The Temper Trap

Life caught up with The Temper Trap, fun., and Rita Ora in short group interviews at the Future Music Festival Asia 2013

If you've watched the overrated 500 Days Of Summer, you know The Temper Trap. On the semi-indie inspired soundstrack, The Temper Trap's Sweet Disposition stuck in the mind like a piece of bacon on a non-Teflon pan. The breakthrough track has also been used in commercials around the world, so it's quite tough for anyone to miss it.

Hailing from Australia, The Temper Trap is led by the operatic voiced, Indonesian-born Dougy Mandagi who formed the band in 2005 alongside bassist Jonathon Aherne. Their first album Conditions came out in 2009, and went platinum in Australia and gold in the UK. The Temper Trap released their self-titled, second record last year. Mandagi and Aherne stopped by for some quick questions.

Hi, when did you get in?

Dougy Mandagi: Just last night. No, the night before.

How's the reception been for your second album after such a massive success?

DM: I'm surprised that in some places it's not doing so well (followed by laughter). Whatever that means!

What are the differences between your first and second albums?

Jonathon Aherne: We're in the process of writing the third album. For the second one, it felt like we pretty much followed the structure of the first one, but we played around with new sounds and instruments. We always want to be creative. In that context, the second album was different.

What is your creative process?

JA: It seems to keep changing, how we write music, surprising ourselves. We kinda talked about having no formula. There are so many different ways to write a song. Recently, Dougy just went to LA, and came back with a bunch of skeletons for songs, and we would play along to it. All of us are starting to learn how to record music on computers. Then there's a traditional sense where we get together and jam. It's really fun.

How do you work out your creative differences?

DM: Thumb war. Good old-fashioned thumb war.

JA: He has pretty big thumbs! We're pretty good at being friends with one another, forgiving little annoyances like brothers. It becomes like a family dynamic because you're around each other all the time. Even when we get off, we still see each other all the time. I really appreciate friendships in The Temper Trap.

What songs are the most meaningful for you?

DM: Man, I don't know.

JA: Love Lost. Musically, it's fast, and lyrically, it's quite simple. It's refined, and very direct. It has a good message, and you can clap to it.

DM: I don't know. It's hard!

Okay then, what came the easiest?

DM: Sweet Disposition. Usually, the ones that come easily are the ones that people latch on to because they're not contrived. It just came naturally, and people like that.

Is life on tour difficult?

DM: I like being on the road. Long flights are not enjoyable unless you're flying business, and we're not flying business. I'd rather take the money over flying business. I just can't justify spending stupid amount of money just to sit in bigger seats.

Can you tell us a bit about the new album?

DM: I think it's a bit early to tell what direction it is. Different. We've already made some demos, but they're hidden somewhere that we can't find them! It's different, and I think it's important to do something that keeps us interested. When will it come out? I don't know. Maybe, we might change the way we do things. We might not fixate on releasing a full album. People don't really care or buy albums any more. Most just buy singles. Our focus is more on writing good songs, and if you have two or three good songs, why wait until you have an album to put it out?

Rita Ora

Last year was a good year for the 23-year-old West End girl. Even though Rita Ora didn't win any Brits Awards despite her nominations, she spawned three No.1 hit singles on the UK singles chart.

Signed to Jay-Z's Roc Nation since 2009 after playing in pub gigs around London, her debut album, Ora, finally came out last year.

With her exotic looks, daring fashion sense and mezzo-soprano vocal range, Ora looks to have got the entire package.

Life met Ora right after her thunderous performance.

You were recently in Thailand filming a video with Snoop Dogg, how did it go?

I was at this amazing resort called Sri Panwa. It was beautiful. He's the coolest person I've ever been in front of. And when I say cool, I'm talking about cool. He walks like on water. I love that. He's just like his music. He's a great representation of hip hop that never dies.

How did you catch Jay-Z's attention

I was 18. I was writing songs. I was doing open mic nights at this same club for six months straight, and I started to get an audience. Gradually, A&R people started to come. Roc Nation people came, and they were the first people who weren't bulls***ting around.

How does the '90s influence your music?

I think the '90s will be a part of music history forever. I love all the transitions that happened in the '90s. Even pop music in the '90s was different. I love everything about that era. It also influences me fashion-wise. I always try to figure how to transition from the '90s to now.

You're often pegged as the next Beyonce or major diva, does that place additional pressure on you?

Oh, thank you. No, it's not pressure. It's exciting to be compared to such great artists. I'm so protective over my music, and sometimes I get pissed off when you compare me to people I don't like. But I'm really happy when compared to people I like.

So who do you like to be compared to then?

If somebody mentions Beyonce in the same room as me then that's great. That's it. (Laughs.)

