When I got an email from Tyler McCauley, lead vocalist and guitarist for San Francisco's Afro-tinged post-punk outfit Tempo No Tempo, that his band was breaking up, my heart sank a little bit. When I discovered the band prior to the release of its debut full-length album, Waking Heat, I thought I had died and been reborn into the early-'90s D.C. punk/hardcore scene. The trio so fully encapsulated the style and tenacity of the era, and managed to even introduce new takes on the tried-and-true sound.
Following up on McCauley's email, I asked if we could have a brief chat about his band before he went on to play his final show, this Friday, June 4 at The Rickshaw Stop. Below you'll find the transcript of our conversation in all of its unedited, web-based glory. Tempo No Tempo's mark on the San Francisco music scene will be missed, but hopefully this band's demise will bring forth more great music from its members.
Sad to hear this! Maybe we could do a short interview or something for SF Weekly to help spread the word on this show? Let me know if you're open to that.
totally! we'll figure out a time once our bassist is back from his trip up the coast.
Good good. Let me know.
Did you want to do this face-to-face, or via email?
Since it's just a bit easier with our hectic schedules, let's do a string of email convos. I'll start with a couple questions, and we'll go from there. Cool?
Yea dude, fire away!
Cool! Let's just start with the basic stuff. How long has Tempo No Tempo been together, and why are you now breaking up?
Tempo No Tempo was together for 5 years, in various formations. We've spent the last year as a trio after our keyboardist Chris left for law school. We're breaking up because our bassist Jason is off to pursue higher education, and we feel it'd be wrong to find a replacement, so instead we're celebrating the end of the band and trying out new projects.
What are the new projects you'll be exploring?
Alex, our drummer, is playing with Magic Bullets, one of our favorite SF bands, and I'm moving to Brooklyn to start something good and noisy. We were lucky enough to tour and play with some great New York bands, and I'm really excited to go and play with people out there. Jason will be exploring graduate school.
That's awesome you guys are all going in your separate ways while still parting amicably. What will you miss most about Tempo No Tempo?
I mean, we're all going to miss playing these songs we've written, and touring as a unit again. But I think what I'll miss most is the weird way we've learned to talk about music together. Once you play with a band for this long, you develop your own language for song structures, rhythm and how to put together a melody. We spent a lot of time in the same music classes, jamming and recording, so that relationship we built putting ideas together will be a huge part of what I'll miss in this band.
That's understandable. Alright, Top Five TNT moments. Go!
oh MAN i can't answer this one without consulting. expect an answer later tonight!
top 5 moments, without going too far into inside jokes or the like:
1. When we were first played on Live 105 -- getting played on a radio station that we had grown up listening to was a HUGE trip. We huddled around the radio the night we knew it was going to get played. So nutty. 2. Our first East Coast tour was pretty wild -- we managed the craziest schedule with a borrowed Subaru, borrowed equipment, and lots of subway rides around New York hauling amps and drums. We played five shows in New York, and that whole experience was surreal. You haven't lived until you pissed off a trainful of commuters with your drumkit on the L heading to Brooklyn, during rush hour. 3. Our "goodbye" show for our keyboardist Chris Cadena was one of our favorite all-time shows. We had to break into the gallery space to play the show, so our drummer Alex had a huge bolt-cutter to break in, and we played with Panther, who we really love. We wore matching shirts that said "Chris," and closed the show out with a fireworks fight in the parking lot. 4. Recording our last album, "Waking Heat," was mind-blowing, as we were working with Jay Pellicci at Tiny Telephone, and it was the best five days of playing music ever. When all of a sudden, your record sounds better than you could have imagined, it's hard to not to feel totally amazing. 5. We can't stress enough how much taking Ewe dance-drumming at Berkeley was one of the best things we've ever done as a band, so I'm putting that class in the Top 5. Those classes directly informed everything we've done since 2005. Straight up. If you are a West African music aficionado, the melody from our song "Pole Position" is directly taken from the social dance song "Gahu." No lie.
Awesome. Last question! What's one thing you wish Tempo No Tempo did before breaking up?
We would've really liked to have gotten big in Japan.
Hahaha... Rad. Thanks a bunch for talking with me, and good luck at your show!