The indie prince is ready for his coronation. With debut album ‘Mellow Moon’ finally on deck and ready to launch, Alfie Templeman opens up about his journey so far, and why he’s still striving for new and exciting worlds.
Words: Jamie Muir. Photos: Sarah Louise Bennett.
“Alfie wants to be great. That’s his priority.” Justin Young of The Vaccines knows a thing or two about greatness. He’s reached the top and played the grandest stages, and sitting around the recording studio table with one Alfie Templeman has opened his eyes to another type of greatness. “I’m sure he wants to be big and successful, and I imagine he wants to be cool too, because who wouldn’t? But what really drives him is the desire to be great at what he does and to keep getting better. Now that’s actually depressingly rare, I think.”
Cut to March 2022, London’s Shepherd’s Bush Empire. There’s a certain atmosphere that comes from an artist making that step up to the big leagues. When a favourite you’ve known and loved for years is fully embraced as becoming A Very Big Deal Indeed. It takes an evening from just another cracking night out to one you feel part of. Their story is your story. It’s a feeling impossible not to have as Alfie Templeman grabs that headlining moment. As soon as he steps on stage, the fizzing sugar-rush that comes with every track is all-encompassing – serving up a night that sees young and old on their feet and revelling in a superstar proving just how super they really are.
As giant inflatable balls bounce across the Empire and track after track is screamed back at him, you’re left with no doubt about the rocket Alfie Templeman sits on. Not many artists can take on such a stage before dropping their debut album. A melting pot of ideas, genres and creativity – his every move has been formed by taking that energy and love for music and transforming it into universal anthems.
After such a journey so far – one that’s taken his voice from his bedroom walls in the village of Carlton, Hertfordshire, to continents, countries and playlists of fans from Australia to Alaska – what’s next? For Alfie, ‘Mellow Moon’ doesn’t just serve as a debut album but as a snapshot of a time in his life when everything changed.
It’s a month and a half after the Shepherd’s Bush show and Alfie’s biggest headline tour to date, and he’s in a reflective mood as he sits outside a cafe in East London.
“Like, people come to see you!” smiles Alfie, beaming with a sense of disbelief but also pride. “They’re there to support you, and it’s incredible. It’s such a beautiful thing to be all together and to see everyone for an hour or so onstage. It was a shock to the system when it first happened. I was meant to feel amazing about everything, but it actually scared me.” He pauses. “I’ve never really talked about it because I feel like people will think I’m ungrateful, and I’m absolutely not – but it’s just the way my mind works. That’s something I’ve seen over the past two years.”
‘Mellow Moon’ is a record that lives up to the hype and more – a glimpse into one of the most creative minds in new music and one that’ll be soundtracking people’s lives for years to come.
“‘Mellow Moon’ is like putting on a new pair of glasses that lets you see the world differently”Alfie Templeman
“This album and I guess everything I do with music is me saying, here’s what’s going on in my brain. I’ve never been that good at explaining my mind in words, but music has always been able to do that for me. Not even just lyrically, but just actual sounds that really get what’s going on in my brain. It’s kinda scary, but I’ve learnt that an album doesn’t define who I am or who I will be. This album is a glimpse into what’s been going on and what I’ve been trying to do. I want people to see me as who I am – someone who is learning, someone who is changing with every day.
“A big point of art is that you’re doing something different. You’re trying something different. You’re going down a different path that helps you to see something differently, and that’s what a lot of this album is about. ‘Mellow Moon’ is like putting on a new pair of glasses that lets you see the world differently. That’s definitely what it was for me.”
Behind the shimmering pop bangers and side-splitting fun is a journey of self-discovery and a mind full of ideas and questions. There’s a restless desire to show the world what he can do while also coming to terms with the personal toll that being front and centre can have. Together, it’s the making of a superstar but also the making of Alfie Templeman himself, and it’s taken him to brinks he wondered if he’d ever come back from.