You've often mentioned Gwen Stefani also?

Oh yes! I love her. I love everything about her, even her hairstyles.

How does it feel when people often talk about your fashion sense too?

It confuses me that people are also interested in the way I dress. I've always dressed like this as far as I can remember. I admire the fact that people find it interesting. It's flattering. I really love that because I do spend a lot of times on my clothes.

Speaking of fashion, what do you think is your style exactly?

It's good that people can't tell! Definitely a tomboy. I'll always pick trainers over heels any day. But I do like to be a woman, as well. I'm comfortable in my skin.

Can you tell us who you'll be collaborating with in coming projects?

I would love to tell you, but I want it to be a surprise.

What is the progress of your upcoming album?

I'm the middle of doing it. I've been on the road since February, so I'm kinda doing it whenever I can. I was in New Zealand before I came here, and I was in the studio there. I'm booking a studio in Japan as I'm flying there next. Wherever I am, I book a studio because I don't want it to be a gap. I'm really eager for people to hear it. It's kinda like Mark Ronson meets a weird person!

Any advice for aspiring musicians?

I think it's really important to be respectful of other musicians. You're not always gonna be loved. You have to prepare yourself for the haters too. But if you stay true to yourself, sing what you want to sing, perform the way you want, love your band members, then that's all it matters. If you love it, you love it.

fun.

Along with Nate Ruess and Jack Antonoff, Andrew Dost completes fun. (Yep, deliberately stylised lowercase and with the full point.) The trio is responsible for the late night yelp of "tonigghhhtttttt, we are younngggggg" around Bangkok as you sure can't escape one of the biggest hits from last year.

All three fun. members were acquaintances in different bands before they decided to get together in 2008. The next year saw their debut, Aim And Ignite which went largely unnoticed. It took Some Nights, released last year, to catapult fun. to the next level, and it sure did.

Last month, fun. was nominated in four categories, and snatched the Grammy Award for Best New Artist and the Grammy Award for Song of the Year for We Are Young.

Andrew Dost took some time out to speak to Life before the band's performance.

How did winning two Grammys affect the band?

It kinda made us closer as a unit. When good things happen to bands, it can drive them apart, or give them egos that they didn't have before. We kinda bonded over how crazy it was. We kinda feel that we still don't belong, and that we're in the world that we're not familiar with, but we still have one another. That's the only thing that I've noticed.

Did you expect to with?

No, we didn't. You can't really expect something like that. It's the highest honour. Even when we found out we were nominated, we didn't really expect to win anything. The competition was so stiff. It was a surprise.

You were touring many years before you achieved this level of success, did you ever want to give up?

Absolutely. We've been on tour for 12 years. There was always a temptation to give up. I went to college, and I've got a degree in journalism. So I thought if music didn't work out, I would always have another career to fall back on. But I knew that music would always be still a part of my life. What kept us going was that we kinda knew this is what we're meant to be doing. I think you have to be a bit delusional. You have to be a bit crazy to do it as long as we did. It's ridiculous to do something for 10 years, and not see any kind of success. You have to be persistent, egomaniacal, and very delusional. But it worked out.

So what changed?

I think what changed was that we finally had a label that was ready to push us to the mainstream level. Our label, our manager, our booking agent, our press and all these people came together, and made it happen. I don't think we really changed what we were doing. We were just doing our usual things. It took a team to move us places.

Is there a lot of pressure for the next album?

Yes and no. It's a lot of pressure to try to live up what this album has achieved. But I'm just excited to write music again. One of the most fun things that we get to do is to write music together. We know we've got a little pressure on us, but we just love making music, and that's what we're gonna focus on. We've got a couple ideas already, but nothing concrete yet. The only thing I know about the next album is that we want to capture the same moments of inspirations. I don't want to put rules or thoughts ahead of the process. I just want everything to happen organically.

Through your music, what do you want to express to the audience?

I played music before I knew what I was doing. Then I grew up, and realised why certain bands impacted me so much, and I want people [who hear my music] to feel the same _ that life isn't so bad.

How important is social media for you in terms of music promotion?

I have a very complicated relationship with that. I know it's very important. I used to be very active, but lately I'm not. I feel like it's bad for me as an artist to listen to what people are saying, or see political views that my family members share that I don't necessarily share. It's destructive for me as a person. As a band, it's important, but as a person I've been having difficulties.

You're stylised as fun. with the lower f and a full stop, does it get annoying to correct people?

We don't really pay attention to it any more. It was our initial T-shirt design. It ended up kinda sticking. We're not too hung up on the form of it. We just want to be called "fun".

About the author

columnist
Writer: Onsiri Pravattiyagul
Position: Entertainment Editor