Kav Temperley On ‘Machines Of Love & Grace’

Armed with infectious hooks and weighty subject matter, Eskimo Joe frontman Kav Temperley has delivered his much anticipated sophomore record Machines Of Love & Grace which features singles Graduation Day, Last Of The Wine and the title track. Temperley’s latest release is a testament to his power as a songwriter; leaning into difficult and emotional territory, yet managing to navigate its complexities with both care, courage, and inimitable musical dexterity.

Written, recorded, and produced solo at his own Studio 42 in Fremantle, current single Last Of The Wine sees Temperley echoing back to Eskimo Joe’s A Song Is A City period, while taking inspiration from prolific indie-rock icons such as Beck and Wilco, with a sprinkle of Spoon for good measure. The result is a truly Temperley-esque piece of music, though its double-time drums and catchy melodies hide a more pertinent and harrowing narrative. As he himself warns, it’s territory we should cautiously enter at our own risk. Kav takes Hi Fi Way through the making of Machine Of Love & Grace.

It must be a really awesome time for you coming off that massive Eskimo Joe tour and focusing on to the release of your solo album Machines of Love & Grace?
Yeah, I’ve got a funny kind of feeling in my tummy about the whole thing. I’m super excited and really excited about, and slightly sad to have finished this tour which have been so enjoyable. Onwards and upwards and releasing an album that I’ve been working on for like three years.

Musically speaking, is this the most satisfied you felt creatively and playing live?
It’s a funny one because we are just on this post Covid thing where people are still just getting into it, but it feels like there’s a sense of hope again because going and playing live shows is amazing. Also, like you said, creatively I’ve put out some new music again and it’s something that I’m really proud of because it’s my second solo album. I just feel a bit more comfortable in the skin of a solo artist. The first time round I was searching for who I was as outside of Eskimo Joe. I had some really great producers who helped me along the lines with that. This time around by necessity, because I wrote and recorded most of it in isolation during Covid, I had to do everything myself. The end result is that I feel like no stone is unturned, if you know what I mean.

Does that make the result even more satisfying knowing that the majority of the album you did it yourself?
Yeah, it’s satisfying to know that I can, that I don’t need to, I mean I had people come in and play drums and there’s people who have mixed the album for me. It’s a lot of work, but it’s nice to know that if I want to sit down and make a record, I can just do it and I don’t need anybody else really. It’s definitely a lot more fun with other people in the room. It gets pretty boring at a certain point in time. That’s why I’ve got a whole lot of collaborators on the record because you get to a moment where you kind of have that forest from the trees moment where you’re like, ugh, I don’t even know. That’s when you know you can rely on your friends to come in and give you a bit of perspective. That’s why I had people like Katy Steele and John Butler come in and have a bit of a jam.

Was Katy and John obvious collaborators when you were writing those songs that they appear on?
Not really. I mean, with Katy, we’d known each other for a long time and I started writing the song Graduation Day, knowing that I really wanted to get Katy on board. I didn’t know if she’d be interested. I sent her the song and it just had the first verse and the chorus. I was like, do you want to be on this song? Luckily enough she emailed back saying “I love it. It’s a great song, Let’s do it”. You just don’t know whether people, where their heads at, sometimes people are in the right head space to do that and sometimes they’re not. Katy was, which was great. The song with John, it was funny because we sat down to start writing a song for his record. We’d written a song in the past for one of the tracks on his album Home. I thought we were just going to do another one of them, we started writing this song and it wasn’t until I got home and I’d listened to it a few times that I started to think, you know what, what if we split up the verses and turn this into a duet? I put it to him and he was like, “Yep, that sounds great. Let’s do it.”

With your first album, I thought you set the benchmark pretty high. Did you feel the pressure at all trying to top that?
You should always be setting your benchmark as high as it can possibly be. I just truly believe that we should all be putting out art to the best of our abilities and you should be in love with whatever you’re doing. Like when I was making All Your Devotion, I was in love with every part of it and really into it. Doing this next record, I was just like, that’s rubbish. This next album’s amazing! You know what I mean? You have to be in love with the project that you’re working on, otherwise people can feel it on the other end. I don’t know if I was thinking I’ve set the benchmark high, I think it was more of a sense of freedom that I’d already made a solo record and I was just getting back into it again.

The great thing about doing solo work is you can work at your own pace. I always set myself deadlines, but you can work at your own pace and you can also go as deep or as light or just make any decision that you want to. That’s quite refreshing in saying that the thing that’s also daunting about making solo records is the decision making. You’re continuously having to make these huge decisions on, okay, is this song finished? Is this the right lyric? The buck stops at you. So there’s a lot of decision making that goes into it.

Was that also a hard thing making the album in isolation and trying to get creatively inspired?
I don’t really ever have an issue with getting creative ideas started. I think you can talk to all creatives about this, but the hardest part is finishing them. The beginning of writing the record was just absolute bliss because I was just jumping into it and finding my way through this brand new playground of getting an idea started. I always have an idea in my mind that I want to make some grand concept album. But in saying that you never really know what you’re writing about until you’ve written it. I started writing the first couple of tracks for the record knowing that I was documenting what was going on.

