The Bedfordshire multi-instrumentalist offers quinitessential lo-fi, DIY bedroom pop alongside a spot of GCSE revision
Take a moment to remember what life as a 15-year-old was like. Dealing with the naivety and desperation for belonging; navigating the shifting trends of teenage consumerism; continually battling to keep your skin spot-free; it was a confusing age. However, in Alfie Templeman’s mellowed dose of indie pop, there is a blissful first-hand report into the pains and tribulations of adolescence narrated with the maturity of an artist three times his age.
Templeman’s debut EP Like an Animal has already gained comparisons to the likes of Connor Mockasin, Rex Orange County and Declan McKenna, making the young multi-instrumentalist one of the industry’s most promising figures. Growing up in a musical family, Templeman’s love of music came from listening to progressive rock bands Rush and Yes, which acted as a creative template to build upon. Like many boys, he grew up idolising his father, a keen guitar enthusiast who bought a young Alfie his first guitar. From there, Templeman self-taught guitar and bass in the confines of his bedroom, before obtaining drum lessons. ‘Drum lessons were vital,’ he says when speaking of his artistic development. ‘Once I had the basics down, I could do whatever I wanted. Timing and rhythm laid the foundation for me to play whatever style I wanted. Drums are my go-to instrument. I pride myself and work hardest on the drums.’
By the age of 13, Templeman could play drums, guitar and bass, and was starting to hone his skills as a songwriter and producer. A noticeable feature of his music lies in the contrast between his love of 60s and 70s songwriting and his modern-day outlook on life. ‘I believe that songwriting in the 60s was at its peak,’ he suggests. 'Listening to that stuff and trying to replicate it in my songs is crucial. Those periods of time were where songwriting was really colourful. There was a lot of experimentation in the studio because that’s where new technology had come in.’
For a teenager juggling songwriting, playing and production, Templeman’s ambitions have helped get him where he is today. The production element to his artistry came naturally, and he ruthlessly studied the recording aspects of other artists to help hone his sound quicker. Citing George Martin as a key influence, track Yellow Flowers has a notoriously Beatles-esque quality to it. ‘I wanted that Rubber Soul sound with panning guitars,’ Templeman says. ‘The combination between John Lennon’s pessimism and Paul McCartney’s more optimistic vocal outlook gave this bittersweet feeling to the listener. That is very important to me.’
"Like an Animal took just a month to complete, yet it conjures a broad landscape of adolescent genius"
Whilst learning the craft behind playing and recording music is vital, for Templeman to shape his slacker-style sound at a youthful stage in his artistic development is another achievement altogether. Like an Animal took just a month to complete, yet it conjures a broad landscape of adolescent genius. ‘I always start with the melodies, thinking of a riff,’ he states. 'Led Zeppelin inspired me to write the riff first, to have something that catches the listener. I’d move on to chords afterwards and then just evolve the song. Lyrics are hard for me as I don’t really ever know what to make the songs about. With the debut EP, all five songs started off as instrumentals. It took a while later to think of words and put the mood of the song to what I’m singing about, almost connecting the dots.’
The EP itself encapsulates everything perfect about DIY bedroom pop, producing such an insular quality that it sounds perfect for the confines of your own home, yet narrating such a vast cross-section of human life, winding down avenues of adolescence all the way to bigger, global affairs. A hazy, lust-filled kaleidoscope of jazz-infused pop, the EP’s title track is a calm yet funk-based thrill, containing a soulful charm and delicate falsetto. Lyrics “Must be something wrong with me today / What it is I cannot say” narrate a darker tale of confused depression, showcasing the young singer’s capabilities as a competent lyricist.
As an artist who looks to have already have found his sound, Templeman was very keen to offer an array of options on his debut EP as he goes on to say ‘It was nice to change the mood for Tea & Biscuits, which is very synthy. I was very influenced by Thom Yorke actually in the singing.’ The track in question is a blissful product, yearning to uncover the foundations of reality within the confines of your bedroom.
"The insurgent warmth resonating within [the debut EP] is of a certain quality that takes three or four records to normally establish"
The charming, 80s groove of Pink Lemonade is a guitar-oriented masterpiece, containing an impressive bass line with strong connotations of early Tame Impala in its slinking, lo-fi nature. Whilst the EP’s closing track Your Voice further highlights an impressive diversity to Templeman’s sound, it is opening single Yellow Flowers which offers glimpses of a young genius at work. The insurgent warmth resonating within the single is of a certain quality that takes three or four records to normally establish. About a relationship that is fading over time, it is the only track in which Templeman uses his own experiences to guide him. ‘It’s one of the rare times that a song has come from personal experience,’ he confesses. ‘Because I was writing from the heart, it just came to me naturally. A lot of the other songs were harder to make stuff relevant for other people to relate to because I hadn’t related to those things myself. I was really proud of Yellow Flowers, it’s a bittersweet song and I wanted to reflect what I was feeling.’
