On the heels of a new full-length album release, Seattle band Temple Canyon sat down with Ballard VOX and gave us the history of how they came to be and what’s up next.
Mariko Ruhle, (lead vocals and guitar), met Al Reiter (drums) when playing the Hopvine open mic around 2011. “Mariko and I hit it off very naturally,” Reiter says, “Like beans and rice.” They began playing together as “Mariko Ruhle” in 2013 and recorded nine songs in Ruhle ‘s apartment with several local musicians including Jack Wilson, Zach Warnes (Lonely Mountain Lovers), and Steve Miller (Lowlands) who would become founding members of the band. Reiter was in a different band when he met Ruhle, called Supply & the Man, which included Jason Shao (bass guitar) and Kris Gray (lead guitar). The trio met via online classifieds and would eventually all be part of Temple Canyon. Shao was the next to join in 2015 after feeling inspired by Ruhle’s, “stunning voice and seemingly endless repertoire of music that sounded both freshly original and classic at the same time.” Prior to Temple Canyon, his projects were feeling, “stagnant due to lack of new material.” He also notes that, in prior bands, he was encouraged to, “filling as much sonic space as possible,” with his bass guitar, but, “Mariko’s music had space to breathe, and a lot of dynamics to play around with, was both intriguing and appealing.”
Around the time Shao joined Ruhle and Reiter, Ruhle was considering a name change for the band. The words “Temple” and “Canyon” popped in Ruhle’s head when thinking of new band names. She researched the name to ensure it wasn’t already taken and discovered Temple Canyon, Colorado, named after a natural amphitheater discovered in a fossil site in the 1870s. Ruhle decided Temple Canyon seemed like a cool place to name her band after. “I’d like to go there and sing in that giant cave,” she says. Her feeling that she’s living in a Seattle-based version of the music scene from the film “Laurel Canyon” seemed to support her choice. One last connection cinched it: Joni Mitchell’s “Ladies of the Canyon” was playing when Ruhle walked into the Wandering Goose, the day after she proposed the name to the band.
The last member to join, Kris Gray in 2016, heard Ruhle sing at a Supply & The Man show at a local bookstore. Ruhle’s voice immediately floored him and he says that it was a, “no-brainer,” to join when he was asked. Ruhle reciprocates Gray’s immediate infatuation saying, “Kris has this emotional playing style that I’ve been hooked on since seeing him perform for the first time – really, he has a mysteriousness that I can’t help but be drawn to.”
When Temple Canyon formed, the music they created progressively got louder and more intense until recently when they re-introduced, “very soft, indulging subtle nuances and being extremely acute about where we hope to draw your attention.” Ruhle also notes that, “We also moved away from a more harmony-heavy slow-groove 70’s sound, into a lot of more up-tempo stuff.” That “70’s sound” phased out as each new member was added and brought new, eclectic influences to the group. “I really feel like we reached our songwriting stride when Kris joined the band – his unique playing style pushed everything we did in new and exciting directions, but it especially seemed to invigorate Mariko’s songwriting,” Shao says. Ruhle adds that Shao also contributes to her ease of songwriting and performing stating that he has, “this ability to get quickly to the heart of what is happening in a song and make sense of it, and make everything move effortlessly from one part to the next. Jason’s global sense of sound in a room has allowed the songs I write to continually become more complex with more counterpoints and tension, allowing me to indulge in my emotions more while playing and trusting that he will hold us down.”
The group’s live performances most often consist of songs on their recent album, “Thank You for Not Caring,” which you can purchase digitally at templecanyon.bandcamp.com or at their live shows. Kris loves playing their song “Reiterate,” as does Ruhle. “We end up slamming into each other and she blames me later,” Gray says. “I actually love our stage moshing! I hope it encourages the audience to do the same,” Ruhle responds.
