When you hail from Queensland’s Gold Coast, just turning up to play a show in Salford on the coldest night of the year alone must be a culture shock. Like going to the Dark Side of the Moon. Especially when you slip on a frozen wooden boardwalk the council has inexplicably built outside the venue and almost break your neck (as indeed the writer did as well). Bondi Beach it ain’t.
But undaunted, Tempesst, an amiable bunch of lads, carried on and delivered a short but dynamic set which emphasised why they are capable of filling a void in a maligned genre, psych rock.
Two caveats. Firstly, they aren’t all from the Gold Coast. While brothers Toma and Andy Banjanin may be, other members are collected from elsewhere in the country where England can’t win a Test Match to save their lives, and one is from Baltimore. Their bass player had just flown in from Australia and was performing at only his third show but didn’t appear to play a note out of place. Keyboard man Kane Reynolds was hidden out of sight around a corner (it’s a small stage at the Eagle) but his contribution was significant to their overall sound.
Secondly, psych rock or psych pop isn’t a wholly accurate description. They began as a folk band and some folk elements remain, so let’s call it folk-psych-rock. They’ve been compared to Fleet Foxes and that’s close enough.
In fact, their opening two songs were pretty standard light rock numbers. The third one, ‘Feel Better’, was on a different level entirely, with its swirling guitars and an armada of groove if you’ll forgive the pun. You can’t help but think that track and another one, ‘God Knows I need a Muse’, are the sort of thing Headless Heroes might have been churning out now if they were still on the scene.
The recorded versions of their songs suggest a passive approach to music but they work up a head of steam on most of them when live, generating a wall of sound and on occasion suddenly exploding into life, prompting a surfeit of head nodding. Certain guitar-based bands sound particularly good in the brick-walled terrace house conversion that is the Eagle’s performance space and Tempesst was one of them.
‘Waiheke’ was another track they excelled on. It may or may not refer to the island in New Zealand but it has the feel of a languorous Sunday afternoon on the beach.
A refreshing side to their collective character is that they don’t take themselves too seriously and can make light of losing strings and spilling beer over equipment; you sense they could joke their way out of any situation. But that isn’t the same as sending themselves up. They’re serious musicians.
Despite being able to achieve falsetto tones easily, you do sense at times that they might benefit from the presence of a female vocalist.
The psych genre that they operate in and around may not be the most widely appreciated right now but there’s nothing wrong with gaining market share in it in anticipation of a return to popularity. Tempesst are doing just that.
Their debut EP ‘Adult Wonderland’ has just been released. Tempesst, who switch between Australia and the UK, anticipate further UK dates early in 2018 but probably not as the headline act.