Over the course of just one EP, the 15-year-old has managed to build on the legacy of Mac DeMarco to become a slacker hero for an emerging generation. The ability to spill his emotions across the blank canvas of his music sets Templeman out as one of the UK’s most promising talents, and he is fully aware of the dangers that many young adults of his age face surrounding stress and heightened emotional vulnerability. ‘There’s a lot of things going on at my age…with exams and stress, and people let it build up over time,’ he says. ‘That’s what happened with me and talking to my parents, letting it go into the music and trying to get people to relate to it especially has been important. People at school are able to hear my songs and relate to what I’m saying. For men especially at my age, you need to really let your feelings out.’
"The ability to spill his emotions across the blank canvas of his music sets Templeman out as one of the UK’s most promising talents"
Templeman is resolutely positive that by addressing his emotional capacity, his craft as a songwriter is only going to improve. ‘Writing something that hits you deeply, something from the heart, is something that most people my age don’t seem to do,’ he blankly states. ‘A lot of people don’t show their emotions at my age, and I just think that it’s really crucial to do that. Doing that on the first song of the EP has opened up me up to doing it more in the future, which is important as it gives me confidence in what I’m making. Giving yourself confidence, not doubting yourself, writing what you want to write is so crucial to being an artist in your own right. Speaking about feelings took a weight off my shoulders and helped me gain the courage I needed. I used to be very quiet at school, yet doing this now at home gives me a sense of independence to do whatever I wanted to do. It enables me to be who I want to be.’
Whilst it is impossible not to be impressed by Templeman’s sweeping honesty and depth of reflection, a more noticeable feature of his rise in status as a musician has been the development of the bedroom pop and Mac DeMarco’s slacker scene, in general. Having the likes of Connor Mockasin, girl in red, beabadoobie, Declan McKenna and Rex Orange County all releasing lo-fi DIY indie-pop of such quality over the past few years has acted as a catalyst for artists such as Templeman to rise in stature, and it’s something the Bedfordshire teenager is very aware of. ‘If I didn’t know who Mac DeMarco was I don’t think I would have become an indie singer...he is the prince of indie. From day one, I’ve been his biggest fan.’ Asked if recent comparisons between him and his contemporaries have changed the dynamic for him as a songwriter, Templeman remains humble. ‘Being compared to artists I’ve listened to for years, many who have been making music in their bedroom for years, is amazing really. The bedroom pop scene is something I’m really grateful to be part of.’
"If I didn’t know who Mac DeMarco was I don’t think I would have become an indie singer...he is the prince of indie." Alfie Templeman
The Like an Animal EP has established Templeman’s name on an increasing list of young, British talent, yet his ambition for the future is very clear. A new single, called Thinking About Me, is set for an April release, just around the time that the teenager will be touring with the crowned princes of indie, Sundara Karma, a tour which will see Templeman play a staggering date at London’s Brixton Academy in front of 5,000 fans. With summer festival slots at Truck and Field Day thrown into the mix, 2019 is looking to be a breakthrough year for an artist who is currently balancing GCSE revision with his music.
Despite the pressure of exams, Templeman is seemingly calm and confident. He calls the shifting attitude of his peers towards him as ‘unavoidable given how the music is going and having my bandmates at school as well.’ The live aspect of his music also fails to hinder an ever-moving Templeman. ‘I have no problem balancing music with school. We tend to book live dates at weekends and in the holidays,’ he shrugs. ‘It’s quite funny really, one minute I’m in school, the next I’m playing Brixton Academy. It’s really fun though, I enjoy school and I enjoy playing gigs so it’s no problem for me.’
It goes without saying that the rise of Alfie Templeman as a multi-instrumentalist by the age of 13 is more School of Rock than the average tale of a young schoolboy. The fact that Templeman hasn’t even left school yet and is capable of producing music of outstanding quality really makes you think about your time growing up, yet the eloquence and charm of the young artist ensures that any jealousy towards him is dissipated in favour of a newfound respect and appreciation for what he is trying to accomplish.
Retaining a certain mischievous glee when speaking of his current journey, Alfie Templeman is a name you need to keep firmly on your radar. Unlike every teenager studying hard for exams, he’ll be stopping off to play to a crowd of 5,000 at Brixton Academy before he can get round to another dose of chemistry revision. It’s a remarkable feat for any aspiring musician, it doesn't matter how old he is.