By Jacob Katel
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The Temper Trap has such a "Sweet Disposition."
With the shadow of that particular 4-year-old hit hanging over the Australian power-pop outfit (even as it tours the world with an entire album full of new material), neither the band's name nor its most successful song's title is as recognizable as that reverberating guitar hook or singer Dougy Mandagi's ringing falsetto.
Casual music listeners probably know only snippets of "Sweet Disposition" from commercials for Chrysler and Diet Coke, or TV dramas such as One Tree Hill and 90210, or the soundtrack to their spinning class.
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"We were able to feel the direct result of that," Temper Trap bassist Jonathon Aherne says, reflecting on the moment the song took off. "That movie came out pretty quickly... It was quite exciting for us, and I think we decided not to be precious about how our music got heard.
"When [fans] tell us how they got to know the band, it's through all these different forums, and it's done us a lot of good," Aherne adds. "Probably just now, people are sort of going, 'Hey, you may have done too much.' Maybe we have. But you know, we don't really care."
If some people have wearied of "Sweet Disposition," the Temper Trap's members are not among them. "As soon as you play it, there's this reaction from the audience," he explains. "There are some songs you get tired of playing. But as soon as we play that song, it takes on a life of its own... It's fun to play for that crowd reaction."
Beyond its ingeniously crafted buildups, "Sweet Disposition" also reveals the band's talent for all the right flourishes: the dubby rattle of guitar strings, the patter of swelling cymbals, the layers of harmonizing vocals. And there is no shortage of such moments on the Temper Trap's new self-titled sophomore album, almost four years in the making. "I've always been someone who loved all these random sounds," Aherne notes.
He's also the one responsible for the band's occasional use of vintage keyboards. "My cousin, when we were growing up, she was learning keyboard, so her parents bought her this little, crappy Casiotone keyboard," he recalls. "We got that passed on to our family, and it was sitting in the cupboard for a long time until, one band practice, we brought it out. Man, it kinda sounded pretty good. It sounded like a church organ. So it just ended up part of the Temper Trap's instrumentation."
But keeping the Casiotone in the band meant a struggle between Aherne and his mother. "My mum, before she took our band seriously, she would tell me: 'Give me back that Casiotone. I'm gonna sell it.' I was like, 'No, it's part of the band's sound. You can't do that, Mum.' She's like, 'Give it to me.' So I'm like, 'How much do you want for it?' So I had to give her 15 bucks for it, which I'm glad I did."
He also admits to having a little too much affection for the decorative flourishes in the band's music. "I kind of get told off: 'Just leave it,'" Aherne laughs. "So between the five of us, we'll just discuss it to see if it feels right."
But when it comes crafting a sequel to "Sweet Disposition," the bandmates have tried to guard against that kind of compulsion. "We hoped and felt the pressure of having music that would connect in a way that 'Sweet Disposition' did," Aherne says. "There's nothing wrong with that, because we want our music to connect with people, for people to enjoy it.
"But it's not possible to think that way. It's like trying to have a kid and hoping that it's exactly like the other one."