Phil Campbell (The Temperance Movement) on the Stones, Black Crowes, More
The Temperance Movement can slow it down for some tasty ballads, but the British band makes no bones about what it does best: loud, bluesy rock and roll.
“Our music and our attitude is rock and roll,” says Glasgow-born lead singer Phil Campbell. “We love making noise and playing shows. In contrast to the lone DJ pushing buttons or the solo artist with a backing track, the rock band’s strength is in the dynamic between the players. Everything is live. Anything can happen.”
The Temperance Movement’s second album, White Bear, was released in the US in mid-July. “Sonically, it’s a little edgier than the [self-titled] debut,” Campbell says. “We started writing White Bear through soundcheck jams on tour in Europe. Some of the songs were taken home and worked on in rehearsal rooms; others came from sitting down together. We stretched our legs in the studio a bit more, and, lyrically, it is ultimately less personal and more fun.”
Campbell adds that he’s “completely satisfied” with the Temperance Movement’s first two records. “The first record is stripped-bare blues rock and roll,” he says. “We were nuts about the Faces, early Fleetwood Mac, the Black Crowes, the Grateful Dead, and the Band. We ignored the Tame Impala/Royal Blood production route and, with blinkers on, just tried to cut live takes and capture the sound of the room around the instruments.
“Our second album represents the growth of a band who’ve toured solidly for three years and developed a stronger character. We wrote in a more collective way, and there’s much more immediacy to the tracks. We fooled around with songs and production more this time. Making music the way we do is very freeing for us.
“Over time, each band member has been backed into a corner with music and the music business. I’ve got a big voice. I sound American when I sing. I impersonate my favorite singers from Tina [Turner] and Aretha [Franklin] to Chris Robinson and Eddie Vedder. I’ve tried calming it down, but it is what it is. For all the members, the Temperance Movement is an honest acceptance of who and what we are as musicians. [Guitarist] Paul Sayer grew up in a country [England] besotted with Johnny Marr’s jingle jangle, when what he really wanted to do was play slide through boutique tweed amps because he loves Lowell George and Luther Dickinson.”
Other members of the Temperance Movement include guitarist Luke Potashnick, bassist Nick Fyffe, and Australia-born drummer Damon Wilson.
The band just completed a tour of the USA and Canada and has two dates in France this week before returning to America next month. They will headline some shows and warm up for the Revivalists at others in September and October.
During the past two years, the Temperance Movement had the good fortune of opening for the Rolling Stones. I ask Campbell what his band learned most from one of the greatest bands in rock history.
“You learn just how fit Jagger is,” he says emphatically. “ The stages are enormous. He runs over to the right, over to the left, up and down the catwalk, singing full blast the whole time. Holding 50,000 people’s attention is no easy feat. It could be crushingly overwhelming if you didn’t know what you were doing. That first show in Zurich was probably the most magical experience of my little life, and I will never forget it.”
How was the group received by the Stones? “We met them all and took a photo with them, so we hung out and chatted while that was happening. It was very natural. They’re just London guys. Keith is very gracious and inclusive. He invited us to hang out with him and his family in the dressing room. Mick sat us down for a few minutes on his own and chatted about vinyl and current trends. Paul and Luke watched a football match on TV with Ronnie one night. Very easy people. Hugely famous, but cool and approachable.”
Campbell says the best and most influential concert he has attended as a spectator was by the Black Crowes at London’s Shepherds Bush Empire in 1998.
“Chris Robinson busted out onto the stage with more energy, personality, and humor than I had ever seen. The band rocked hard and mostly played material from Amorica — their best record. It took me another 15 years before I found my band, but I never forgot the feeling of that show.
“It was massively inspiring to see a lead singer in a hugely successful group be so free and funny on stage. As a singer, the worst mistake you can make is to take it all too seriously.”
Will the band eventually veer away from rock and roll and explore other genres?
“Sure,” Campbell replies. “I think the band will diversify sonically. We’ll probably have a little more fun in the studio, keeping blues at the root. I like Tom Waits’ studio tricks: using little kids’ toy mics to record his voice — that kind of thing. I want to hear us sound like Little Feat and the Smashing Pumpkins in the same song. There is much fun to be had.”