In the Studio: How Here We Go Magic Met Nigel Godrich

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[Photo: Steve Keros]
David Bevan WRITTEN BY
David Bevan

"When you're playing Glastonbury at 11 in the morning," Luke Temple begins, "you're playing to the people who are still awake and have no idea what's going on, or you're playing to mamas and daddies and their babies. It's that vibe." But in June of 2010, when Temple and his Brooklyn outfit Here We Go Magic took the legendary festival's Park Stage for the very first time, they were also playing to an enthusiastic pair "going apeshit in the front row," two guys disguised in sunglasses and hats — Radiohead's Thom Yorke and famed producer Nigel Godrich. The both of them, "by some miracle of God," made their way backstage to chat with Temple and the band after that set, offering compliments that left them glowing. "Sometimes, you wonder if it's worth it," Temple says. "It had been a pretty insane year of touring, but that was one of those moments when you realize it is. The only guys getting off were Nigel and Tom, and that was enough. It felt like a seal of approval."

Impressed, Godrich began traveling to see the band perform again and again, eventually suggesting that they work together. They obliged. "It was just people deciding if they wanted to make music together," says guitarist Michael Bloch. "There wasn't anything planned out about it, you know? It was just really genuine: 'I want to make music with you, do you want to make music with me? Do you want to try it?'" And over the course of five months last summer, split up so they could write and demo and scrape together the additional cash necessary to fund studio sessions with Godrich in London, the foursome captured what would became their forthcoming, yet-to-be-titled full-length follow-up to 2010's unsung splash, Pigeons. "That was an exercise in density," Temple says of their second LP. "To me, it sounds two-dimensional, like looking at a painting. But this record is more immersive. It's three-dimensional. You can see the objects in relation to each other. It's more sculptural, an installation as opposed to a painting."

Some of that can be attributed to both Godrich's studio as well as his ear for arrangement. As a songwriter who's long written and recorded in his bedroom, Temple in particular was forced to make adjustments. "The first few months were difficult," he says. "I had it blown up in my head, but then all of a sudden it started to flow. He wasn't a superhero or something, he was just a guy we could relate to, a real nuts-and-bolts guy. He really made us play as well as we could because it was going to be right there you so can hear everything. I think less and less bands at our level have the luxury of going into studios like this to make records. I never thought I'd be doing this."

And in the heady pulse of standouts like "How Do I Know" or "Hard to Be Close," you can get a much clearer understanding o for why a Here We Go Magic live experience was and is potent enough to send guys like Yorke and Godrich into early morning spasms. Their many gifts are on full display here, in their finest light. "It sounds like records used to sound," Temple says. "You know? It has an incredible richness to it, especially on headphones. I think for a long time I was against big-sounding records, but this manages to be big without being schmaltzy and overblown. It's economic."

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