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Interview & Review: Alfie Templeman

Thekla, Bristol - 11/03/22

Soundcheck is in full-swing and two hours before doors, a queue has already taken shape, snaking around the carpark of the docked-boat venue. On board, Alfie Templeman is on stage playing the glittering rose-gold drum set that stands proudly in front of a backdrop featuring his name in bold letters. He’s a multi-instrumentalist; “I started off with drums - drums is the only thing I got taught at”, he begins, whilst we’re sitting in Pixey, the support act’s dressing room; the calm before the storm! “It was like I learnt jazz drums when I was like seven, I got lessons until I was like twelve or thirteen. I just learnt all of the basics - I grew up listening really closely to drums, but I knew I wanted to do more than that, I wanted to make my own songs and I didn’t really want other people to play the parts! I figured out guitar by just listening to the records and like playing along and figuring out the chords and just remembering them, like associating the notes to the actual frets, and once you’ve got that down like you can kinda just do anything - you just know where to go. So, it’s all playing it by ear! And then I learnt the bass; I just taught myself the bass - basically, excuse the pun,” he turns to look at me and laughs, “I learnt the bass because my dad is left handed, I’m right handed, so he had this like cheap bass, and I just played it upside down, and then I learnt the bass because I had a kind of good rhythm from the drums, but I also knew enough to get around guitar, so then I was just like, ‘ok, I can probably like, just get around like playing a few root notes in my songs and filling in the gaps, and like just after practice and after trial and error, releasing songs and recording them, I think I just managed to like get a little bit better at it, so now I think I’m like a pretty decent bass player.” He continues, “That also came from cello, because I used to be able to play cello a little bit; I had a few lessons when I was a kid, but I could never do it because I could never read music, so I dropped out with that, but I still play cello on my records, sometimes. And then I also play a little bit of sitar, and I play like piano and keyboards and stuff, but that’s about it, I think!” All I can manage in response to this is a stunned, “wow”, and we both start laughing because of how humble he is.

Alfie started making music at a young age, and explains that in a way, he was “born with the musical gene” and he “just really love[s] making music, as well, not just listening to it, but playing it and making it with other people.” Aged 7, Alfie started a band with his guitarist, Jos Shepherd, (whom I briefly met backstage following the first guitar string of tour snapping) before going on to make his own music, as well, and producing it at home, in the same way he still does. “The love for it never died off, it probably just grew even more, because once it became my full job, it was like I didn’t have to worry about school or anything, anymore, I could just focus on [music] the whole time.” So, what was it that influenced Alfie Templeman, the teenage indie-pop prodigy taking the indie scene by storm, to take up music? “It’s a bunch of things, really,” he reflects, often looking towards the window opposite the leather sofa we’re sitting on, “It was one of the only things that my brain really connected with - I’ve always had that kind of energy for it, like it’s one of the only things that has made me like bothered in life to really just pick myself up and go for it!”

Last month, Alfie revealed the plans surrounding his debut album, including the title, album artwork and release date, alongside the release of Broken, the lead single which sonically is upbeat, easy-going and overall, a dazzling indie-pop track. However, delve deeper into the lyrics, and it’s a much more sad song, touching on mental health. On this record, Mellow Moon, set for release on 27th May, he explains that he is “talking a lot more openly on a lot of the songs” and mentions how he is “not even just singing more openly, but playing music more the way that I have always wanted to, and being more passionate and being more honest about the way that I play things and the things that I put in my songs.” As he trails off, Alfie describes the highly anticipated upcoming album as being him “gaining confidence, in a way.” Thematically, Mellow Moon as a full-length release explores concepts such as, “a lot of mental health in there, obviously, like just talking about things like anxiety and depression, but also just really fun songs, like songs that I genuinely just enjoy that put me in a good mood, like I think that’s important to have in there, because nobody’s going to want to listen to me whinging for like fourteen songs!” He inhales before continuing, “But also, there’s a lot of like pop culture - the first song, A Western, has lots of like Tarantino mentions and like weird kind of like pop culture like Elton John bits and like, it’s just really funny and silly. So, some of it’s like very self-deprecating and just silly, but like, other bits are quite serious. I think it’s a nice blend.”

