Frontman Dougy Mandagi discusses the band's new album...

For a while there The Temper Trap seemed on top of the world. Soaraway single 'Sweet Disposition' remains a radio staple across the world, while the band's second album was popular enough to notch up support slots alongside Coldplay and even The Rolling Stones.

But that was 2012. Since then, the band have faded into the background, somewhat – sessions for their third album stretched on, while founding member Lorenzo Sillito opted to seek out fresh pastures. From the top of the world the Australian group suddenly found themselves... well, if it wasn't exactly the bottom then it certainly felt like it.

Speaking to frontman Dougy Mandagi, there's a sense of absence in his voice when discussing this time. The songwriter took a step back, working a huge range of producers while he re-analysed his methods and motivations for making music. “I went to LA to do some songwriting... not necessarily for the band at all, actually. For other people,” he admits. “And, I don't know, I wanted to try out that scene for a little bit. Then I ended up working with this guy named Malay for a little bit, who did Frank Ocean's record. We were just writing for a little bit and then I played him a demo of one of our songs, called 'Summer Is Almost Gone' – and he really liked the demo, so we ended up working on that song.”

“We had such a positive experience working with him on that, so we got him to do more and we ended up doing a bunch of writing sessions with him, we took him out to Australia. And that's kind of what opened the gates to all these other writing opportunities for Temper Trap, with multiple writers and different producers.”

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Plunging himself head-first into fresh methods of working, Dougy absorbed all manner of new influences. “I found it really inspiring, and a great learning experience... and just fun, to be honest,” he says, the sound of relief creeping into his voice. “We've done two records previously in exactly the same way, and I was just at a point where I just needed to be in a different environment, I needed to be inspired again, and to try something new, try something different. So I found it really fun to brainstorm and bounce ideas of different people. All of these producers and writers have their own way of doing things, so you pick up a lot. And we definitely learned a few tricks of the trade along the way.”

The names trickle off the tongue – Ben Allen (noted for his work with Animal Collective), Justin Parker (likewise with Lana Del Rey) all sought out the singer, and all introduced fresh verbiage into his musical lexicon. “It just snowballed from there, man. Every week I'd get an email going 'hey, this guy is interested in doing some sessions with you, this is the stuff that he's done'. So I'd click on it. But that's basically how it happened. It started out with my doing this songwriting sessions, not even for the band, really.”

In fact, so spoilt for choice was Dougy Mandagi that some iconic names remain on the cutting room floor. Weezer frontman Rivers Cuomo recorded a brand new track with the vocalist, but both decided that it didn't quite fit into what they looking to achieve. “I grew up listening to Weezer, so it was fun,” he says, with obvious relish. “It was a little bit intimidating having him in the room. We did a song, and it just ended up sounding like a Weezer song, to be honest. In my opinion, like a really good one – something that probably wouldn't have been out of place on the Blue record, like a classic Weezer track.”

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I needed to be inspired again, and to try something new...

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“The whole time we were writing I just thought to myself: this is probably better off being a Weezer track. I know they've got a record out already, but hopefully one day it'll pop its head up on a Weezer record. It'd be a shame to go to waste.”

Perhaps the pinnacle of these writing sessions was when mega-star Dave Stewart – he of Eurhythmics fame – invited the singer to come down to his studio. “That was amazing,” he chuckles. “That's a whole other level. You go to work with Dave Stewart in this beautiful building, and there's all these platinum and gold records everywhere, just adorning the walls. Everything that he's ever worked on. He's just another level – he's got all these studio hands that he can order around!”

“I did a record with him... it probably ended up sounding a lot more like something he would do, it's like a Eurythmics record. But I was just happy to be in the room with him, to be honest with you. If we'd walked out with an awesome track that Temper Trap could use that would have been amazing, but it was just awesome to meet him, and to check out his guitar collection.”

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Everybody's got the same vision, everybody wants to strive for the same things.

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With a close friend opting to leave his vision behind, you could almost forgive Dougy Mendagi for walking away from everything, at least for a little while. But it seems that wherever he went, regardless of the circumstance, The Temper Trap remained on his mind. “I'd say the first session where I started to realise that we could utilise this time, and these opportunities to actually work on Temper Trap stuff was when we did 'Summer Is Almost Gone' with Malay. Before that I was just kind of writing for writing's sake. It was really cool stuff; it'll never be Temper Trap stuff but I was just happy for the experience, and for meeting new people. But the Malay session was probably the first time when I was like, oh, maybe we should keep doing this for the band.”

Locating producer Damian Taylor, the Australian group began to piece themselves together. Sifting through the singer's many, many preparatory sessions, The Temper Trap began to bring their third album into focus. “I mean it got clearer and clearer towards the end, the kind of record we wanted and the colour palette that we wanted. But it was still hard because we had so many songs and it was hard to let go of a bunch of these songs.”

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You're never going to please everyone, I guess...

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“It's never easy to pick and choose, y'know. I guess it's a good problem to have at the end of the day, but that was the hard part. To figure out which songs would make the best collection together to make a record. Obviously there's four of us in the band, and everybody's got their own opinions, there's the record labels as well, and the manager. It's hard – you're never going to please everyone, I guess.”

The title of new album 'Thick As Thieves' perhaps points to the new-found sense of purpose in the group, the relish with which they stick to their task. “I feel like we're hitting the road now with something to prove, and it's kind of giving us a little bit of an edge, I feel. We all really believe in this record, we like the songs. There's a lot of passion in there. I guess we're re-invigorated.”

“You know, there's been a lot of things that have happened throughout the whole writing process. It's been three – almost four – years, and a lot has happened since. One being that Lorenzo left the band. I think at the end of it, it actually solidified us a lot more, I think, as a unit. And we're moving in the same direction – everybody's got the same vision, everybody wants to strive for the same things.”

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'Thick As Thieves' is out now.

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