“Quite simply, Alfie is exceptional,” explains Circa Waves’ Kieran Shudall. Over the past few years, the pair have served up a juicy batch of bangers – with ‘Colour Me Blue’ from ‘Mellow Moon’ just another shimmering example. “He can play every instrument in a band set-up better than most bands. He is so young, but the musical taste and choices he makes are so mature. All he needs is the time and space to make the albums he wants.”
From the age of 7, Alfie Templeman’s love of music was clear. Receiving a live DVD (yes, a DVD) of prog titans Rush in concert served as the starting pistol on an ever-growing fascination with grooves and sound, blossoming into jumping on any opportunity to play, experiment and learn. The first guitar he picked up (his Dad’s) was left-handed, but that razor-sharp focus won through. Early bands, countless hours of crafting songs and sounds and uploading them online for fun – it all fed into the Alfie Templeman seen today. A trailblazing genius-in-waiting who will blossom into one of his generation’s finest.
Since releasing an EP when he was 14, he’s stormed the airwaves with a string of bangers – including ‘Happiness In Liquid Form’, ‘Obvious Guy’, ‘Forever Isn’t Long Enough’ and ‘Everybody’s Gonna Love Somebody’ – and even been broadcast across the nation on Top Of The Pops during the festive period. The ride so far has been heading to one destination: the top.
Behind the scenes of every glorious success, though, Alfie has been learning to deal with new emotions. “I became scared of what people thought about me, 24/7,” he admits. “I couldn’t really write anything because I kept looking online and seeing things. Misconceptions about me, like the real me wasn’t coming across in what I was doing. I had to read things, and I didn’t want to respond because I was worried it would make the situation worse or people would troll me and… reading negative things about you can really suck. It makes you never want to write a song again. It still scares the shit out of me to see that.”
With the early foundations of ‘Mellow Moon’ beginning to form in early 2020, the sudden halt that the global pandemic brought had a direct effect. When this here magazine stopped by to catch up with Alfie in his home village in the summer of 2020, it sat just as the whirlwind of radio plays and millions of streams truly kicked off. By the end of the year, all the tip lists were aimed squarely at his door. “Looking back on that time, I’m still dealing with a lot of things that I was thinking about back then,” recalls Alfie. “I wasn’t able to really go outside or see my girlfriend or anything, and so I got really depressed. It sucked a lot of life out of me, and it took a long time to heal from that.”
With his success came questioning. It was a jolt rather than a smooth rise for a young adult growing up and trying to make his way in the world. “When I started seeing myself getting more and more radio plays and that attention – it didn’t feel like me,” he continues. “I had gone from writing songs in my room to suddenly everything happening so quickly, and I dunno – it felt like some of that magic got taken away. It felt like I wasn’t doing it for me anymore. It became a business or my job rather than fun. When you write songs that people love, there’s a pressure to keep doing exactly that when I actually want to try all these different things… and I think that’s why this album is really great.”
It’s an honesty that previously Alfie may have held back on, but much like ‘Mellow Moon’, it comes now at a vital time in his life where being true to yourself is arguably the most important element of being the artist he wants to become. Anxiety has been something Alfie has been aware of from a young age, but that bubbled over both in 2020 and especially in 2021. Even now, thinking back to that time forces Alfie to stop to ponder everything he went through. “Just when I thought things were getting better, I had the worst few months of my life. I really got depressed, and everything was very black and white. There was a pit in my stomach where I would wake up in the morning, and my arms would be tingling; I was that anxious. I wouldn’t eat properly, I couldn’t talk to anyone or bring myself to go anywhere. Just when my freedom was coming back too. I was doing things very impulsively, and it wasn’t me at all; I left my own body for a while.
‘I was doubting myself and felt like I didn’t deserve any of this,” he continues. “I would think of all my past mistakes or regrets, and it honestly was like they were just slapping me in the face over and over. It kept hitting for a long time, this voice saying I was a shit person – that feeling of not being worth anything. I wouldn’t wish that feeling on my worst enemy. I can’t even talk about some of those feelings and thoughts yet.”
