Hometown: Bedfordshire, UK
On the 17th of July, British singer, songwriter, producer, and multi-instrumentalist Alfie Templeman will drop his fourth EP, Happiness in Liquid Form. As with the three that preceded it—2018’s Like An Animal, and 2019’s Sunday Morning Cereal and Don’t Go Wasting Time—every track was written, recorded and produced in his childhood bedroom. ‘I like it in here. I can do anything,’ he says from the comfort of those very four walls.
Growing up in the small, laid-back village of Carlton, England, Templeman started making music when he was young. Considering he only just turned 17 in January this year, that sounds a bit funny to say, because he’s still really young. But I’d be remiss not to emphasise how early in life Templeman (or ‘Alfie T’ as he playfully dubs himself on our call) began his journey with music. The first instrument he learnt to play in elementary school was the cello, and from there he taught himself drums, guitar and bass. By 13, the Bedfordshire-based teen was writing and recording his own music.
When his much-acclaimed debut EP dropped two years ago, Templeman was crowned the new king of bedroom pop. But although the label checks out in the literal sense (Alfie makes pop music in his bedroom) his layered sound and high production skills almost make a mockery of the genre’s trademark lo-fi sensibilities. To be fair, it’s kind of hard to describe exactly what his sound is, especially considering how much it varies from song to song. Mixing psychedelic grooves with electro-pop and even R&B, Templeman’s sound takes inspiration from the ‘60s and ‘70s but exists very much in the now.
In fact, when I think about it, there’s not much about Alfie Templeman that doesn’t feel current. His fresh sound, his bold personal style, his immodest social media presence—everything about Alfie T feels reflective of this very moment in time.
Hey Alfie! You’re gearing up to release your new EP on July 17. How long did this one take to record?
Well, I started making stuff for it in June last year and we finished it probably around February this year, so I think it’s the longest it’s taken for me to actually finish a record I’m really proud of. I mean, they all take about half a year, but this one just took a bit longer to get spot on. I did this thing where I made the songs, then I left them, and then I came back to them and listened to them with fresh ears. Because I make everything by myself, I want to make sure it sounds good, so I leave and come back and listen to it as if I didn’t make it.
Do you have anyone you can use as a soundboard or that you trust to give you honest feedback about your music?
Yeah, my mum and dad are pretty good with that, they’ll tell me.
And you trust their taste?
Totally. My dad, I’ll play something to him and the first few times he’ll listen to it and not really say anything. And then I’ll play it to him later on, and every time I do it, he’ll be like, ‘I hated this at first, but now I like it!’ I can always tell their reaction straight away. If they’re kinda quiet about it, I know that they think it’s a bit rubbish.
It’s pretty crazy that you’ve released three EPs in less than two years, and now you’re dropping a fourth. Is there any reason why you keep focusing on EPs rather than working toward a full-length record?
Well, I was thinking about this the other day, and I think the only reason I do EPs is because I like making little chunks of history with what I’m doing. It’s like, you get five songs, and you can see a little piece of what I’ve done in the last half-year. I just think it’s fascinating, you’ve got this row of EPs and each one shows my progression as a kid through this musical work. It’s like a little journey, a little tiny piece of Alfie Templeman. You just get a little dosage! I think there will definitely come a time when I make a record, and it will bang. [Laughs]. But for the time being, I’m just playing it safe, man, just sitting back and putting out little doses of Alfie T.
Is that your nickname?
Yeah, I guess. I have quite a few.
But is it a nickname other people call you, or a self-imposed nickname you like to use when talking in the third person?
Yeah, I guess I find it kind of cute, so I’ll say, ‘Hey I’m Alfie T, check me out…’ [Laughs]. No, I get called ‘Alfie Templewoman’ a lot though, which is interesting.
You were super-young when you started playing music—you still are—and you taught yourself a bunch of instruments growing up. Do you owe some of your skills to YouTube tutorials?
To be honest, I don’t really remember anything about how I started. I feel like I just picked up a guitar and then I blinked and now I’m here. Which is scary, innit? Life happens so quickly. I think if I ever really wanted to learn a song, I’d do it by ear and then double check with YouTube tutorials, so in a way, yep. Oh, what’s that guy’s name on YouTube? [Parodies an American accent], ‘Hey guys, it’s Marty Schwartz! I’m gonna teach you how to play “Teen Spirit”!’
Was guitar the first instrument you played?
The first instrument I played was a cello, so I kind of learned how to play stuff on that and I think it actually made me have pretty perfect pitch, because I can hear almost anything and know what the note is, which is really weird.
Why was that the first instrument, was it in the house or something?
Oh man, no! I think I must have been in lower school, and everyone played an instrument when you’re a kid. I just saw a cello knocking around and thought, ‘Uh, looks alright’ and started playing it, I guess. [Laughs]. And that’s the progression of Alfie Templeman’s cello adventure.
You mean Alfie T!
Oh yeah! Alfie T and the cello!
I know you recorded all of your earlier music in your bedroom in the house you grew up in. Is that the same for this EP?
Yeah, still in the bedroom. I like it in here. I can do anything. I don’t need a big studio to do what I’m doing.
Does a studio interest you at all?
I mean, it’s just a room. I really don’t see the fascination in it. I mean, yeah, I like ‘em, they’re cool, but if I can do the same thing in my bedroom, what’s the point? I literally eat, breathe and sleep in here, so I’m just happy with what I’ve got. It’s weird because I don’t use big monitors when I’m recording, I just record straight from my mac. It’s just guitar, interface and my mac. And now I have a drum setup as well, so it gets a bit messy in here and my mum tells me to clean my room quite a bit.
When you’re recording, are there any house rules around noise and stuff?
Nope, I never tell anyone to be quiet or anything! In fact, on some of the earlier records, I think you can hear my mum or sister shouting or something.
You’re from a pretty small town, and I imagine everyone knows everything about each other. Have you heard any salacious gossip making the rounds about you?
Oh man, we’re pretty nice, to be honest. Maybe when I turn 18. I feel like because I’m a kid, everyone’s really nice, and the day I turn 18, it’s gonna be like…
Front page scandal!
Yeah, exactly! No, everyone’s really nice around here.
What about at school?
It’s weird, people seem to wonder all the time whether at school, once I signed the record deal, everyone changed. But no, and I guess because I signed so late in the school year, like I was just finishing school when it happened, so I think most people just like, let it happen. Everyone’s been really cool. I think the only thing I ever got was like, ‘How much money did you make?!’
Finally, I want to talk about your selfie game. It’s real strong. Can you talk me through what goes into the perfect selfie?
Ah, thank you, man. Right, okay, yeah. So basically, as far as I’m concerned, when I’m taking a selfie, I do the worst angle so that you can, like, see the bottom of my chin. It’s really weird, but it works for me. People started to say they all look the same, so I’m taking a bit of a break to try rework my ideas a bit. But the best thing to do, right, is take a burst of photos and move around and then you can just go through all of them. And then just put it on VSCO, mess around with the grain a bit, be really basic, and yeah, you’ve got a selfie. Oh, and don’t look at it too much because the longer you look at your face, the weirder it gets.