The overall vibe of the album was inspired by Alfie’s fascination by space in general and “how there’s so much out there, but so little that we know about, but the Mellow Moon, in a way, is kind of like a little resort, and a safe place that I can go to, to get away for a bit.” Alfie’s choice for the album’s overarching title was used in reference to it being his “own little space in my mind, my own little creative canvas where I can let it all out - it’s just a really calming place, everything is just really calm and easy-going and chill and I can just take a break from everything else. It’s a safe space, essentially.” We move on to talk through the process of making the album and how it all came about, sipping from Thekla branded paper cups filled with cola; “It started in 2020, funnily enough, so it goes back a while. I started off recording the drums, and I did them in my dad’s shed, like crammed them all in, and tried to record it all through one microphone. And then I also did some stuff with Justin [Hayward-Young], the singer from The Vaccines, and we went up to Suffolk and recorded in his friend’s barn, and that was really nice - it was like really nice and hot and a good summer, so I just had fun there. But, yeah, also just staying at home and getting stoned and thinking of stupid stuff,” he laughs before motioning towards my iPhone that is recording our conversation from a table that fills the centre of the room, and adding, “and then recording it and demoing it to literally like a voice memo, and then going back and getting really on it, and really enjoying it, and then piecing the puzzle together. So, I’d take the guitar, record it, and then layer it up with bass, put the synths in, add some drums, think of the vocals, think of what suits the vocals, maybe look at my notes app and associate some lyrics to this song, and say ‘Oh, this actually works with this kind of vibe’, so it was all kind of pick ’n’ mix in a way.”

"So, some of it’s like very self-deprecating and just silly, but like, other bits are quite serious. I think it’s a nice blend.”

As well as writing and releasing music under ‘Alfie Templeman’, Alfie also has a side-project, titled Ariel Days, that he doesn’t promote as much as his other music, and features tunes that seem less aimed at mainstream radio play. When preparing an interview, and doing my initial research, I read an interview where Alfie mentioned that at the time he had recorded around 500 songs. When I asked him about whether he writes music specifically for one project, he explained that he started collecting songs after the release of 2021 self-proclaimed mini-album, Forever Isn’t Long Enough, and said to himself, “whatever I write going onwards, I’ll put towards this new record.” He explains further that, “It’s not like I’m going, ‘oh, I’ve got 500 songs, how am I going to choose these?’ because a lot of those older songs are put into an archive and released eventually, but they’d never become part of this new project, because I still want to record new stuff.” Alfie then describes the process of making music and how he will “spend a few months just recording as much as possible” and will then “look back at it and listen to the ones that still really make me excited, the same way that they made me excited when I was recording them, and if that excitement stays, or even develops and gets bigger, then I’m like, ‘yeah, I’ve found a great song that I really enjoy’, like if it has a really good meaning, as well, that’s even extra and an added bonus.” Earlier in the week, Alfie released his sophomore record under Ariel Days, the follow up to 2020 self-titled project, named Ariel Days II, which features music that is, “a lot more loose” and “a bit more crazy, like it’s extremely weird”, and is a way of allowing Alfie to express himself fully and be really honest within his music, without it being heavily promoted or spread amongst the mainstream. On the new record, he explains that, “it touches on the proggy stuff that I like, and the quieter, folky stuff like Alex G, Elliott Smith”, and the songs are “like the last Ariel Days album; just honest things that I’m thinking about, like places that I’ve been.” This is particularly highlighted through the cover artwork for the project, which features a place that Alfie has spent a lot of time in over the course of the last few summers in order to get away because he knows that no-one ever goes there, so it’s like a really peaceful place that has a tree that he climbs in order to sit and reflect for a while, which then leads to lyrics that help him to process anything that is on his mind.

Downstairs in the Auditorium, soundcheck for support is coming to an end, before the eventual opening of doors and the beginning of the main event, and we wrap up the interview with a reflection on music festivals and dream line-ups. I love a difficult question, so tasked Alfie with the role of putting on a music festival, which he theoretically plays at, and can choose any headliners, dead or alive. “There’s a band called FEET that I really like that I’d get on there,” he suggests, “I’d get Sports Team on there as well - that would be quite funny!” There’s a long pause for time to think, with Alfie filling the silence with an elongated “um”, before deciding on Matilda Mann, “who is a fucking amazing singer and she’s an amazing songwriter,” and explains that he’d “get Thomas [Headon], of course! Gotta get Headon!” and then adding in the Dirty Hit signees, Oscar Lang and Beabadoobee, and concluding that it would be “quite an eccentric mix” that would be “pretty fire!” It has the chaos, but then there’s the more chilled sets such as Matilda Mann to balance it out. Definitely a festival line-up that would go down well!