“Just when I thought things were getting better, I had the worst few months of my life. I really got depressed, and everything was very black and white”Alfie Templeman
It left such a mark on Alfie that it took some time to get back to a place where he was ready to write and create music again, and when he did, the songs began to form from the experiences he had gone through. Every track on ‘Mellow Moon’ is filled with what Alfie has gone through over the past 24 months. ‘Do It’ spotlights that battle within your own mind as life continues to ring round and round, ‘Candyfloss’ is a shimmering 80s pop gem with a core that suggests that sometimes things are too good to be true. ‘Broken’ is an anthem of self-discovery, while closing track ‘Just Below The Above’ cuts right to the bone in a bubble of raw emotion. “I can remember writing that song in my room and putting it all together, and yeah, it hurt. It actually really hurt to make,” remembers Alfie. “It was all the questions I had in my brain, and I was trying to answer them. Pretty unsuccessfully, but I got some of them down. It definitely still hurts to go back and listen to it.”
At its worst, the anxiety that swept over Alfie was “like a wall, where I couldn’t really jump over and get to all the things I wanted to do. Like a big brick wall built right in front of this like beautiful creative freedom. There was this rumble in my stomach that kept building up, and I just couldn’t fight it.” It’s only recently that Alfie feels like he’s starting to climb that wall. “That’s why I like this album,” he points, “because it’s not perfect, but it’s got so much character to it. It’s got so many bits in it that I can just hear back to that time. I can hear it. They all come together and evolve, and that’s really important to me.”
Each track on ‘Mellow Moon’ has its own important place in the story of Alfie’s life. Take ‘3D Feelings’. “It came together when things were actually getting better last summer. At the time, I wanted feel-good music, something that would lift me up – it’s something you could never have made me do before,” admits Alfie. “I came out the other side as a new person. I’d been through a tough year, and I needed reassurance. Justin [Young, The Vaccines] and Will [Bloomfield] gave me that, and when I went back to listen to these songs, I was like – oh shit, that’s me! It felt pretty brave to do it.”
His anxiety may be in a better place than it was this time last year, but it’s still something Alfie lives with every day. Now, there’s an understanding that he can be “okay with it not going away, as long as I have the answers for it.” Those answers come in many forms, from spending time with his loved ones away from a world full of constant comments and doubts to being locked in a studio or deep in his own creative world. “I think it’s something that a lot of artists have in common, where you get this feeling of someone’s eyes always being on you. I can’t help but feel vulnerable about that,” notes Alfie. “I’m very privileged to have this position, to be an artist and have so many people interested in what I do and what I have to say, but it’s also scary. I don’t want to let people down, and to be honest, I don’t really have my shit together. I don’t know how to preach a message or anything if I don’t really know how my mind works yet. I’m working that out.”
As a result, and as Alfie explains, ‘Mellow Moon’ is a record full of many different emotions. Coming together as a record that sonically pushes at the boundaries of everything that he’s done before, it emotionally reaches places that not only serve as an outlet for Alfie but will resonate with everyone coming of age in a time of growing uncertainty and worry. Alfie’s every move is nothing short of essential – and entirely unpredictable. “Listening to tracks like ‘The Western’,” highlights Alfie. “It feels like there’s finally music out there that shows the craziness of what’s going on inside my mind.” He smiles, thinking about the twists and twirls on ‘Mellow Moon’. “Yeah, it’s kind of cool that my label are letting me put this out, to be honest,” he laughs.
‘People seriously, seriously underestimate how talented he is.” Thomas Headon has seen first-hand how vast Alfie Templeman’s musical universe truly is. From collaborations, regular sessions together and much more – they sit at the forefront of a new generation of artists bursting out of the bedroom and aiming for a whole lot more. “He makes the majority of his music entirely by himself, plays a billion instruments incredibly well, and despite stating that he’s not a lyric guy, he writes some of the most intriguing lyrics I’ve heard. Genuinely, what is there not to love?”