Content of Temple Canyon’s songs include Ruhle’s family and nostalgic experiences like first love. She and Shao are inspired by local artists with, “insane stage presence,” like Ol’ Doris, The Snubs, Rat Queen, Cold Comfort, Choke The Pope, and Wooky, Spinster, Lonely Mountain Lovers, Maldives, and Boots To The Moon. Some of Ruhle’s favorite songwriting is in Antonioni and Chris King & The Gutterballs. Gray echoes Boots to the Moon and adds Asterhouse excitedly. Ruhle sees songwriting as a way of mental processing – sometimes she hopes to never write about a certain event or person again, but finds she must continue processing – and therefore writing. She writes almost all of the group’s songs on her acoustic guitar at home and finalizes lyrics and chords before bringing them to the rest of the group. Then comes a jam session in which the band works together to refine the structure as a group. “We are lucky to often find our way through intuitively without a lot of talking. Some songs do get super-scrutinized and we try a million parts out, and make demos and stuff to get everything perfect.”
Temple Canyon has played in Oregon and has a show in Austin, Texas (Radio Coffee & Beer) next month but explains they have played primarily in Seattle. The Sunset is their favorite venue due to their experiences with the crew and atmosphere which they note is, “conducive to all sorts of music, whether it’s acoustic solo songwriters, 6+ piece bands with exotic instrumentation that don’t fit on the stage, or abrasively loud, face-melting rock. We’ve seen (and probably played with) all of the above at the Sunset.” Shao says that he visits the Sunset regularly even if they aren’t playing due to his love for the venue.
Since the birth of Gray’s twin daughters a year ago, the band says that their biggest struggle has been his schedule. Shao states that performing with Gray ensures a better show, but Ruhle, Reiter, and he have all become significantly more confident in performing without a lead guitarist. “I think it’s great that we are able to do the trio thing now, because we certainly weren’t as good at it even just a year ago. New challenges crop up all the time but I think that it has just pushed us to be stronger, more positive and more cohesive as a unit.” Gray says the challenge is eased by his fiancé who watches their children more in the evenings so he is able to practice and attend shows, and the band, “has been amazing and super supportive. They often load in all my gear, or out… or both. Couldn’t come close to doing this without such a supportive family around me.”
Temple Canyon’s future goals include doing an in-studio performance for KEXP or an episode of Band in Seattle. They want to do more shows at venues they have played less frequently, namely the Tractor Tavern and Crocodile. Ruhle says, “Essentially I just care about performing for people, but sound quality and ambience is a plus.” Shao adds that he has previously loved the more unconventional venues such as past rooftops performances and would love to do more of them. Their end goal as a band is to be able to tour and perform frequently for large volumes of people. Ruhle finds her music therapeutic and hopes listeners find them to be, as well. Their advice to aspiring musicians is, “Practice a lot, be patient, be honest with your band and with yourself about your goals, go to as many shows as possible, and just overall commit to a project if it works for you. ‘If you like it put a ring on it.’”
Temple Canyon makes it very easy to gain access to their music. While their official website is www.marikoruhle.com/temple-canyon, you can listen at https://templecanyon.bandcamp.com or on Spotify, iTunes, Google Play, and Amazon Music. They post demos on https://soundcloud.com/temple-canyon and frequently add to their collection of live videos on their YouTube channel. Follow along with them on Facebook and Instagram as they post the latest updates there.
Don’t miss Temple Canyon at the Sunset on Wednesday, February 28 at 8:30! They will be playing two new songs and the night will be shared with new band Medejin and an Austin band called The Deer, which will be covering Portishead’s “Dummy” in its entirety.
Temple Canyon would like to thank Rick Hoag, for his sharp ear which helped refine songs with more pop sensibility. Additionally, Adam Prairie, Michael Gill, Levi Fuller, Tana Emelogu, Keith Trix Woodard II, Eric Luck, Barry Vail, Northwest Music Scene, Mixtape Mandi, Steven Graham, Darrel Fortune, Sarah Curtis, our friends Marian & Jimmy for always lending a helping hand … and of course, Ballard VOX!
Interview by Collene McCarter