TEMPT – “My Godfather Is Actually BILLY SQUIER!”
December 16, 2022, a month ago
There have been quite a few rock-tinged Christmas songs issued over the years – “Happy Xmas (War Is Over)” by John Lennon and Yoko Ono, “Father Christmas” by the Kinks, “Merry Christmas (I Don’t Want to Fight Tonight)” by the Ramones, etc. But one rockin’ holiday tune that was a particular favorite back in the early ‘80s was Billy Squier’s “Christmas Is The Time To Say I Love You,” which received quite a few airings at the time on the then-new MTV.
And now, NYC rockers Tempt are attempting to resuscitate the tune with a just-issued cover version. Comprised of lead vocalist Zach Allen, guitarist Harrison Marcello, bassist Chris Gooden, and drummer Nick Burrows, the group also recently issued one of their originals, “Living Dangerous” (featuring Dorothy), which was part of The Retaliators motion picture soundtrack.
And as Marcello and Allen both told BraveWords correspondent Greg Prato, there is more to come in 2023 (as well as spilling the beans concerning an interesting connection between the band and Squier).
BraveWords: Tempt did a cover of Billy Squier’s “Christmas Is the Time to Say I Love You.” How did the idea came about?
Harrison Marcello: “So, my godfather is actually Billy Squier! And this was a song that I heard a lot growing up always around the holidays. And it's really just a fantastic Christmas song. It captures that Christmas spirit, it's uplifting, it's joyous, it's merry. So, we had never done an actual recorded Christmas single before, and I showed them the song and I was like, ‘This would be a great song to do. It's just like the perfect rock Christmas song.’ So we did it and shot the video in New York City around all the holiday landmarks, and we just loved the song and the way it came out.”
Zach Allen: “It was instant, because as soon as he played us it, it just had such a good energy, a nice sing-along, it was a song that we could picture people singing with their families around Christmas time. And plus, the video is so much fun and it captures the spirit of the holiday season in New York, which really can't be beat.”
BraveWords: What are some memories of filming the song’s video?
Zach Allen: “It was kind of during lockdown time that we filmed it. But we hit some of the major spots. There's a part in the video where we're dancing or walking around these big orbs, and Harrison was doing his air guitar solo or something, and in the distance I see these two police officers coming over. I'm like, ‘Oh no, what's this about?’ And they come over and they’re like, ‘You guys got to stop,’ and we're like, ‘We're done, we're done, we're done!’ So that was that was one thing, but everything went really smoothly.”
Harrison Marcello: “It was just fun to do, because we basically just had a camera there just trying to get cool shots of all the lights and stuff, and just kind of like dancing around. We had our boom box with us - just making fools of ourselves in public, basically. And it was really fun.”
BraveWords: Harrison, how is it having Billy Squier as your godfather, and are you a fan of his music?
Harrison Marcello: “I'm a huge fan of his music. And obviously, that's very inspiring to have someone like that…also my other godfather is Jeff Golub – who was the guitar player in Billy's band. He was a fantastic guitar player, but unfortunately he passed away about a decade ago or so. So I had all this musical influence growing up – especially from people who are into rock 'n' roll and guitar playing. So that obviously just had a huge effect on my life and permeated into my life. And like I said before, this was a song I hadn't really heard in a while but I just had this distant memory of always hearing this song around the holidays. And coming back to it with my band has just been really fun. And talking with Billy about it and him kind of getting involved and stuff, and seeing the video, it's just a really cool experience to do that and have that connection.”
Zach Allen: “And the fact he's actually on the cover of one of Billy's albums too!” [1998’s Happy Blue, as a youngster]
BraveWords: And also, the band had a song on The Retaliators soundtrack, which you also did a video for.
Zach Allen: “For ‘Living Dangerous,’ we partnered with Dorothy to do the song, which was fantastic. When you write a song, it's so personal and I think we were all…I don't want to say apprehensive, but we were just, I guess…cautious. We were like, ‘We know she's great, but we don't know what she's going to add to the song.’ And we got the mix back from our producer, Chris Lord-Alge, and when she started singing the second verse I thought it was still me singing! It's true, because she really matched the energy and the vibe of the song and added so much.”
Harrison Marcello: “I was very apprehensive. This is like, the first single we are really releasing as a band, and I was like, ‘Oh no, this ‘feature’ is going to ruin our track/our baby. I don't want to have a feature on it!’ But it turned out great, and it was a really good experience working with her. And we're totally open now to doing features, and we hope we do a bunch more in the future. And the video is fun, too – we shot that up in Hunts Point in the Bronx, in this cool industrial area. And it was just really fun to shoot that. We were projecting the movie up behind us. So overall, the entire experience was great.”
