For Thao & The Get Down Stay Down’s new album Temple, the band captures an innovative sonic blend of Vietnamese dance and American rock music. While a definite departure from the group’s previous work, bandleader Thao Nguyen says this release is the most personal of her life.
Nguyen feels that Temple essentially captures a sound where she exists as her full self. That sound touches on many elements, especially the psychedelic rock music made in Vietnam during the 60s and 70s, when much like now, music was seen as an escape from the grind of daily life.
Nguyen recalls watching her parents dance at joyous basement parties among the Vietnamese diaspora in Northern Virginia, a space where they could celebrate their cultural vibrancy despite having been forced from home, and for the album she wanted to incorporate that cultural gratification into her own music:
“For Temple, I had been listening to and definitely wanted to channel a lot of rock music from the 60s and 70s that was made in Vietnam” said Nguyen. “It was this really interesting ethnomusicological endeavor to listen for the American influences that were transmitted through American GIs who were based in Vietnam. All of that music coming through and then how that was interpreted into the Vietnamese psychedelic rock scene.”
Artistically the band’s influence may spread the globe, but closer to home they also mention the vibrancy of Virginia’s own music scene as a major influence. Nguyen produced the record with her longtime bandmate Adam Thompson, who also is from Virginia.
“When I went to school at William and Mary I spent so much time just playing music with people and sitting in and watching really amazing sort of Appalachian players” says Nguyen when discussing the influence Virginia continues to have on her music.
Nguyen says she was seeking that aspect of the freewheeling spirit. The camaraderie is clearly kept and captured in the brilliance of Temple.
By Madison McNamee