Alfie Templeman is the 17-year-old Bedfordshire songwriter who has been making music since before he could do much else.
It all started with pots and pans: “I was picking those up when I was mega young, so I always liked drums a lot! But it wasn’t until I started listening to Rush that I realised that I really like drums.”
From humble beginnings as the loudest toddler on the block, Alfie honed his skills as a drum lord, inspired by his musical family and heroes such as the late Neil Peart (Rush), Buddy Rich (influential jazz drummer) and John Bonham (Led Zeppelin). From there, he progressed to teaching himself guitar, bass and production techniques, amassing a career’s worth of his own songs by the time he turned thirteen.
Signed to Chess Club Records, his new EP ‘Happiness In Liquid Form’, is sugary indie-pop for the summer we should all be having. We caught up with Alfie to hear more about it.
Hi Alfie, how are you doing?
Yeah, not bad thanks. Just chilling. Just taking every day slowly and not doing much. Just letting it all come naturally.
I read a recent interview of yours and you seemed a bit fed up?
Oh yeah, totally. Every day is pretty much the same, isn’t it? I think I’ve kinda got past that point now. It’s just “meh” – I just feel nothing, which is probably not a good thing.
How do you pick yourself up when you’re feeling a bit miserable?
Cup of tea, I guess? That’s the best thing to have. Nice shower, watch a film, make music, but I’m trying not to force anything out so whatever happens, happens.
Drums was your first instrument of choice. Did you get formal training?
Drums was the only instrument that I got taught at. Everything else [guitar, bass, production] I taught myself. But drums, I just wanted to get it right. I started getting drum lessons when I was about seven and I didn’t stop getting them until I was about fourteen so I’m actually like a proper drummer. That’s my main thing.
You’re really into prog, aren’t you?
Yeah, big time. Really obscure prog.
People are less bound by genre these days. Could there be an Alfie prog track coming at some point?
Oh man yeah, totally! I always put bits of it in songs. I think I’ve got one, actually. It’s kind of progressive funk with weird chords. I’m not sure lyrics wise, though. All progressive rock songs are about wizards and fairies and I’m not completely into that but definitely the music. It’s quite hard for a lot of people to implement because it’s a lot of tinkering around on the guitar and weird piano notes and crazy chords that you didn’t know existed. It’s just a load of noise half the time, but it’s about making that sound good.
I’ve heard people describe you as “bedroom pop“. Is that a term that resonates with you?
Right, so, in the sense that I make music in my bedroom then yeah I’m “bedroom pop” but I feel like bedroom pop is an actual genre these days and it’s such a throwaway quick-bucks kinda term which is used to put your music up on Soundcloud. If you put #bedroompop then you’re bound to get some plays.
I don’t really get it. Half the time it’s recorded in a really fancy studio and your dad’s paid tons of money for you to get famous so I’m not completely into it. Honestly, the actual music doesn’t inspire me. I like indie, for sure. But bedroom pop… for people who actually do make music in their bedroom then props to them but that isn’t really what it is anymore.
It’s a touchy subject. I’m gonna get cancelled on Twitter now.
If that’s the only thing you get cancelled for, I’d say you’re doing alright.
You get cancelled for anything these days.
What do you make of all that?
Twitter is literally the worst thing in the entire world but I love it at the same time. It’s a lot easier to interact with people on there but then you start getting in arguments because you’ve got 150 characters to really go off at people and you’re like: “Argh, why am I on this app”.
Do you get pre or post tweet anxiety? You’ve got quite a following now.
I usually just post, then dip and hope for the best! I haven’t been cancelled yet. I don’t get too anxious about it because I haven’t done anything wrong for get people annoyed about but whatever happens, happens. I’m sure I’ll get cancelled one day and it’ll be really funny.
Tell us about the new EP. You’ve been working with Justin Young from Vaccines…
Yeah! We did ‘Happiness In Liquid Form’, the title track together with an engineer, Will Bloomfield, who’s amazing too. We made it last year around summertime. We thought we were going to put out a summer banger this year and everyone would be outside partying to it and then this shit happened, so it didn’t really go to plan. But I guess it’s a little glimmer of hope for people.
It’s definitely got a summer feel. Were you a Vaccines fan before hand?
Yeah, I loved them. Justin was part of Chess Club [Records] when he first started as a solo artist and I’m on Chess Club too. They said “we should link you guys up”. So we just got in the studio and now we just keep on making songs together. It’s nice having a bunch of cool songwriters you can work with.