BraveWords: From what I understand the band has a full-length album that is completed, right?
Harrison Marcello: “It's been done for two years now, basically. We had it mastered right like in the first month of COVID, so it's been a painful process because we can't wait for everyone to hear it. And we've had to wait on it for touring to come back. But we can actually finally say with certainty it will be coming out sometime early next year, and we're planning on releasing a cover we did of ‘We Will Rock You’ – the video’s coming out on the 13th and the single’s out on the 27th. And then after our cover of ‘We Will Rock You,’ we're on to singles for the record. So, we're really excited to finally have this out. We basically finished a completely new album in the meantime.”
Zach Allen: “I think the one positive you could say…because obviously it's been tough waiting and having our fans wait – just everybody wait for it – is that we've really been able to ‘road test’ the album, and play it live for people, and kind of see what works and what doesn't, and maybe go in and make some tweaks. And maybe we put this on there and stuff. So, it's been a tough waiting time, but it's been nice to be able to play the album in front of people in Europe, and here in the States and everywhere else.”
BraveWords: What did producer Chris Lord-Alge bring to the album and how was it working with him?
Harrison Marcello: “It's amazing working with him. He's a really special person to work with. He loves the band and he really is just a creative member of the team now. And it was something where we basically didn't do any demos, really – it was kind of a fluid process, where we started working on a song, guitar tracks may change and our drums may change, and you add things to it. But it really was kind of we started our songs, we brought them to completion, and it was self-produced for the most part – and then Chris Lord-Alge came in, and just had some really great oversight. Y’know, big picture thoughts. He also did a lot of arrangement changes and just having that fresh set of ears is so important, and he worked really closely with us. When we were mixing the album, we were on the phone with him every single day. And he was doing mixes, sending them over to us, and it's just really good to have a creative partner and someone like that. He totally understands our vision and is looking to execute it and help us execute it as best as we possibly can.”
(Photo - Eric T White)
BraveWords: What are the band’s touring plans?
Zach Allen: “There's definitely some stuff in the works. Because we had such a great time over in Europe, we want to get back out there as soon as possible. When we came home and we were like, ‘We got to get back out there immediately,’ because just the response and everyone there was great and everyone treated us so well. So we're definitely looking to 2023 to be a big and busy year for us. And also, we want to do a tour in the States.”
BraveWords: A while back, Tempt opened up for Bon Jovi at Madison Square Garden, right?
Zach Allen: “Yes. What a day. We got to open for him at Madison Square Garden. And as native New Yorkers, playing Madison Square Garden is the mecca. I used to go there as a kid for concerts and sports games and stuff. The one memory that sticks out in my mind is the sound check. Because the show was fantastic and so much fun - a total blur, because we only had 20 minutes, but everything was dark and it was hard to see people. But when you walked up on sound check, and you see all the empty seats and the numbers hanging down from the rafters and Billy Joel playing a million concerts there, you know everything like that. It was fantastic. The sound check itself was so seamless and just everything sounded fantastic - these monitors sounded better than any monitors I've ever played with.”
Harrison Marcello: “Yeah. Definitely standing on stage at Madison Square Garden, just hitting a power chord at soundcheck and hearing it reverberate around the arena was a very surreal moment. Like Zach said, we grew up in the city, so we've been there a million times. It is the world's most famous arena. And to actually be able to perform with Bon Jovi, it was unbelievable. And Bon Jovi, for as big as he is, he did not have any rock star attitude or anything. He hung out with us, met with us when we did a sound check, we did our sound check before him, and he just worked around our gear completely. He and his whole crew were just so professional, and we really hit it off with him. We actually were invited to do his cruise which happened the year after, which was also amazing and fun to do.”
BraveWords: Future plans?
Harrison Marcello: “Touring, touring, touring. Like we said, the record’s done. The record was finished at the beginning of COVID - we've been working on a completely new one all during the downtime of COVID, and now we really just have to get on the road and get out there and show people what we're all about. So 2023 is going to be the year of touring, and it's going to be a year of finally releasing a record and we are just so excited, and can't wait to get it out there.”
Zach Allen: “Yeah, we've been itching for this. So, we're super excited. We just want to get out there in front of people. No matter who we play with, we just seem to have a connection with the fans. I'll just tell one quick story - when we opened for Iron Maiden over the summer in Europe, we'd heard from a lot of people, ‘Iron Maiden fans are really tough and they love Iron Maiden, and they don't love opening bands so much.’ And we even heard stories from the guys of Shinedown how the crowd would turn their backs to them and all this stuff. So we were a little bit like, ‘Oh boy, what are we getting ourselves into?’ We walked on stage and maybe took a little bit of convincing, but once we were done, everyone was clapping and having a good time. So we just want to get out there and do more of that.”