Written by Brittany Rotondo
San Francisco-based rock outfit Thao & the Get Down Stay Down‘s latest release, Temple, out today, is a modern-day technological feat, weathered with silky fusion songs that sound like quarters at the arcade.
Frontwoman Thao Nguyen’s fifth studio album is the most candid yet and sees Nguyen coming out as queer, whilst juggling a culturally sensitive background, another passion of the vocalist. Nguyen is of Vietnamese heritage where same-sex marriages are no longer illegal, though they are not legally recognized either.
The self-taught multi-instrumentalist explains, “I have divided myself into so many selves. I am hopeful that in belonging to myself, I can still belong to my family, and my Vietnamese community, especially the elders.” She continues, “I believe that shame has made my work more general when I’ve always wanted to be specific. This record is about me finally being specific. I want you to know who you are dealing with.”
Temple, via Ribbon Music, sees the vocalist’s collaboration with all 8 of her bandmates in the internet sensation and music video for “Phenom.” Given the world’s current lockdown, the video features a synchronized TATGDSD band, shot entirely on Zoom (The world’s most active conference and communications platform) in just one day. Eight hours to be exact.
The video is directed by Erin Murray (Ed Sheeran, Muse, John Legend).
Murray explains, “I had fun adapting many of the original video ideas into the Zoom space, an outlet that was totally new to me in a storytelling/choreographic sense.” Huge national news outlets like NPR, the Washington Post, and CBS are hailing ‘Temple’ as the official quarantine video.
Not too bad for an album that almost wasn’t recorded.
The 10-track album is the first self-produced piece of work from Nguyen and bandmate, Adam Thompson, who shares songwriting credits on five tracks. Thao & The Get Down Stay Down’s latest captures unshackled sovereignty, all while keeping the beats in constant motion, straying from the conventional. Temple is a trip-hop dial tone. A souvenir of an artist’s navigation of love, life, and loud.
“I have my partner and our home to ground me in this life, in my one life. And everything I do now, everywhere I go, every time I present myself to people, it is finally all of me,” declares Nguyen.
A creature of the future indeed.
Watch the music video for “Phenom” here.
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