Has he taught you anything about being an indie hero?
[Laughs] Well, not directly. I’ve never asked him for tips but just by looking at him – how cool and chill he is –he’s just like, “be yourself man, you’re just a normal person, just chill, you get me”. That’s what I kinda do, even though I’m not famous at all. If I was famous, that’s what I’d tell myself.
You say you’re not famous but you’ve got pretty hardcore fans
There are people that like my music but I just see them as a family. It’s kinda cute. A little Alfie T family reunion. Everyone’s invited to the barbecue and my songs are on the grill, grilling away. You probably think I’m the weirdest kid ever right now! But I can see this all in my head, playing out and it’s really chill. Everyone’s happy.
Is there anyone you stan in the same way your little Alfie T family stan you?
Brad Pitt, oh my god. I guess Kevin Parker as well, music wise, but oh my god Brad Pitt’s Daddy! He’s amazing. He’s just a whole snack.
Just visually or…?
Just everything. He’s a great actor as well. I love him in Ocean’s Eleven. But Kevin Parker – I’ve always geeked out over Kevin Parker. And Todd Rundgren, a great Finnish songwriter from the seventies. I never really get over the top about artists because I wouldn’t like people doing that to me so I’ll leave a like on their Instagram post but that’s it.
You recently went on tour with Sports Team, I imagine that was a lot of fun. Any wild tour stories?
I can’t tell you much because I’m underage but it was great. That sounds worse than it is now! It was a really cool tour. I think we played fifteen gigs and went all around the UK. To be honest, we’re pretty normal people. After every gig, me and my band would go back to the hotel – via a Tesco and buy about £30 worth of food – and sit there and talk about weird stuff like spirits and ghost sightings.
Do you believe in ghosts?
Yeah, I’m 100% sure I’ve seen ghosts. We went on holiday once and I knew before we even got there, something was off. Basically, at night, the lock of the door in the house actually opened itself and the house door was wide open. It was weirdest thing in my life! We found out that someone actually died in that house and it all made sense and then we vowed to never go back. So maybe I am a ghost now, I don’t know!
Touring’s on hold at the moment, obviously. Have you got any plans to fill the touring gap?
We’ve got to make sure everyone’s safe before we do any of that stuff. Nobody knows – not even the government knows – how to handle it. It’s crazy times and the most important thing is everyone is OK before we return to the stage.
All I really think about is seeing my mates and my girlfriend and hopefully having a nice summer: a very socially-distanced summer. But in terms of gigs, it would be cool to play bigger stages and branch out a little bit but I also love the intimate shows. In all honestly, I’ll just let it come to me.
You recently got featured on the Radio 1 playlist. That must have been a big moment
Yeah, it was cool. I celebrated with orange juice… and toothpaste. Nah, it was really cool seeing that. It’s quite a big thing, especially when you’re just out of school. People keep sending me videos of them hearing me on the radio so it’s really sweet to see all of that kick in.
I read that your newest music has “1975/Tame Impala/Fleetwood Mac” vibes. Is that still the case?
Yeah, I’m pretty certain that it’s ready now. I mean, I have this new record coming out, ‘Happiness…’, and then I have another one ready after that so I’ve got enough stuff in the pipeline. It’s sounding really great. At the moment it’s quite a big record.
Is it an album?
No, but next year we’re gonna do that. I’ve got about 500 songs recorded. This is why I just take each day as it comes because because I’ve been collecting these songs up since I was about 13 or 14 – I just like doing it – so when I got signed, I was like “this is going to be great because I’ve got all my songs.” I’ve basically got 10 albums ready! So yeah, a couple of new records this year – EPs, mini albums – and then an album next year.
Are you looking forward to the new 1975 album?
Yeah! I definitely am. I don’t know what to expect. All the singles are really cool. I think it leaked, which is really bad. A lot of people were saying there’s some deep stuff, like how they normally chuck in those two-minute instrumentals. I really enjoy that kinda stuff. I think it breaks up the record really well and it’s nice to see a band be so refreshing with what they do. To me, they’re like a new Radiohead.
What’s the first thing you’re gonna do when you get out of lockdown?
See my girlfriend and then second thing, is get the band together and practice because damn, we need to practice! We would have been practicing so much if it wasn’t for this. I’ve got so many new songs that we can start playing so that’s gonna be the main focus and then hopefully – once everything is safe – getting on the road.
Alfie’s new EP, ‘Happiness In Liquid Form’ is out now on Chess Club Records.