Images courtesy of Chipster PR/Feature image credit: Eric T. White
By Andrew Daly
With young guns like Tempt permeating the scene, to be sure, the world of rock ‘n’ roll is bristling with unladen streams of effervescent light. And so, with vigor, determination, and just a touch of legendary lineage coursing through their veins (hello, Billy Squire), for the members of Tempt, it’s showtime.
The vibrant “new wave of classic rock” has set the music world alight with big guitars, roaring vocals, rugged basslines, and cavernous drums, harkening back to an era left for dead. And for Tempt, a New York-meets-Ontario-bred foursome comprised of Zach Allen (vocals), Harrison Marcello (guitar), Chris Gooden (bass), and Nicholas Burrows (drums), the opportunity to capture a new and inventive vibe is both thrilling and par for the course.
With a growing cache of bristling tunes teeming with hyper-melodicism, Tempt is poised to be the latest and perhaps great band to join the modern-day ranks that champion classic rock. Still, Tempt isn’t necessarily looking back, nor are they too focused on reinventing the wheel. No, Tempt simply operates within the admittedly expansive confines of their distinct yet familiar areas, treating fans to articulately simple and instantly memorable tracks.
And so, as Allen, Marcello, Gooden, and Burrows wind down after a busy 2022 – which included trips to Europe and playing some of the grandest stages of their young careers – they’re seeing up a healthy dose of Christmas spirit with “Christmas Is The Time To Say I Love You.” If anything, the track is a blissful reminder of rock’s long-term relationship with Christ cuts and a not-so-gentle reminder of Tempt’s seemingly boundless talent.
Setting in for what appears to be another busy year ahead, Zach Allen and Harrison Marcello logged on with VWMusic to recount their single for the Christmas season, their jaunt through Europe, memories of being discovered, and what’s next as their young careers progress forward.
Tell me about your single “Christmas Is The Time To Say I Love You.”
HARRISON: Billy Squier is my godfather, so I grew up hearing and singing this song during the Christmas season. I guess it’s in my DNA. I always thought it captured the joyous spirit of the holidays much in the same way that Mariah Carey did but with a rock vibe. I spend a lot of time in the United Kingdom, and over there, they play Slade’s Christmas song and rock!
But it feels like we haven’t had an uplifting rock Christmas track in a long time. The song hadn’t really had a full-blown production done when Billy recorded it, so it always struck me as a bit unfinished. I gave it a bit of a tempo boost, re-arranged the guitars, and added some more background vocal parts. Zach also really captured the spirit of the track in his vocal performance as well.
Nicholas, our drummer, was locked down in Canada when we recorded, so we were really fortunate to have Shawn Pelton from The Saturday Night Live Band and a million records play substitute and play drums on it. He gave it a great feel and caught some of my guitar parts with drum fills in such a cool way. I was a bit nervous when we first started recording the song, but I think we really beat the original, and we hope it’s a song that strikes all music fans in an emotionally uplifting way.
ZACH: We really wanted to do a Christmas song, and when Harrison played us “Christmas Is The Time To Say I Love You,” we knew this was the one. It’s such an infectious, upbeat song that’s easy to sing along to with your friends and family over the holidays. We had a great time putting our spin on it and showcasing the spirit of NYC during the holiday season with the video!
Christmas and rock music have long been a fun pairing. What are some of your favorites?
ZACH: “Father Christmas” by the Kinks is one of my favorite rock Christmas songs. Chuck Berry’s “Run Rudolph Run” is another classic that we’ve covered. I love the Steven Tyler/Brad Paisley version!
HARRISON: I love Chuck Berry’s “Run Run Rudolph” also, and we’ve had fun performing that one. I’m a bit sentimental about the holidays, and the way that music can amplify those feelings is amazing. I like John Lennon’s “Happy Christmas.” I also love history, and Sabaton did an amazing song called “Christmas Truce,” which was about the holiday truce during WWI in 1914.
What are five albums that have shaped you as a musician to date?
HARRISON: This list changes all the time, but at this moment, I’m going with:
1. Ozzy Osbourne – Randy Rhoads Tribute: This is the record that really started me playing guitar. Hearing the opening riff of “Crazy Train” or the solos on “Mr. Crowley” just blew my hair back. I was blown away and wanted to do that!
2. Def Leppard – Hysteria. It’s a combination of the songwriting, the guitar parts, and of course, the Mutt Lange production that make this record great. My iTunes play count on this is massive.
3. Rush – Moving Pictures: The first concert I ever went to was Rush. Anyone who has seen Rush or heard them knows! I’ve never understood musicians who don’t love Rush! Alex Lifeson and his playing are unique. In particular, I love his chord voicings and his unique use of the open b and e strings. Limelight is a great example of this.
4. The Weeknd – Beauty Behind The Madness: Great songs and great production. You’ll definitely hear his influence on us on our album.