While ‘Mellow Moon’ soundtracks escapism and another world, it also sets the opening bar of a catalogue Alfie Templeman is already dreaming of exploring. He practically jumps out of his seat when talking about everything he wants to do and the avenues he wants to probe next. “I’m really keen on making something that’s completely out of my mind. Completely uncensored and raw, that shows this different side of me that hasn’t been shown yet. I feel like at the moment I’m just cooking, getting better at playing my instruments and exploring different things musically and rhythmically.”
Bands like Black Midi and Black Country, New Road fill his dream vision of the sort of music he’d love to investigate (“[Producer] Dan Carey is an actual God,” he enthuses). The idea of writing and recording an album in that vein in one day is something he’s already itching to have a go at – not just to prove to himself that he can, but also to slide across the table to the naysayers and doubters. “A lot of people are like, but you’re only 19 – you can do it later,” he quotes, raising his eyebrows with cheeky defiance. “I’m like – well… why can’t I do it now? Why can’t I try now? If people don’t like it, they don’t like it, but all that matters is I’ve done it myself. If I make something crazy, it doesn’t have to define me for the rest of my life – but I want to try at the very least. To not be afraid of that.”
A mixture of frustration and hunger comes across Alfie’s face; the world hasn’t seen yet how big and bold his goals are. “I want to try new things, and you know what, they may fail. Things could go terribly wrong, but the fact is that I’m doing it because I want to go out there and create music,” he states clearly. “I want to create art, and the fact people may listen to it and like it, that’s awesome – like, so awesome. What’s really important to me is that I can go into the studio and get into that flow state and just get away from everything in my head.
“If I make something crazy, it doesn’t have to define me for the rest of my life – but I want to try at the very least”Alfie Templeman
“Everything I do has to have a reason, and it may be something in a few years’ time that I’m not sure about. There are definitely songs I’ve released that I look back on now and think, ‘oh, I could have done that better’, but that’s okay. That’s growing as an artist. That’s being honest with yourself and seeing how you can evolve and what you can learn. I want to try and create something better than what I’ve done before, and hopefully, people like it. If they don’t? That’s fine too. I’m learning that’s okay. I just want people to know that I can do more.”
Not backed into one genre. Not trying to fill a particular request. Not playing to the gallery for simple clicks and a quickfire burst of success. For Alfie Templeman, it’s going to be big-time festival stages and continued adoration as thousands take a trip to the ‘Mellow Moon’ and discover much more than cosmic tunes and otherworldly bangers. There’s something a lot more grounded and immediate than that. It’s an album that can be switched on during the bleakest of winter nights and make the world turn into a tropical paradise. On the warmest of summer days, it’s a glass of refreshingly cold water. It’s the diary of Alfie from Carlton and every battle he’s found himself encountering while trying to discover himself. More than anything, it’s real.
“I’m just a guy, really,” reflects Alfie. In the next week, he’ll seize the day at a festival in Liverpool before hopping on stage with his pal Declan McKenna at the Royal Albert Hall (guitar solos and the lot in hand), but his journey continues. “I’m just a son, a brother, someone in a really healthy and good relationship. I’m happy where I am. Musically it’s a big mess, and I never know where I want to go next. At the back of my mind, there’s always this constant anxiety about how I’m going to be perceived or portrayed, but there are seven billion people in the world, and they all see me in a different way to how I see myself. I’m not a ‘soft boy’ or anything like that – I’m just a guy still learning so much about myself. It’s not fair for me to define who I am, I’m just a person that makes mistakes, does things and has a normal life sometimes.” ■
Taken from the June 2022 edition of Dork, out now. Alfie Templeman’s album ‘Mellow Moon’ is out 27th May.