School may be out for summer, but 17-year-old Alfie Templeman is keeping up the hard work with ‘Happiness In Liquid Form’, his fourth EP release in the last two years. Out today (July 17), this new six-track collection sees the rising Bedfordshire-born bedroom-pop star move into new musical territories, prepping — in his words — for a move towards adulthood.
Breaking down the EP track-by-track for NME, Templeman tells us about the various inspirations behind its creation: famous friends, self-therapy and the alluring call of the 70s disco ball…
‘Happiness In Liquid Form’
Alfie Templeman: “The first few EPs I made were pretty strictly indie, but I always liked funk as a kid. I went to Universal Studios and met up with Justin Young from The Vaccines and his producer Will Bloomfield. I started with some really simple chords, laid down some funky drums and bass, and then Will brought in the pianos and synths. Justin was just sitting in the corner and 10 minutes later, he got up and said: ‘Right, I’ve got all the words.’ It was literally completed on the same day, about four hours start to finish.
“We kind of realised that it might sound like a Phoenix song after we’d finished with it, but it wasn’t intentional. When I’m making a song, I try and just turn off from anything else — or else it just makes what you’re making sound a bit shit. You don’t want to end up subliminally nicking stuff either: I’d rather not get sued aged 17.”
‘Things I Thought Were Mine’
AT: “This one’s all built around that wonky synth sound at the start. It’s very Charlie Puth with the vocals, going in and out of an almost-falsetto. I actually mixed and produced this one myself — my first since ‘Orange Juice’ — and I’m really pleased with how it came out: there’s no reverb, it’s very dry-sounding. I think the EP needed that in there somewhere: ‘Happiness In Liquid Form’ is a very colourful, big song, so it transitions nicely [into ‘Things I Thought Were Mine’], taking things into this smoother, laid-back vibe.
“Lyrically, it doesn’t have this hugely profound meaning. It’s just an honest song from this time in my life — kind of like a midpoint between leaving school and childhood and coming into my adulthood, or whatever. This song is just about how, in order to go forward, you have to lose a lot of things as well.”
‘Maybe This Is Time’
AT: “This was one of the last tracks I made for the EP, and it’s me having a bit of a nostalgic moment. It’s kind of a reference to ‘Don’t Go Wasting Time’, but even more so to ‘Yellow Flowers’, which is from the first record I put out. It’s got that kind of Mac DeMarco-y sound, just hitting the sweet spot of being sentimental and nostalgic about what you had, but maybe also accepting that it’s time to move along and get ready for the next part of your life.
“Me and my manager always talk about how there’s a ‘Yellow Flowers'[-type track] on every EP I put out, so this is one for the OG fans. Even if they end up not liking the rest of the EP, they’ll have this one.”
AT: “’Obvious Guy’ is mostly about social anxiety. I’ve no idea why, but I hate being seen outside — it’s this horrible thing. I never get nervous onstage, but if I’m walking in a nice park with my headphones in and then I see someone I know, I’m like: ‘Fuuuuck, I really don’t want to talk.’ It’s all about that feeling of just trying to hide away from everyone; just wishing that everything was really quiet, calm and peaceful. I wrote it with Nick Hogdson [ex-Kaiser Chiefs], and it was just an opportunity for me to flex my bass playing. Next to ‘Happiness’, it’s definitely the funkiest song that I’ve ever made — just this really raw 70s sound.
“The video is really great, too: the guy that animated it, his name is Jake Huffcutt and he’s just crazy cool. The girl that I meet at the end of the video actually looks like my girlfriend, so that was a pretty nice coincidence. It’s a good feeling: kind of like writing a book and then hoping that the movie looks like what you thought it would in your head.”
‘Wish I Was Younger’
AT: “I don’t actually wish I was younger, because that would basically make me a fetus. I have a bit of a habit of writing about other people’s lives — I think it’s because I’m quite hypersensitive and can empathise with everyone. From an age perspective, too, it can be a lot easier to write from different perspectives than to just talk about myself all the time — it doesn’t make much sense to keep singing about certain life experiences if I haven’t lived them.
“In this one, I’m talking from the perspective of a married dude, just being like: ‘I wish I was younger when we met so I could have spent more of my life with you.’ It’s a very simple love song: two minutes long, a nice happy vibe where everyone’s dancing. It’s definitely got a late 90s RnB feel to it. I wanted to make something you could play when you hold one of them huge speaker thingies over your head to try to win someone over.“
‘My Best Friend’
AT: “This all started with me noodling around on bass, making something kind of dark and Billie Eilish in vibe. I got my girlfriend to do some backing vocals, and then Jess from Coach Party sent her verse in for the final recording. The ‘friend’ of the song is depression: it’s the one thing that’s always there, the one thing you can rely on in a bad way. It’s kind of a dark way to finish an EP; almost like the song is me talking to a therapist. I still wanted it to have this playful element, though, which is why the music feels a bit like ‘oooooh?‘ rather than just ‘oh.‘, if you get me.
“I think I’m gonna do one more EP. I’ve been working on it and it’s sounding cool, doing all the things I’ve been saying about moving into new genres and spaces. And then I guess for the album, it’s all about messing around, making each song kind of different. I’ve got about 200 to choose from, it’s a bit of a nightmare! The label normally know what to do — I put together a Google Drive and we listen through, but honestly, if it wasn’t for them I would have made, like, 10 albums by now. I’m glad I haven’t just gone crazy and released a ton of stuff: I definitely would have blown my fuse.”