Some musical acts are easy to label and the genre box they fit into is as clear as day, but for Portland’s Temporary Hero this couldn’t be farther from the case. What they give us is their reimagining of the Chet Baker Sings Catalog on the eclectic album CHET.
RYAN: Temporary Hero is a great name. Can you tell us how you came up with this name?
JOSEPH: Pat Benatar has a song from her “Tropico” album called “Temporary Heroes” that I have always loved. By taking the name, I validate that we all are just temporary heroes in one way or another.
RYAN: After hearing your interesting album CHET, I still cannot find what label I should put on your sound. How would you describe your sound to anyone that has not heard your album yet?
JOSEPH: I think it is really hard to specify one genre or sound. A lot of people call it “indie” but that doesn’t really describe the type of sound. I like to think Temporary Hero is genre-less and can delve into any type of sound at any time. I had a label exec once tell me “you can’t do this and that and this and that because no one will follow you.” I follow my inspiration, my muse of the day. Why limit myself? I get that most execs/promoters are looking at “branding” but that’s not my thing. Art is my thing.
RYAN: The band has some very smooth vocals and unique song composition. Can you tell us a bit about how Temporary Hero formed?
JOSEPH: The sordid story is that I had a recording contract with an indie label. I had two iTunes charting singles (all point-of-sale success and nothing of any substance or lasting). Anyhow, I presented a new song to the label and it was rejected as being too “dark” and too “topical”… so I recorded the song under the name “Temporary Hero” to avoid any contractual disputes. And as “Temporary Hero” I went on to work with some of underground and popular dance music’s greats.
RYAN: The song writing process is different for everyone. What does your own song writing process look like?
JOSEPH: I write everywhere. I have written songs at the gym, in the car. I was once at a conference and made to feel like I was a nobody so I wrote a song lyric DURING THE CONFERENCE on a napkin.
I always start with a title. Usually one word comes to mind and I then write around it. For example, I was becoming infuriated over an article I read about “the perfect body.” And I thought “why is it that society is so obsessed with perfection? We all have flaws.” So I wrote a song called “Flaws” on the spot. After lyrics are written, I choose the style based on the mood the lyric invokes.
RYAN: Where does your band find it’s inspiration to create the music that it makes?
JOSEPH: As cliché as it sounds, from life. Sometimes it is from a newspaper article or a blog post. Often it is taking a perspective of a person I met who is having difficulties or lost a loved one. But it is always “life.”
RYAN: The Soundcloud revolution is here. How do you feel about digital downloads and streaming over the once popular physical purchase?
JOSEPH: I am pretty old school in that I love to see the artwork, “feel” the whole album as a tangible piece of art, not just the sound. On the other hand I love the immediate accessibility of a digital / streamable project. No more waiting until Tuesday or lining up at midnight on Monday in Boston to get the newest release. But as much as I love the accessibility it does feel like the “album” as we know it has gone away. Artists will still make albums (I hope). I always think in terms of an album… what the feel and overall theme/message I want for the album. How does each song flow into the other. I even think of my albums as having traditional A and B (and, sometimes, C and D) sides. I put a lot of creative effort into the track order. Additionally, I spend almost as much time designing ALL the artwork from font choices, placement, etc. I love being a multimedia artist. And, how is that possible for me? Because of the digital age. So it’s a catch-22.
Finally, another lamentation I have is that things come and go too quickly in the streaming world. And it is not that we are putting out forgettable projects (notice I said “projects” and NOT “products”). I think it is because we have too many options. But that is a good and a bad thing. Another catch-22. For example, Grimes’ latest album or even FKA Twigs … they get a lot of deserved hype and praise but then they are washed away with the next tide 12 hours later. It’s because our playlists have become so massive. Even my own playlists get buried under the weight of the next new album. But when I have a CD in my car, I tend to play it over and over. So right now I have Shawn Colvin’s latest as well as Bjork’s Vulnicura (Strings) in the player… that’s it. So I will play them over and over and NOT skip around. It’s psychological I suppose.
RYAN: Musical collaborations seem to be on the rise. Who would you personally like to work with given the chance?
JOSEPH: Bjork and the producer Arca that worked some of Vulnicura.
RYAN: At this point in your career have you learned any lessons you would like to tell other bands about that might help them out?
JOSEPH: Do NOT fall for the the hype and scams on the internet: buying YouTube views, buying Facebook fans, and paying promoters who basically do the same. Be very careful to whom you sell your soul.
Hold on to your integrity and your creative spirit.
RYAN: What does an average week look like for the band?
JOSEPH: Lots of writing, studio time to always stretch the limits. Creating artwork, videos. And lots of family time. And lots of time in other professional interests.
RYAN: Lastly, and thank you for your time. Is there any news from the Temporary Hero camp that you would like your fans to know for upcoming year?
JOSEPH: After this CHET project, Temporary Hero plans to explore a more indie-rock meets electronic sound and some traditional pop arrangements as well on the album I’M SO WARHOL. There is also a return to the urban/electronic rhythms on a second album planned in the latter half of the year as well.
Temporary Hero can be found at Facebook