March 8, 2022 | 19:30£13
Alfie Templeman knows music. At just 17, this boy wunderkind already has four EPs to his name, and an encyclopaedic knowledge of music history that some veteran artists would envy. He’s been called a “bedroom producer”, and that’s true – all of his songs were crafted at home in the small village of Carlton, Bedfordshire. “It’s kind of boring,” Templeman says cheerfully. “I live in a nice place and everyone’s friendly and supportive, so I’m lucky. But there’s not a lot to do, so that’s one of the reasons I got into songwriting.” But where many young artists create tracks from pre-made samples, Templeman is more likely to pick up one of the 10 instruments he taught himself.
It started with his father. A builder by trade but a passionate guitarist by nature, Templeman’s dad would fill the house with the sounds of classic rock, while his son banged away to the rhythm on pots and pans. Then one day, his dad brought him along to do some work at a friend’s house. That friend wasn’t sure how to entertain a child, so he put a video of a live Rush concert on the TV. “I was blown away,” Templeman recalls. “I can vividly remember watching Neil Peart play. He became my first musical hero.”
At school, he always felt like the odd one out. “All the boys were playing football, and I hated that,” he says. “I felt like the weird kid because I didn’t want to do sports.” He began going to cello lessons, which he credits for his perfect pitch. Then he fell in love with the drums around the same time he was teaching himself to play one of his dad’s left-handed guitars (right-handed). After that it was the keyboard, mandolin, “a bit of violin”, bass, sitar, harmonica, synths…
It definitely worked. Like An Animal, released by Chess Club Records in 2018, is an astonishing, self-produced collection redolent of Kevin Parker and Mac De Marco. There are hazy, sun-drenched twangs of guitar; swooning, Eighties-style synths; moody, wandering basslines and warm percussion. Unlike many other artists, who might try to compensate for their youth by tackling the “big” subjects, Templeman makes no attempt to hide his age. These songs are about feeling like an outsider, exam stress, and those all-consuming first crushes.
“I listen to everything!” Templeman says, explaining how he came to have such a broad range of references. This is a teenager who will just as happily discuss John McLaughlin and Miles Davis as he would The Weeknd and Harry Styles. “I think some people might consider me as ‘just’ an indie artist, but my music is a broad mix,” he continues. “There are modern influences, but also a lot of prog, classic jazz, funk… I like to play things that people don’t expect, that hit you right in the feels.”
He praises his label, Chess Club Records, for helping him to “come out of my shell a bit” and be the charming, exuberant and driven young man he is today. “I’ve definitely become more open,” he nods. “I didn’t always know how to talk to people before, and I could get pretty anxious. I’d get scared, but everyone’s really nice!”
Templeman now has his eye on 2021, with a brand-new collection of songs on the way that he describes as “the best representation of what I’m about”. “Each song is different but linked,” he says. The mini-album opens on the thrilling rhythms of “Shady” – produced by Tom McFarland from the Mercury Prize-shortlisted collective Jungle. From there, you’ll be hooked, whether to the strut of “Wait, I Lied” (with nods to Gnarls Barkley and Justin Timberlake), or the gleaming “To You”.
“My mum kept wanting to hear what I was working on, but I can’t show anyone until a song’s finished,” Templeman laughs, thinking of the reaction his fans will have when they hear this new material. He wants to do as many shows as possible when he gets back on the road, performing to a fanbase that now stretches around the world. “I want those new experiences,” he says. “2021 is going to be massive.”
Alfie Templeman plays The Leadmill on Tuesday 8th March 2022