With the recent release of their first album, “Breath, Blood & Tempo,” Chris Gostling & The Tempo have marked a transitional point: from frequent live performers in the Toronto area to recording artists who hopefully will gain an audience across Canada (and elsewhere).
The album is chock-full of memorable songs delivered in a terrific folk rock style, including violin in stunning counterpoint to Gostling’s earthy vocals. One of the themes threading the lyrics is the need to take risks in life in order to grow – risks in relationships (“Water and Its Edge”), risks in trying new things (the title track), risks in letting go of things that we’ve held perhaps too long (“Fix It If You Like’).
The group delivers their songs not only with a confidence clearly born of numerous live gigs but also with the verve and energy to keep the songs fresh. This is a highly enjoyable album that will have listeners tapping their toes but also resonating with Gostling’s lyrics.
Chris Gostling was kind enough to take the time to chat with us (via email) about this terrific new album.
Your bio talks about the Americana aesthetic infusing your music. How would you describe your musical influences, and how and why you came to embrace acoustic music?
I grew up with my parents’ records. Wings, James Taylor and Bob Seger were in regular rotation as a kid. Growing up in the 90s as teenager I loved grunge rock, and the start of indie rock. I started on acoustic guitar when I was 13 because it was what my parents could get. When I started playing with other musicians, getting an electric guitar made more sense. However when I really got the bug to write as singer/songwriter, I went back to the acoustic guitar because it made sense as the right tool. It’s an evolving thing as a creative person. I am slowly teaching myself piano and theory and that is having an impact on how I create.
I found this article in which you said, “But what I do to make my living and what I do to feel alive are two different things.” That really resonated with me (since what I do to pay the bills is not what feeds my soul), but with respect to your music, are there ways in which your day job does in fact feed into or inspire your creativity?
I have been running a small communication business for the last 17 years, the last 9 of those being my only source of income. In that time I feel like I have experienced all of the emotional range. I have had people I thought were rock solid become totally under-handed, and I have experienced working with people that have become incredibly genuine collaborators. It’s hard putting it out there to make a living and setting a bar at “what I will do for money” and then trying to find joy in the work you end up doing. It’s a trial and error process that evolves at its own rate. I try to bring this perspective into my musical life, never forgetting that hard work is worth it if you believe that what you are doing is worth it.
Following on that question, these lyrics from the title track really speak to me: “Terrified is not that bad a feeling / From time to time it’s a humble form of pain / And what you hold is breath, and blood and tempo.” Too often we are afraid to take the risk and leap into the unknown – has this project been one such leap for you? Or does it feel like a very natural progression?
There have been many leaps over the course of this project. It can be hard to allow myself to trust other people with something that really matters to me. That was a concept that I dealt with over over the making of the whole album. Regardless of how much faith I have in the people around me who are talented and supportive, I am still putting something very personal out there that can’t happen without them. That’s a dependence that I have built a lot of stigma around and have subsequently needed to leap over often.
I think “putting it out there” in the most unflinching way is the most honest way to get hurt as well as the most legitimate way to share something with others. It’s worth the risk. I think the point of it all is that feeling of “risk” shouldn’t go away.
I’ve always wanted to ask musicians this about their first album: especially after a number of years of playing live and doing so many gigs, how did it feel to hear your recorded, finished project for the first time?
It’s a great question to ask. You only get to make your first album once, right?
It’s impossible for me to think about how it was to hear the “studio” version of my songs without addressing the recording process to get there. It’s not the beer soaked corner in The Press Club. It’s like backcountry camping. You have to bring all of the things you need with you. Things like the energy that exists playing live to an audience. But you are in a closet with windows and a click track.
It was amazing to be part of the iterative process as the instruments were recorded and layered on top of each other. It took me a few months after getting out of the studio before I felt I could objectively listen to the album. It sounded like the cleanest version of those songs. I had up until that point only experienced my music in a live performance capacity and it’s different. There will be people that will only know the album version of a song like “Six Feet In A Hole” which sounds great on the record, but is way more unhinged when we play it live at the end of a set.
I look forward to experimenting more with other formats of recording music. I grew up listening to a lot of live off the floor music and have a love for it.
If I read your Facebook page correctly, you used Indiegogo to raise funds for this project. Have sites such as Indiegogo made the dream of recording and releasing albums more accessible for groups like yours? If so, in what ways has it leveled the playing field?
We made the decision to go into the studio in October of 2015. I reached out to John Dinsmore (Lincoln County Social Club) and we booked in two weeks at the start of the following January (2016). I did the math on what it was going to cost to record, master and produce some albums for sale. The idea to do a fundraiser in the format of album pre-sales made a lot of sense. After years of a Toronto residency playing once a month at the Press Club from 09 to 15 we built up a small but loyal base of fans of the music.
Running a crowd-funding campaign gave us the opportunity to promote the band and the music in general while also raising as much capital to offset the hard-costs.
In the end of the campaign (which finished up the week we went into the studio) we had 30 supporters help offset 25% of the album production costs. The rest went on my line of credit, hacked away with some private concerts over the summer.
I think there is a variety of acts using crowdfunding instead of applying for grants. I think it also gives musicians a litmus test of the public interest in a project. In terms of the “playing field” I am not sure there is a trick for levelling it. It seems you (as an artist) are either supported or you are on your own, and both options seem challenging in their own right. I like that crowdfunding can make recording financially feasible if you are willing to work hard and your project is half decent.
The sound from this album is very ‘live’ to me in the sense that it’s warm and vibrant (or maybe my DAC really works that well…) – some studio albums can feel very hushed and polite, like being in a library. How do you feel your sound on this project differs from how I might experience your music live (apart from no one talking while I listen)?
It’s funny, I feel the album IS the polite version of the songs we recorded. Live we play as it’s the last time we are going to get to do it. The recording was an opportunity to capture a version of the songs that I would want people to hear if they can’t be at a gig with us.
Do you have plans to tour this year?
We had our album release show at The Horseshoe on January 25th. We have a couple other dates booked around Southern Ontario. We will post things on our website as the dates get confirmed and we will post them up on all of the social medias.
Photo credit: Laura Mensinga