence over the musicianship. Musicianship is the way that you deliver the songwriting. We’ve learned to become a band together rather than just five people who play their instruments quite well.”
While comparing “White Bear” to their previous self-titled album, Sayer explained that their first album was very honest. They recorded just two or three takes of each song and picked which one they preferred and moved onto the next one. Since they had experience completing the recording process in this bona fide way, it gave them confidence to experiment with sounds on “White Bear.”
“The core of what we do is still the same,” Sayer said. “With the second album, we weren’t afraid to go back and add to it and refine it to take the track in a certain direction. Overall, the sound is a bit more produced and developed.”
Additionally, White Bear reflects their evolution as a band. Sayer said that they spent 3 or 4 years touring before recording their second album, and their sound became more polished. “The sound of the band will constantly change and we’re on the path to a really refined version of The Temperance Movement,” Sayer said. “From one record to another, we’re going to change what we want to do. We don’t want to cover the same ground over and over again.”
Sayer’s dedication to this craft is obvious. Perhaps what fuels his passion to create and perform music is the strong connection he has with his band mates and the spirit of community he sees in the listeners he meets along the way.
“I love getting up on stage and playing each night enough to carry on doing it, despite the fact that we have to drive 8 hours that day and share a room in a 2-star hotel or sleep on a couch and not know if we’re going to make any money at the end of the night,” Sayer said.
Driving to shows day after day is no easy feat, and Sayer cherishes their performances each night—it gets him through the long drives. “It’s all about the time that we’re on stage,” Sayer said. “We’re there to give people a great night out. It’s as simple as that.”