The Trouble with Templeton
By Conor Barrett
Thomas Calder, mastermind behind ‘The Trouble with Templeton’ has been very busy in the past few years. Writing music, touring the globe and winning awards has taken up the majority of his time with the fruits of his labor to prove it. Providing a sound that captures both what Thomas wants to say and what the listeners want to hear has propelled TTWT to an international act not to be ignored. He managed to find some time between albums to answer some questions about the band and to provide some insight on how his project has come to be as they stand now.
First off, congrats. You’ve managed to win yourself quite a few awards; taking the top spot for the 2013 APRA (Australian Performing Right Association) songwriting competition, 3rd place in the 2013 International Songwriting Competition and then you went and won the 2014 Grant McLennan Fellowship affording you $25,000 and to travel and submerse yourself in different international musical cultures. Do you have any plans in place to take advantage of this nice chunk of change?
Thomas Calder: First off, Thanks! It’s been an amazing few years. I’m always extremely thankful for the support that’s been given to the music. I’m heading to London in a couple of weeks for four months to immerse myself in the city and write songs.
Aside from the burst in recognition and the awarding of the money, have there been any unexpected influences that could only have happened thanks to these awards?
Thomas Calder: It’s a hard thing to quantify, because like anywhere in life you never know quite what lead you to where you are now. Beyond many compliments and congratulations, there’s nothing I can say directly came from receiving the awards. It becomes a big help when applying for grants, or visa’s or shows and festivals in other countries etc, Just as a way of affirming our legitimacy on the industry side of things.
Your first album released in 2011 received quite a bit of acclaim and now your second album is truly defying the assumption of a sophomore slump, receiving fantastic reviews and earning you a spot on the Bella Union label alongside such names as Flaming Lips, Beach House and Fleet Foxes, just to name a few. Your music is certainly worthy of being grouped in with those names, but is there ever a sense of intimidation as the “fresh new faces”?
Thomas Calder: Not really. We honestly just keep our heads down concentrate on the music we’re making. The way it’s perceived or our position in that world is, to a degree, out of our hands. So we’ve found it does little good beyond a point to worry about things you needn’t. I think musicians probably have enough internal anxiety without worrying about being the new kids on the block or living up to anything others are saying about them.
You picked up quite a bit of traction with ‘Bleeders’ and then all hell broke loose with ‘Rookie’, being played all over the radio, international tour dates are being booked and a cry for more is being voiced. Has there been any particularly defining moment(s) when you stepped back and thought “Holy shit, we’re doing it”?
Thomas Calder: Those moments really come to me when I’ve just written a song, or mostly when we’re making the records, and it’s always from a point of “Holy shit, we’re doing it, we’ve just made something I’m incredibly proud of and excited about”. Everything that’s happened outside of that in terms of career and exposure etc has been absolutely incredible and something I’m truly thankful for, but it’s much harder for me to get perspective on that side of things.
The debut album, ‘Bleeders’ was a solo project and took less than 20 days to record in your own home. Over the next year, ‘The Trouble with Templeton’ turned into a 5-piece band which led to the release of ‘Rookie’. And now I understand that you’ve whittled down to a 3-piece. There are undeniable similarities in sound throughout both albums yet they both seem to be pulling at such an array of different emotional strings. Can you think of any one thing that you’re trying to emulate with each of these songs and bandmates?
Thomas Calder: It completely varies from song to song, but I often find a clear theme or concept in the music after the fact. For example, we’re in the middle of making a record at the moment, and I can now, having been able to hear it back myself and gain some objectivity on the songs, see very clearly what I’ve been going through in my life, and how it lead to these songs. In some ways, the sound and the style of this record is in stark contrast to what we did on Rookie. I’m interested in always trying different things. I like almost all genres of music and certainly don’t feel tied to one when it comes to creating, I’d like to try everything and anything. So I suppose the underlying ideal within the band is to never stop exploring and growing, to take risks and try for something new and unique.
Things for the band seemed to have settled down in the recent months after the initial buzz from the release of ‘Rookie’. I’m assuming (and hoping) that this lull is in preparation for the release of another album. Even with all the early success, is there anything new that you’re trying to accomplish with your next album, be it musically or in general?
Thomas Calder: We’re always trying to do something new for ourselves and push our comfort zones a little. I’m not usually able to identify what it is I’m going for until it’s already done, but it’s just my and our instinct to push for something different. I’m always working hard on Songwriting and particularly exploring lyrics, and new ways to tell a story or explore a theme or emotion.