Kav Temperley exorcises his demons.
ANYONE who wants to understand the past 10 years of Kav Temperley’s life need only absorb themselves in his band’s revealing back catalogue.
As the principal songwriter behind Eskimo Joe, the singer weaved a trail of lust and heartbreak, debauchery and discovery on the four albums documenting his twenties.
There’s the honeymoon optimism of Girl, recorded in 2001 as Temperley enjoyed his first long-term relationship. The romance didn’t last and was later laid to rest in a bitter follow-up, A Song Is a City.
By 2006, Temperley had drunk his heartache away and was turning to the night for kicks. Eskimo Joe’s storming Black Fingernails, Red Wine revealed a more dangerous figure intent on embracing his inner rock star.
He reeled it all back in time for a fourth, Inshalla – a more artistic record – which reflected the singer hitting his 30s, seeking ‘‘ peace and love and kids and a more grounded existence’’.
While that pledge would always be overly ambitious for a touring musician in one of Australia’s best-loved rock bands, Temperley eventually settled on a break from writing with Eskimo Joe.
Instead, the band, which also features Joel Quartermain and Stuart MacLeod ( all pictured) founded a record label named Dirt Diamonds and began building a studio complex near their home in Fremantle called The Wastelands.
Temperley found freedom in the supergroup Basement Birds, alongside his friends Steve Parkin, Josh Pyke and Kevin Mitchell. They toured and released an album last year. He also enjoyed an informal residency at a local cafe, testing new sounds on Sunday customers. One week he’d reinterpret pop songs by Rihanna, the next he’d experiment with a keyboard and drum machine.
When the time came to regroup Eskimo Joe, Temperley was intent on approaching music in a new headspace. But how?
The answer resonated from the writers he most admires – poets such as Sylvia Plath and musicians like Nick Cave, Tom Waits and Leonard Cohen, all artists who encouragingly didn’t hit their stride until their 30s and 40s.
In order to develop a more accomplished voice, Temperley sought to change the things which had previously defined him.
The tone of the fifth Eskimo Joe album, Ghosts of the Past, became centred on taking stock and editing past emotions.
‘‘ The process of writing this record was about reflecting on all those times in my 20s when I wrote about failed relationships and about everything going wrong, all the demons or ghosts as I call them on the record,’’ the 32-year-old says.
‘‘ The songs are about the ghosts I’ve decided to live with and the ghosts I’ve decided to let go and how that affects me in my adult life.’’
To make the record, the band relocated south to Injidup, WA, and settled in the same grand beach shack where Tame Impala recorded its debut album, Innerspeaker, armed with only ‘‘ tequila, some fun things to smoke, our recording gear and instruments’’.
They made demos of two songs, When We Were Kids and Word of Avoidance, before looking up their favourite producer Matt Lovell and booking some time at his local studio, The Mangrove, on the NSW Central Coast, to complete the rest.
The result is an album of stripped-down quality; the sound of a rock band armed only with guitars, piano and drums and big things to say. It’s another new phase in Temperley’s life and one he’s keen to celebrate when they play Splendour In The Grass.
‘‘ With Inshalla we tried to be a bit too arty. But we learnt people just want the hits at festivals, and that’s what we’re going to do.’’
Ghosts of the Past by Eskimo Joe is released on August 12; The single Love is a Drug is out now.