5. The Killers – Hot Fuss: This is an excellent modern rock record.
ZACH: My list would be as follows:
- Aerosmith – Toys In The Attic: I love Steven Tyler, and today I felt like this was the one.
2. Michael Jackson – Thriller: Amazing record, great vocals, great production, and you have the bonus of basically having Toto.
3. Green Day – American Idiot: This won a Grammy for our producer, Chris Lord-Alge, and showcases the band at their peak powers, and who doesn’t love the “Holiday/Boulevard of Broken Dreams” segue? Great Rob Cavallo production.
4. Bee Gees – Saturday Night Fever: Is there any other record that can make John Travolta look cool while walking down the street swinging a paint can?
5. Guns N’ Roses – Appetite For Destruction: You know where you are…? [Laughs].
Images courtesy of Chipster PR
You were recently on tour in Europe, right? What moments stick out most?
HARRISON: The feedback from fans was incredible. They went crazy. There are two moments that really stand out for me. The first was at the big German rock festival, Rock im Park. We decided to close our set with our version of “We Will Rock You.” We do a fast, rocked-out version of the song. The crowd was already way into our set, cheering, moshing, and creating circle pits, and as we started the song and said it was our last number, they were going extra crazy.
They didn’t recognize what song it was until after the high-energy intro, and then vocals came in, “Buddy, you’re a boy, make a big noise…” then you could see the recognition start to sweep over their faces until we hit the chorus and we could hear everyone and this thunderous audience singing, “We Will We Will Rock You!”
We ran off stage and decided that we would close the show every night that way. The second moment was when we got to the U.K. and performed at Download Festival. We were playing “We Will Rock You,” and the crowd, which was packed into our tent, was going nuts. I looked over across the stage at Chris [Gooden], our bass player, then down at my guitar, and then when I looked up, Zach was gone! He was in the crowd on his back, crowd surfing!
ZACH: Yes, we were! That was amazing and certainly a highlight. The response we got to that song inspired us to record it and do a video with cell phone footage from our fans and crew documenting the tour. I think we really captured the passion and energy of European fans and the response we got. Yes, and it does include my virginal crowd surfing. The video is being released on Jan 13th, and the single on Jan 27th with a special guest playing.
European fans love music, and they come not only to party and have a good time but also come to discover new music and support new bands. It didn’t matter if we were supporting heavy metal legends like Iron Maiden or active rock stars like Shinedown, Alter Bridge, and Theory or playing to a diverse festival crowd; the fans rocked.
I can remember Zach Myers from Shinedown pulling us aside and telling us, “Hey, don’t worry or take it personally if the Iron Maiden fans turn their backs on you. They’re a really tough crowd.” Well, we survived that trial by fire with an enthusiastic crowd response! It ended up being a great show and an unforgettable experience. Thanks to all the Maiden fans!
Describe the evolution of your setlist and how you go about building it.
ZACH: During the lead-up to a tour or show, we will be rehearsing all of our newer catalog. Then as the date approaches, we will start to get the various advances for the shows with set times. These can vary even on the same tour. During our last European tour, we put together three sets of 30, 40, and 45 minutes to accommodate the different lengths.
After we put together a set, we play it through, record it, listen back, and revise. Sometimes we’ll slot in a different song or change the order, and sometimes we feel it’s just right. Obviously, every set should have a good flow to it with a high-energy opener and closer. We like to segue between songs a few times in the sets to keep the show moving. We do add a couple of breaks to let things breathe and to give me a chance to interact with the audience.
HARRISON: One thing we don’t do is try and change our set to suit a particular audience. We want to live and die by what we think is our best material.
Going back, take me through the formation of Tempt. How did the band come together?
HARRISON: Zach was working with a producer and songwriter named Jack Ponti. Jack wanted Zach to find a partner that would establish the basis for a band in a similar manner to Joe Perry and Steven Tyler or the Glimmer Twins. He had seen some videos of me playing guitar on youtube and introduced me to Zach.
ZACH: Harrison and I met when we were both 18. We had instant chemistry and immediately started writing songs together. It was only after we finished school that we really took the band seriously, and that’s when we brought on Nicholas [Burrows] to take the journey with us. We needed a bassist, and Nicholas knew Chris. The four of us gelled since our first rehearsal together, and we knew we had something special.
Paint a picture of your early recording sessions and first shows.
HARRISON: After we met, we wrote an entire album together very quickly, and in order to cement the relationship, we decided that we wanted to head into the studio and record. We didn’t have a bass player or drummer yet. We went up to a phenomenal studio in southern Vermont, Guilford Sound, and recorded all the basic tracks for 14 songs in two days.
We had Jack Daley playing bass, who was Lenny Kravitz’s long-time bassist, and Sterling Campbell on drums. Sterling played with David Bowie for years and was in Duran Duran, played Drums on the Soul Asylum debut, and is the drummer in the B-52s. He’s phenomenal.
