While backstage at last year’s Reading Festival in their native Reading, England, members of The Cooper Temple Clause received a nugget of wisdom from a record company executive that has stuck with them:
“You can’t flirt with America; you’ve got to shag it.”
The indie-rock sextet hopes it can go all the way in the United States with the Feb. 24 release of its Morning/RCA album, “Kick Up the Fire, and Let the Flames Break Loose” (produced by Dan Austin and the group).
“You’ve got a big, big place, a lot different to England, in terms of making people know about you. You have to make a lot more effort to get noticed,” bassist Didz Hammond said recently.
In the U.K., the band broke loose in 2002 the old-fashioned way, through incessant touring – not the usual NME hype machine. Seeing contemporaries like Gay Dad and Ultrasound fail miserably was enough to convince them that they needed to try a new route, Hammond says.
“When they got signed, the press wrote them up and everyone knew about them, but no one had really heard any music yet,” Hammond said. “And then when they finally released their albums, the expectations were so high, they dive-bombed.
“We’ve been really conscious of that, that it could happen, so we decided when we first got signed that we would stay completely clear of the press and just go out and tour, tour, tour. You can make much more of an impression with a gig, because it’s an experience and it’s right there in front of you, instead of some rhetoric that some journalist has put together.
“This way, journalists wrote about us from our gigs and told people, ‘This band is incredible. Don’t neglect them.’ We won over a lot of people that way.”
The strategy has worked so well, the notoriously brutal British music press – which revels in building up groups and then spitting them out – remains in The Cooper Temple Clause’s corner.
“They haven’t spat us out yet,” Hammond said, with a laugh. “I think we’re still in the mouth – perhaps trapped between some molars. We released the album a few months ago (in the U.K.), but there was a point before the album came out where we were in the NME absolutely every week for like four months. That was kind of odd and pointless, but it happens.”
Another reason for The Cooper Temple Clause’s homeland success: Hammond and band mates Ben Gautrey (lead vocals), Daniel Fisher (guitar), Tom Bellamy (guitar), Kieran Mahon (keyboards) and Jon Harper (drums) have crafted such an eclectic sound, they’re hard to categorize.
They combine elements of rock, techno, jazz, electronica and metal with ease throughout “Kick Up the Fire,” from the first single “Promises Promises” to “Written Apology” (Hear here).
“We quite like the fact that we’re difficult to pigeonhole,” Hammond said. “We’re an ambitious band, and we’ve got a lot of faith in our own abilities to bring different things together. It’s funny to see journalists scrambling through their thesauruses, trying to describe us.
“One time, we got compared to Hanson, which is really strange. It was only because Fisher had an ironic Hanson T-shirt on at one gig. We’ve been compared to Simon & Garfunkel as well, which I can’t really see. So, we’ve pretty much confounded the critics.”
Hammond literally suffered for his art during the recording of “Kick Up the Fire.”
“It turns out I had a hole in my stomach,” he said, “and it leaked shit all across my middle and infected my appendix. When that got infected, that’s when I knew something was wrong. They took (the appendix) out, but I was in the hospital for like six weeks. There was a lot of morphine involved, so there was lots of dreaming. I’m alive to tell the tale.”
Hammond’s also about to become a father for the first time. His girlfriend is due in June. Till then, he and his band mates will get busy on shagging, er, wooing America.
“I have no clue at all on how the album’s going to do in the States,” he said. “I think the rest of the world gets a very vague facsimile of American culture and what the scene is and what interests people at the current time. America and the rest of the world are very similar to the relationship between London and the rest of England.
“Brett Anderson (of Suede), who grew up in a similar place to us, said that being on the outskirts of London is like being outside a building when the windows are all misty and you can barely see what’s happening inside. That’s what America is like to the rest of the world. You see what bands come out of there, what films and actors there are, but you’re really not completely sure of what’s going on.
“Hopefully, we’ll do well. I think we’re different to a lot of stuff out there. We really like our chances.”
The group will kick off its first North America tour on March 5 at the 9:30 Club in Washington, D.C. The tour, which ends March 28 at the Crocodile Cafe in Seattle, includes a showcase at the South By Southwest music festival in Austin on March 18.
THE FIRST RECORD I EVER BOUGHT: “I remember it distinctly; I bought two CDs on the same day – Dodgy’s ‘Homegrown’ and the Breeders’ ‘Last Splash,’ which in the past year I’ve really learned the brillance of that record.”
THE FIRST CONCERT I EVER WENT TO: “The Bluetones at Reading University. They were a little Brit-pop four-piece. I really enjoyed it. I was really into the Brit-pop thing from like 1994 to ’96, with Blur, Pulp and Sleeper.”
THE WORST JOB I’VE EVER HAD: “I had a job handing out leaflets on the street, one of the worst fuckin’ jobs you can do. I also worked at a Gap, and it was one of the biggest regrets of my life, but I gave my friends massive discounts as often as I could.”
ON THE WEB: www.thecoopertempleclause.com.
BWF (before we forget): The Cooper Temple Clause album discography – “See This Through and Leave” (Morning, 2002); “Kick Up the Fire, and Let the Flames Break Loose” (Morning/RCA, 2004).
Upcoming tour dates – March 5, Washington, D.C., 9:30 Club; March 6, Philadelphia, The Khyber; March 7, Hoboken, N.J., Maxwell’s; March 9, New York, Bowery Ballroom; March 10, Boston, Paradise; March 11, Montreal, Cabaret Music Hall; March 13, Toronto, Lee’s Palace; March 14, Detroit, Magic Stick; March 15, Chicago, Double Door; March 18, Austin, Fox & Hound (BPI Showcase @ SXSW); March 19, Dallas, Gypsy Tea Room; March 21, Denver, Larimer Lounge; March 24, Los Angeles, Troubadour; March 25, San Francisco, The Independent; March 27, Vancouver, Richard’s On Richards Cabaret; March 28, Seattle, Crocodile Cafe.
More updates: Joe Henry, Marcus King, Lily Kershaw, Poliça, Sarah Brightman, Jerry Leger, Simple Minds, Grateful Dead, etc