Q&A: Temporary Pharaohs

Bands come and go, and in the case of Chicago’s retro psychedelic pop rock band Temporary Pharaohs, sometimes they come back for a second round. After taking a few years off from their original start in 2012, Cody Carpenter, Chris Kulwin, Nick Tumminello, AJ Hitmar and Elliot Gitter came together late this summer to record two new singles and reintroduce themselves to the Chicago music scene.

So far, the new beginning is running slow as the band approaches what will be only their second live show on Saturday, December 26 at Lincoln Hall. But it’s not for lack of material the boys assure as they gather at The Nook in Chicago’s Edison Park to discuss the collection of new songs they’ve been working on as well as plans for new merchandise, touring and a South by Southwest showcase.

Listen Live and Local: Temporary Pharaohs put out two new songs in August of this year. Can you talk a bit about those tunes and how they differ from previous singles?

Cody Carpenter: For those two particular songs, Chris and I each wrote one of them. I wrote “Hard Chardonnay” and he did “Narcissus and Goldmund”. I guess they’re pretty different from what we were doing before. We took the same name, but we’re pretty much on a different path now. We’re more of a pop, lo-fi [band]. We’re just trying to be ourselves as much as possible. As weird as that sounds, [we just want] to remove all the gimmicky stuff and get to the heart of what makes us happy. Before, there wasn’t much of a theme. Whatever we wrote was released. Now it’s more about being selective about what is coming out and shaping our future and carving out that niche of what the Temporary Pharaohs sound and message is.

Chris Kulwin: We’re more prolific now, so we’re choosing what we want to put out. It’s more carefully selected rather than a mad scramble. We weren’t as artistically motivated before? We’re going to put out a single with Treehouse Records soon. I think in the summer. We’re just going to release singles as often as we can. We record so much, we don’t want to put out albums to a wormhole, so we’re easing into it.

Nick Tumminello: Although new songs are going to be released, it’s been a consent stream of songs and messing around and recording. It’s almost like that band never really did go away. There’s going to be many more songs released.

AJ Hitmar: It almost seems that you guys are putting out even more than we can practice as a band sometimes.

LLL: The new single expected this summer, what is it called?

Carpenter: It’s called “Highland Park”.

Kulwin: It has to do with the whiskey Highland Park. That’s where the inspiration came from originally.


LLL: In addition to putting out singles, are there any other projects in the works?

Carpenter: We’re hoping to do South by Southwest. We’re looking into that right now. We’re  working on doing a Treehouse showcase for South by Southwest. Then some other gigs and hopefully a tour in the summer.

Hitmar: [We’re] working on some merch right now, too.

Kulwin: AJ runs the Dark Circle Records, so we’ll probably take [our new] singles and smash them into an album.

LLL: What makes Temporary Pharaohs different from other Chicago bands?

Kulwin: I would say that the influences we’re pulling from are a little bit different from what a lot of bands are doing currently. I feel like a lot of people are pulling out the garage rock card or following in the footsteps of some of these bands that have really made it the last few years. We’re pulling from The Four Freshmen, like 50s stuff. What makes [us] special? I don’t know. I know that we all love it and we’ve been working toward it in all these different ways.

Hitmar: Yeah, we’re definitely not really garage at all. Pretty much everyone in this band has been involved in so many different projects in the last 10 or so years. There’s a lot of individual experience from each of us that I think come out.

Carpenter: Another project that we’re literally all involved in that we forgot to mention is this band called Teleporter formed by Elliot, who is not here. He plays keyboard with us. It’s the same timeline as Temporary Pharaohs. It started in the early 2010s at Treehouse and then tapered off for a little while and now coming back in the same way. It’s a different style; more of a hard world music groove to it.

Hitmar: It’s Elliot’s pet project, but it’s literally all the same members. It’s been really easy to juggle. If we played a Temporary Pharaohs set and stuck a Teleporter song in there, it’d be obvious. Above all though, we just work together really well. Communication is easy. We’re all on the same level in terms of being able to talk about what we want to play and how we want to play it.

LLL: How do you balance the creative and business sides of being in a band?

Carpenter: You just got to have a cup of Joe and shoot emails every now and then.

Tumminello: Self-managing is really annoying and it’s daunting in a lot of ways you don’t really anticipate. The goal is to find a piece of mind. Whether that means getting with some sort of agency or getting with a manager, I think we’d all be for that. Right now we’re self-managing, [but] we’re just kind of getting it started. We played our first show last week and it was definitely booked too early. We just wanted to play so we booked the show, but it’s going to get much more fine-tuned after a while.

LLL: You guys have a show coming up on December 23 at Lincoln Hall. Anything you’d like to say to encourage people to come out?

Carpenter: Get there! It’s going to be a great time. Christmas Eve’s eve; traditionally it’s a phenomenal night to go out, especially in Chicago. We’re going to have some shirts by then and hopefully. We’ll get to show you some new songs and you guys will be singing along and having fun by the end of the show.

Kulwin: See us. Meet us. Greet us.

Temporary Pharaohs’ next show will be on Saturday, December 23 at Lincoln Hall. The night will also include performances by Carlile and I Fight Dragons. 

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