ZACH: I’ll never forget the image of Sterling walking by the big windows of the studio in the woods in snow shoes.
HARRISON: Even though these were the first recordings we had ever done, we felt zero pressure because we really didn’t know any better. We then finished the record in NYC, and it was mixed by Michael Wagener, who, of course, has done Ozzy and Dokken. As Zach mentioned, at this point, we were still both in school, and we were doing intermittent gigs during breaks with fill-in players.
ZACH: It is incredibly hard to find the right people to play with. They need to be accomplished musically, be dedicated, and share the vision of the band. Not easy to find at 18.
HARRISON: Our first show was actually at a rehearsal space in Manhattan called Montana. We couldn’t do a proper club show because all of us and our friends were underage, and in NYC, they won’t even let you in a club if you’re not 21, fake ID notwithstanding.
ZACH: It was at this point, with the first record finished, that the discovery really started.
Images courtesy of Chipster PR/Feature image credit: Shimon Lindenblatt
Walk me through that discovery and your evolution since.
HARRISON: Discovery, at least for us, has been a process and one that is still ongoing. Our first record made its way to legendary journalist Malcolm Dome, and he sent it to Rock Candy founder Derek Oliver, who released it. Eventually, we finished school and began to do more shows, and as Zach mentioned, we were fortunate to find Nicholas and Chris.
ZACH: We also began to build a following and relationships with local promoters who helped bring us along and knew we could bring in an audience. We then had two big breaks that helped elevate our profile. Def Leppard posted a cover we had done of their song “Women” on all of their social media, and Bon Jovi selected us to open for them at Madison Square Garden. We’re grateful to both. You would be surprised how rare it is for established bands to pay it back and help younger acts.
HARRISON: Soon after The Madison Square Garden show, our friend Malcolm Dome sent a video of us playing our song “Living Dangerous” to agent Steve Strange who was a founding partner of X-Ray Touring and one of the people that discovered Coldplay. This put in motion the final step of our discovery by the industry.
Steve loved us and brought in a partner Andy Gould who has managed Pantera, Linkin Park, and Guns N’ Roses, to help with our management. Andy introduced us to Grammy Award winner Chris Lord-Alge who has worked with everybody. He then mixed our demos and played them for Chris Nilsson at 10th street Entertainment, who brought them to his boss Allen Kovac who signed us to his Better Noise Music label.
Unfortunately, both Steve and Malcolm unexpectedly died last year. Losing two of our biggest supporters who were true believers has been incredibly difficult. We owe them so much.
ZACH: Incredibly shocking and difficult. So, once the dominos started to fall, they fell quickly, but it was a process. Then COVID hit, and that has stalled things out a bit!
HARRISON: From a musical standpoint, our sound has continued to evolve as we have found our own voice. Our first record is very derivative, but as we added Nicholas and Chris and we all worked together, we developed a unique sound and voice. We’re ready to release this record and take music fans along on a journey.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention Billy Squier. How much has he influenced you as a musician? How is that present in your music today?
ZACH: I think I can pass this one on to Harrison. [Laughs]. But I’ve always liked “The Stroke!”
HARRISON: Honestly, my relationship with Billy was much more familial than music based. I do remember learning “Frankenstein” and having him show me some crucial parts. Of course, he has encouraged me and imparted to me some important music business advice.
We had another dear friend, Jeff Golub, who played with Billy and with Rod Stewart, among many others. He was a great musician and guitar player, and he really mentored me in the early stages of my playing. I’m honored that he left me one of his main guitars to keep playing.
What are your thoughts on the resurgence of “classic rock?” Do you agree with the notion that rock is dead?
HARRISON: Classic rock is never going to die. The question is: how does it evolve and draw in a new generation of fans? Our approach is to focus on the elements that make classic rock so great: the songwriting, the musicianship, the star power, and the presence. This forms the base of our music.
We are then using modern production techniques and modern sounds and, of course, drawing from our experiences, but that core remains. This is how we are connecting with our peers, and this is how rock music can have a real resurgence.
ZACH: Based on our experience touring Europe this past summer, rock is far from dead. There is a large, enthusiastic fan base there that is not only ready to rock out to the classics but also eagerly engaged in the discovery of new bands and new music.
Where do you see Tempt in five years, and what’s your immediate plan moving forward?
HARRISON: We’re musicians first. So I see us writing and producing and having fun with an ever-growing fan base.
ZACH: We’re lucky to have formed a very strong partnership, and as Harrison said, I see us writing and producing music way into the future.
Images courtesy of Chipster PR/Feature image credit: Mark Seliger
– Andrew Daly (@ajdwriter88) is the Editor-in-Chief of www.vwmusicrocks.com and may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org