TEME made a curious debut earlier this year with their expansive, enveloping debut single "bj.sadsong".
Drawing lofty comparisons to the production techniques of Jon Hopkins and the lyrical intimacy of Radiohead, they presented themselves as a hugely promising artist proposition despite keeping most of the information about the setup of the band fairly close to their chest.
Slowly, but steadily, the pair revealed more about their processes as musicians, following up with the quietly epic "HELL'S MOUTH". Disappearing into rural England to craft and curate their debut EP, they have mastered a deeply introspective sound which is as captivating as it is challenging.
We caught up with the band to talk through the way they approach recording and visuals, the importance of authenticity and their aspirations for the future.
BEST FIT: TEME, you've kept things fairly mysterious up to this point. Can I ask who makes up your collective and when you first started creating music together?
TEME: "Well, there’s two of us who write and produce it all, as well as play majority of the music. We’re lucky enough to have insanely talented friends who’ve played a lot of the bass, guitar and (for some new stuff we’ve just finished working on) trumpet and sax."
Do you think in this digital age, it's important to allow the music to speak first?
"Well it really depends. There’s no getting away from the fact that the ‘digital age’ as you put it, has created shifts for everyone. Social media allows people to connect and invest in someone’s journey, which can be very engaging and useful for the artist.
"For us, there was no real plan or desire to appear overly mysterious but it did make sense to put the music, the visuals, the story around it all first. We wanted to captivate people and bring them into the world we’re creating. Sometimes when people are front and centre, it can take you out of this ‘world’."
You have an unreleased track 'C.T.Y' coming from your new EP that you described as "a plea for closeness". Do you find that the emphasis on social media is damaging our personal relationships and ability to connect?
"Sometimes it’s hard to know whether social media is the symptom or the cause. There are lots of positive ways social media can affect change for good. One of our friends runs a wonderful charity which uses social media to communicate their message far and wide (The Bike Project). Similarly, we are exposed to an incredible amount of information, stories and art from people who otherwise may not have had a voice.But, of course there’s a downside. There’s a danger around comparing your life to the lives’ of others through the prism of social media, which is usually just a selection of people’s ‘best bits’. It’s clearly having an impact on societal mental health. Connecting with people in person is very different from connecting with them on, say, Facebook. C.T.Y. stands for Close To You, and is very much focused on the distance and a breakdown of the physical part of a relationship."
What role do you think music can have in repairing some of this damage?
"For sure, music can transcend the corporeal. It can pull you out from the daily and move you. Melodically, instrumentally, lyrically it offers so many different ways to inspire. We’ve both definitely used music therapeutically and cathartically, when going through difficult personal moments. The best music communicates something to you, reaches out to you and draws you into a new world, just for a little while."
You have your debut headline show at the Bermondsey Social Club on 22 November, what can we expect from the show?
"We’re super excited. We’ve spent a long time working with two incredible musicians and a wonderful FOH guy to try and make the live show feel like an evolved version of the record. We’ll have audio-reactive visuals, which will be projected on to the stage, hopefully opening another little window into our world."
Your sound is so expansive and rich, how long does it take you to create tracks with so many elements so perfectly balanced?
"Hah, that’s very kind, it takes a long time. We sort of have a rule that unless we’re both really happy with something it doesn’t get used. So every melody, lyric, instrumental, piece of production etc. has to go through quite a rigorous process."
You disappeared into the rural woodlands to create your debut EP, what was your reasoning for this?
"One of us was helping his mum move house to a beautiful town in Shropshire. He was meant to help for a couple of months and then return to London. To his mum’s bitter disappointed he stayed. Then the other one of us came up to write for a little bit, doubling her pain. We soon realised how important this place was to this body of music. The top floor had us in one room working on music, Susie, doing some beautiful paintings in her studio, and our pal, who’s a producer below writing music too, it was a creative/mad space. Being outside of London was, and still is, very important for getting totally immersed in music. We would spend up to 16 hours a day working on this stuff so thank you very much Mother Susie."
I'm correcting in thinking 52°21'48.6"N 2°43'19.6 mark the exact coordinates of the location you visited? So fans could go and make the pilgrimage to see where you made the music?
"Yes, and no. The coordinates mark an exact point on the river Teme where the EP art work was taken. But yes, we’re also hoping to sell small vials with water from that exact point in the river to the masses.
Did you create all the accompanying art and creative whilst you went away?
"Yes, one of us saw a Ryoji Ikeda immersive audio-visual instillation this time last year and was so inspired that he borrowed his brothers very dated Panasonic camera and started to obsessively film every bit of the area, to create visuals for each song, focusing on abstraction, interesting shapes and reflections. Similar to the music it was taking something natural and then heavily manipulating and layering it to create something abstract and, hopefully, new.
"We also used footage from an area in North Wales to make the basis for the HELL’S MOUTH video. We wanted to do a sort of lyric video, but wanted to use different forms of communication beyond just words. We spent a good few weeks perfecting it and released it as a music video alongside the track."
Do you have plans to follow up this EP with new music soon after? And what form do you think this will take?
"We do. We’re creating the whole time. We think we’ll put out another EP at the beginning of next year, and we’d love to put a full record out soon after."
Your music has gained lofty comparisons to the likes of Bon Iver and James Blake - who would you say are your biggest music influences as a band?
"We love both of those artists, we think very highly of them indeed. With us what’s really useful is that, whilst we have slightly different broader musical tastes, our centres, the music that speaks to us most, is almost exactly the same. From Bon Iver, James Blake, Jon Hopkins, Arthur Russell, Radiohead, Sufjan Stevens, Four Tet, Sigur Ros, Keaton Henson etc.
"The common thread through all these artists is authenticity. You can tell that every piece of music, art, copy etc is directly inspired by the artist themselves. Yes they collaborate, but everything’s part of the artist’s created world. All of the names above also experiment and move musically from record to record, taking risks. It’s that vulnerability and authenticity that inspires us most."
What has your biggest achievement for 2018 been? And what's your biggest aspiration for TEME in 2019?
"We realised that Bertie, the studio dog, thinks you’re saying ‘squirrels’ (which he BLOODY hates) if you say the word ‘Skrillex’. No work got done that day. Understanding more about Bertie."
And finally, for those who haven't heard your music before. In 30 second speed dating style, how would you describe your style?
"This is the exact problem with today’s society. We don’t want to go speed dating. We want long, intense, difficult relationships that take months to understand."
52°21'48.6"N 2°43'19.6 is out now via National Anthem and available to listen to on Spotify.