Kae Tempest on ‘The Line Is A Curve’: “It’s about raising your threshold for tolerance”

Check out new single ‘More Pressure’, featuring Brockhampton’s Kevin Abstract, as the artist discusses how "letting go" shaped their new record

Kae Tempest has shared the first taster from their upcoming fourth studio album ‘The Line Is A Curve’. Check out ‘More Pressure’ below, along with our interview with the writer and musician.

The track is an uptempo, synth-infused groove featuring Tempest’s incisive lyricism front and centre, with a guest appearance from Kevin Abstract of LA hip-hop collective Brockhampton.

“‘More Pressure’ is the penultimate song on the album,” Tempest told NME. “It’s the song that the whole album is building towards in some ways, because what it’s saying is that we can reframe some of the stresses that we find ourselves under as possibilities for new growth, new resilience, new acceptance – a new level of energy can come from huge amounts of pressure.

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“For me, it’s a song of upliftment, and it’s a switching of focus from some of the more heavy themes that come up in the record. So I thought it was a great song to lead with. Also, it’s just got good vibes.”

Abstract came into the picture via mutual friend and collaborator Rick Rubin, who had played the group Tempest’s 2019 album ‘The Book Of Traps And Lessons’ during a session in his Shangri-La studio in Malibu. When one of the members of Brockhampton contacted Tempest with praise for the record, a connection was quickly forged.

“I knew I wanted another voice [on ‘More Pressure’] and it was actually Rick Rubin who suggested I reach out to Kevin Abstract,” Tempest said of the collaboration. “I had some commonality with [Brockhampton], even just sharing this mad place of Shangri-La; knowing that they’d been there and I’d been there, it didn’t feel like a showbizzy request. It felt like person to person. I love Kevin’s work and I love Brockhampton so I just reached out and got a positive response.”

Aside from Kevin Abstract, ‘The Line Is A Curve’ includes numerous guest spots from the likes of Grian Chatten of Fontaines D.C., Lianne La Havas, ássia and Confucius MC. Tempest also teams up with longtime collaborator Dan Carey, who takes on production duties once again.

“I feel like I learned what this album was about as I started to make it. For me, the album is about increasing resilience and raising your threshold for tolerance and acceptance. And it’s a very beautiful album, because so many people involved in making it are people that I’ve known and loved for a very long time.”

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Tempest continued: “There are collaborators that have come to play session parts that I’ve been playing with since I was 17 years old and with Dan Carey, this is album four. We’ve spent the best part of a decade just getting to know each other, and it creates this sense of community. I think that some of my other albums were coming from a place of real isolation and often despair. This album hopefully comes from a place where I’ve made some changes in my life. I’m trying to let go of some of that stuff. So maybe it’s a less lonely listen.”

As well as shifting more towards community and away from solitude in the content and make-up of ‘The Line Is A Curve’, the album marks a new recording process for Tempest which involved doing three vocal takes in one day, to three different generations of people. “A child, someone of my generation, and a person of the generation above,” as Tempest explained.

Kae Tempest
Kae Tempest. CREDIT: Facebook (Kae Tempest)

“I learned a lot from Rick Rubin when we were recording ‘The Book Of Traps And Lessons’, which we recorded in one take. But it wasn’t to an audience of one. This time, I knew I wanted to be alone with someone. When we had been recording ‘The Book Of Traps And Lessons’, there were these kids in the studio one day – the children of a friend of Rick’s – who were fully listening to the whole album. So there was something that I suppose started to tick over in my head about language. What does it mean as a performer to know that you’re speaking to younger people, older people and your own generation? What will it do to the voice?”

Tempest admits that while ‘The Line Is A Curve’ may be more outward-looking than ‘The Book Of Traps And Lessons’, “there’s a really clear relationship” between the two. The latter questions how to stop damaging behaviour to prevent yourself from falling into traps, while the former is more about making peace with the fact that everything is cyclical. “I feel like there’s kinship there; there’s a relationship between everything that I was struggling with on [‘The Book Of Traps And Lessons’] and then this level of acceptance that I’m now talking about, that you will repeat damaging behaviour until you change it.”

Last year, Tempest made their National Theatre debut with Paradise, their epic reimagining of the Greek classic Philoctetes by Sophocles, an experience they were “absolutely floored by”. They’ll be back with audiences again this spring but in a different capacity as they head out on an extensive UK and Ireland tour in support of ‘The Line Is A Curve’.

“I’m really excited about the tour and I think it will be a step up for me. It’s been incredible to have had this time off touring and to reassess what I want from a performance and what I can give to it and try and get myself strong in body and mind so that I can really enjoy touring. Because it’s the most beautiful and incredible thing to stand up in front of people and play your music. I’m pretty sure I won’t be the same after it – that’s how it feels when I embark on a tour.”

“I think it will create even more moments of deep magic, because we’ve made some sacrifices,” they continued when asked about the future of live music. “Often in the moment before a great revelation in all the old stories, the protagonist makes some sacrifice. That’s what we’ve done – we’ve made this huge sacrifice, and we’ve abstained. And so when we go properly back into live music and live performance, I think it’s going to be incredible.”

Kae Tempest will release ‘The Line Is A Curve’ on April 8 via Fiction Records. You can pre-order the album here.

In 2020, Tempest announced that they were changing their name. “Hello old fans, new fans and passers by – I’m changing my name,” they wrote. “And I’m changing my pronouns. From Kate to Kae. From she/her to they/them.

“I’ve been struggling to accept myself as I am for a long time. I have tried to be what I thought others wanted me to be so as not to risk rejection. This hiding from myself has led to all kinds of difficulties in my life.

“And this is a first step towards knowing and respecting myself better. I’ve loved Kate. But I am beginning a process and I hope you’ll come with me.”

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