They’re lyrical in the sense of including figurative imagery that involves the senses, and in that their songs revolve around the personalities contained within frontman Blake Scott’s lyrics. “That’s always been a really big thing,” says Scott. “When we’re writing a record, it takes as much time to get to that point and get in the zone to write lyrics [as it does to write the music]. Some of them, topically, come a little quicker than others. Take ‘Carol’ from the last record for instance, that wrote very quickly. It was more a stream of consciousness.
“I really enjoy trying to bring somebody or something to life, a story to life, in a short period of time. We have the music, which basically sets a mood, and then we create the character from the music.”
While there are certain similarities, writing song lyrics is quite different to writing poetry. Because they’re designed for singing, lyrics need to have a certain level of immediacy. But that doesn’t mean they can’t be artfully constructed and equipped with many layers of meaning. Scott’s lyrics typically go through a thorough refining process.
“With this band, throughout everything, we’ve always edited pretty hard,” he says. “A lot of the time I might lose lines that I like because they’re just not sending the song in the right direction. It does take quite a lot of refining.” It’s not just the words that communicate meaning; it’s the way they’re sung. Scott affects a range of different voices across Joy. And whether he’s sounding gruff and cantankerous on album opener ‘Kalgoorlie’, aggressively exaggerated on lead single ‘Rayguns’ or adopting a conversational tone on ‘Constable’, his voice greatly contributes to the illustration of the characters within the songs.
“It comes back to that performance of the song,” he says. “There was a stage where we were singing a version of ‘Constable’ and then we stripped it right back to the speaking. But it really does come down to, when I go in to do the vocals I really settle into it and it’s just what comes out and what fits.
“Sometimes what comes out doesn’t fit,” he adds. “Whatever it is you’re trying to bring to life, you’ve just got to settle into that then the voice comes. I’m not standing in there and trying five or six different voices. It’s much more bringing the song to life with a certain performance.” Joining Scott in The Peep Tempel is bassist Stewart Rayner and drummer Steven Carter. Joy depicts a band that understands its strengths and knows how to work together to optimally represent their songs. This can mean making a forceful impact when needed, an appropriately physical sound to complement the vocals, or sitting back and steadily building tension.
There are obvious restrictions that come with being a three-piece, but it’s the way The Peep Tempel work with these restrictions that distinguishes their sound. There are extra layers of piano added to ‘We You Forgot’ and sound effects included on ‘Constable’, but nothing too excessive. In a couple of songs, however, the band just couldn’t help themselves.
“‘Neuroplasticity’ and ‘Alexander’ are two songs we really loaded up in,” Scott says. “Just lots of percussive stuff and keys in ‘Neuroplasticity’, then ‘Alexander’ it was a lot of distorted voices in the background. There’s a lot of highpitched singing. A lot of it was just getting these noises and then we messed around with them a bit and reversed them and played around with effects. That’s about as elaborate as we have ever got.”
Joy was recorded at Sing Sing Studios with engineer Anna Laverty. Scott’s vocals obviously require some precision, and the songs’ dynamic arrangements are dependent on demanding technical delivery and the conjuring of high-octane energy. There was a level of perfectionism that surfaced during the recording process.
“I had one day where I just completely lost it. It’s a certain form of trauma, your anxiety gets so high and you start to freak out. I was listening to this song and I started hearing all these things that weren’t there and things that were wrong with the performance. I knocked off for the day and when I came back the next day none of what was going through my head was there.
“This is the longest we’ve ever been in the studio. There were some distractions. I did a RocKwiz episode at the time and I was really anxious about that getting in the way and wanting to focus on the record, but in the end it was really good for everyone. It gave everyone a chance to get out of it. It starts to get really thick and heavy.
“Every album we’ve ever done there’s a point throughout the process where I’ve thought, ‘We’ve fucked it. This isn’t going to work.’ Then somehow you get to the end and you’re happy with it. Then you go away and you do exactly the same thing in mixing [laughs].”
Joy is out now via Redeye Worldwide. The Peep Tempel will be touring around Australia this month on the Joy album tour. For more details and tour dates, head to wingsing.co.