Gentle Temper’s new album Our Warm Red Light sticks to a heart of folk while experimenting with heavier sounds and themes, creating a record that swells with emotion.

Our Warm Red Light begins softly, with only the sound of Marion Earley and Ryan Meier’s raspy and gentle voices buoying over a sea of silence. There are no instruments, bells, or whistles. Instead, just the voices of both musicians, tricking listeners into believing the song will be just as soothing lyrically.

While the vocals tend to be gentle, as if Meier and Earley are attempting to hold our hand, the lyrics are not as shy. “Through our lyrics, we get to pay our respects to the things that have shaped and motivated us, but don’t necessarily have to define us,” explains Meier. “We were both going through transitions when we started writing together,” explains Earley. “We’d just graduated college, our respective groups were slowly disbanding, and we were forming this new project, trying to figure out where we wanted to go and what we wanted to do.”

Maybe this is why Gentle Temper‘s favorite clothing items of the moment are pieces of comfort and stability: a pair of knitted socks and a sturdy belt. Earley and Meier are two gentle souls, who just happened to find each other after tumbling their way through two bands with, collectively, 11 members.

“Marion and I found what has turned out to be a kind of protected sanctuary in the limited extent of what two people on a stage, in a room, in a building. can do,” explains Meier. “We hope that the emotional canvas this album was painted on holds some familiarity for the listener to feel comfortable or nostalgic as well.”

The first song, “Cut My Brakes,” has unapologetically dark lyrics: “left in the dust / is all I ever was” confess Meier and Earley. An acoustic guitar is added, picking up the tempo and adding weight. However, the theme, which alludes to self-destruction, stays dark: “Cut my brakes when you see me next / I’m a danger to myself / if I ever stop moving.”

The rest of the songs follow a similar equation: soft, melodic voices barely rising over a gently plucked acoustic guitar, while said voices discuss difficult topics: conflict within relationships, feeling lost or suspended in time, and not being in control of what happens within or around one’s body.

“We are prone to writing in a kind of subconscious flow, sometimes writing together, sometimes writing separately,” explains Earley. “So in terms of content, we write about things we’re experiencing or that we can relate to. The music often blooms out of whatever we’ve come up with, though sometimes it is a simultaneous and conscious development of the two.”

When it comes to the actual sound, Meier explained that this part can “be like designing and building [a house]. You need to know a lot more specifics than just what you need. I’ve built a number of ‘houses’ that I could definitely be more proud of and I owe a lot to them for how I ‘build’ now.”

In “Sugar”, the duo are courageous in their vulnerability, revealing an inability to face certain difficulties in life by alluding to little kids being mean on the playground. Earley wrote this song, which started as a poem, as she drove from Maine to Boston (in response to this, Meier was quick to add “That sounds pretty rock ’n’ roll to me”), the last presidential election swimming in her head. “I started thinking about the state of things in this country, and how I felt like everyone was just kind of filling their heads with this metaphorical sugar,” says Earley. “The first verse came from thinking of my mom, who taught me ‘if you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all’ and to always choose my battles. Those rules… definitely stuck in my head whenever I faced a difficult situation.”

With “Teeth for Diamonds,” the group departs from the gentle plucking for a heavier, muddier sound. “We found a connection in our mutual love of rock music, and we were both in louder, heavier bands before we started playing as a duo,” explains Earley. “Those tracks in particular come from a more energetic, driving, and darker force that are steeped more in that vein.”

“That song [expresses] an edgier side of who we are,” adds Meier. “To share that grit and rawness and feel right at home next to someone is the best feeling in the world.” The duo later capitalizes on this transition with “Ancient Tattoos,” where Earley’s voice turns smoky as she sings “I wish I were an octopus,” and takes the listener from a campfire to a dingy underground bar. When asked about this rather peculiar song, Earley explains: “I wrote the poem that morphed into ‘Ancient Tattoos’ at a very transitional point in my life. I found myself spending a lot of my time wishing I could be something else, and wondering at the simplicity of life as a sea creature. The sentiments just kind of poured out of me from that state of mind.”

The duo sticks to a heart of folk, but experiments with heavier sounds and themes, making Our Warm Red Light unique in its juxtaposing components. “If we’re remembered for anything, I want to be remembered for our lyrics. The contrasting tones of lyrics and music has always held a power over me. Its impact is unorthodox and lasting,” said Meier.

Our Warm Red Light swells with emotion, conducting some mythical potion of subtle nerves and tranquility. Perhaps Earley puts it the best: “[Our Warm Red Light] is most superficially about coming to a stoplight alone, with most of the drive still ahead of you. Stoplights are a hotbed for organized chaos and swelling anxiety, but it becomes a meditative, observable slow-dance without anyone else there.”

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Our Warm Red Light will be released on October 7th on all platforms. Hear the songs live at their release show with Muddy Ruckus on October 10th at Grendel’s Den! The band was recently nominated for “New Artist of the Year” for the 2018 Boston Music Awards.

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