I didn’t want to make it too heavy. I didn’t want to create a PTSD moment where people are like, Oh shit, I can’t listen to that, otherwise I’m going to relive lockdown again. I just wanted to do something that I felt really passionate because the arse was falling out of the whole entire music industry. I just wanted to prove to people that we need artists, we need people to write songs about these things that are going on in front of us because that’s the only way that I like to interpret this stuff. I don’t want to read cold hard facts about what we went through. I want to hear a story that I get my own story back from. That’s what I was passionately trying to dig into when I was making this record.

I didn’t know where I was going to end up, but the very final song that I wrote for the record is the intro track, which is a song called Emergency in D Minor. That’s meant to be the beginning of the journey because once I got to the end of the record and I’d written all these songs and I’d documented all these parts of it I’m like, Okay, cool, we’ve got a storyline here, this feels good. Now I need an introduction. I wrote this song, which I could only write it on the other side of it, but it was about emerging from the lockdown. We’re all in our pyjamas, we’re looking out the window for the first time going, okay, taking my pyjamas off, coming back out. I really wanted to write a song that was going to be a big epic Shine On You Crazy Diamond, epic opener with complete with saxophone solo. That’s exactly what I did. The song introduces the whole storyline of all of the subjects that I’ve touched on, but yes, it also has a smoky saxophone solo, and a whole bunch of crazy synthesizers, which was lots of fun.

Did you find that once you were writing you literally couldn’t stop once you really got into it?
There’s a moment that you get to in about the three-quarter mark of making a record, which is the hardest part, and you turn into a bit of a nutty professor at that point in time. I walked out to pick up myself a coffee at a local bakery and there was Nat Fyfe, captain of the Fremantle Dockers was in there. I ran into him and started talking to him, I must have just sounded like an absolute crazy man because my hair was out everywhere. I was like, oh yeah, I’m working on this record, and I don’t know if I’m finished, or I need to do this or that and I was like babbling at him.

Then I was like, oh, anyway, what are you up to? He is like, I’m playing football tonight because it was like the finals going on. I was like, of course you are, you’re fucking dude from the Fremantle Dockers. I would’ve looked like an absolute crazy man at that point in time. Now I’m on the other side of it I feel like I feel completely clear about all of my intentions, but at that point in time, at the three-quarter mark, you don’t know where you’re at, but you know, you’ve got more work to do and you feel like a nutty professor.

What did you think when you sat back and you played it start to end for the first time?
It was very satisfying. I always like to try and make a record that I would want to listen to and to have a flow in it that gives you a real sense of, I still romanticize the idea of making records and putting headphones on and going on a journey. I felt like I created that. When I got the final master back, which was, wasn’t even that long ago now, I just sat down and listened to it by myself and patted myself on the back because there was no one else around. It was just me.

How do you compare both your albums?
I was really searching for some sounds on the first record and I got there with particular parts of it, and this is getting really nerdy, but the drum sound for me was really important. I really wanted to capture this classic early seventies kind of drum sound, which still sounded modern. I got there and that was really satisfying. I spent a lot of time analysing what I wanted to make. Whereas with this record I was literally down in the trenches having to write the songs, record the songs, I’m talking to you from my studio at the moment, and I would have to press record and run to the other end of the studio just to get to the piano in time to play the piano.

I was going through that stuff and not analysing it. By the light of day now I look at the two albums, this second album, it, it just feels a bit more effortless, it just feels like I’m just making music as opposed to trying to think about this thing that I need to create. I’ve just laid into the sounds that I like. It was literally like I would be engineering and recording everything and the question would be, does it sound good? Great, awesome, let’s move on. Not, is this the right sound? I didn’t do any of that. I just made sounds that I thought sounded good and then just kept on moving. What came out of it is, funnily enough, is a much more Eskimo Joey sounding record. It sounds a lot, it sounds like a gentler version of the work that I did on A Song Is A City. That’s okay because that’s who I am. I’m the dude from Eskimo Joe, so it makes sense, but by the light of day it just feels a bit more effortless this record.

Are you planning on a national tour for this album, including little ‘ole Adelaide as well?
A hundred percent! I’ll hit the road in February. I don’t know how many people I’ll have with me, whether it’ll be just me with an acoustic guitar or a whole band. My plan is in February to hit the road and play all the capital cities and reignite all those fans who are out there who’ve been waiting for me to come play.

Interview By Rob Lyon

Connect with Kav Temperly
Facebook ~ Twitter ~ Instagram ~ Spotify

Catch Kav Temperley on the following dates, tickets HERE:

Grace Emily Hotel, Adelaide SA

Duke of George, Fremantle WA

Melbourne Recital Centre, Melbourne VIC

The Vanguard, Sydney NSW

Lefty’s Music QLD

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