Back in the main arena, excitement’s running high as the doors are about to be opened, and the final preparations are being made before the start of the gig that has seen many dedicated fans queueing outside, some since 1pm this afternoon, in the freezing cold and typical wet and windy British weather. Alfie ponders whether the boat could sail if the crowd go crazy enough, before presenting the theory that he heard that if you were to run from one length of the venue to the other, multiple times, quickly enough, then you can actually cause the boat to move. Suddenly, he runs onto the stage and disappears out the back again, as Thekla is flooded with hundreds of eager fans, running across the venue to secure their spot along the front row, hoping to catch the best view of one of music’s most talented and exciting rising acts of right now.

After an electric, upbeat and incredibly energetic set from support act, Pixey, Alfie and his equally as talented band, made up of guitarist, Jos Shepherd, drummer, Adam Phillip, and bassist, Cam Owden, enter the stage on the ship, moored in the Mud Dock of Bristol’s Floating Harbour, accompanied from cheering from the crowd. They all take to their respective instruments, before going into the opening notes of Shady, a track taken from his most recent full length release, Forever Isn’t Long Enough.

Despite the studio versions of the tracks sounding a lot more synth-pop and essentially your classic bedroom pop tunes, live, Alfie and his band take a bit more of a rock ’n’ roll stance, really adding a more electric and brash sound to the otherwise more laid-back and breezy tunes. With the ramp up of the sonics, the energy and excitement of the sold out crowd of around four hundred hardcore fans is compelled to match it, and there’s so much jumping around and euphoria, that we probably did rock the boat.

Who I Am, a song that on the studio version has a beachy, almost lo-fi vibe, and Stop Thinking (About Me), a more synth-pop led tune, have an added depth live, thanks to the heavier beat of the drum, and the jumping around and head-banging Alfie accompanies to the music. It’s the same story for the majority of the songs on the setlist tonight, and 2020 track, Obvious Guy, even encourages the beginnings of a mosh pit, with everyone jumping up and down, arms flailing. It’s not the track that I expected to receive this reception, but it completely works and is quite the highlight of the gig.

As well as older tracks from previous EPs and projects, and fan-favourites, the setlist also consists of some currently unreleased tracks, offering a teaser as to what we can expect from Alfie’s upcoming debut, Mellow Moon. Candy Floss features the same big singalong chorus destined to really get the crowds going, once they have learnt it word-for-word, and despite the title-track, Mellow Moon, sounding as if it will be, well, mellow, it is actually relatively upbeat, with Alfie continuing to jump around the stage and encouraging the audience to clap to the beat.

There’s less singing along for the unreleased tunes, and a greater sea of phone cameras held up to capture the sonics of them, however, the chanting and big singalong from the crowds returns for the Tears For Fears induced Everybody’s Gonna Love Somebody, where you could hear the crowd louder and clearer than the man himself. Wait I Lied, has a really thick and resonant bass, and offers a slightly slower moment in the set, but keeps the vibes high, leaving the crowd to sing the lines of the chorus: “Wait, I lied, do you wanna know the truth?” The set leads into the encore, following a heavier rendition of 3D Feelings, leaving the crowd begging for another song, beginning a chant of “one more song, one more song!”

The band return for two more songs: lead single from Mellow Moon, Broken, and round off on Happiness In Liquid Form, offering up one more big indie singalong and the most jumping and highest energy of the night. There’s also a moment where Alfie goes for more of a shouty approach for the line, “Cowabunga! I Feel Younger!”, and the crowd join in - a raucous enthusiasm that is then adopted for the remainder of the gig.

It’s an early finishing show, as the boat is about to take on the form of a nightclub for the remainder of the night, however, the concert goers flock to the merch stand to pick up their Templeman inspired goods and stick around in hope of getting a quick photo and a personalised autograph. In terms of the set time for an Alfie Templeman gig, Forever Isn’t Long Enough (pardon the pun) - the energy and euphoria that comes with his shows is so uplifting and genuinely enjoyable to watch that it leaves you craving more, even after such a vibrant and lively hour and a bit set. Mellow Moon is sure to go down very very well, and I cannot wait to see what lengths it takes Alfie to next!

You can preorder Alfie Templeman’s upcoming debut album, Mellow Moon, set for release on 27th May 2022, here!

Alfie’s social medias:

Instagram: @alfietempleman

Twitter: @alfietempleman

TikTok: @alfietempleman

Facebook: @atemplemanmusic


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