The unassuming Mandagi and his bandmates – drummer Toby Dundas, bassist Jonathon Aherne and guitarist Joseph Greer – have earned the right to help determine the song’s story. Soaring and then surging, Sweet Disposition, which is broadly about Mandagi’s connection to music’s elative power, took the band from Melbourne pubs to the main stage of European music festivals and remains a radio staple with more than 300 million streams online.
With 2019 marking the 10th anniversary of the album it spearheaded, the group’s gilded debut Conditions, The Temper Trap are briefly touring Australia to play the record in full at a series of theatre shows. The commemorative tour is a common music industry tactic, but Mandagi is adamant he never saw it coming.
“If someone hadn’t told me, I would never have remembered the record’s anniversary,” he says. “I live in my own bubble – I’m already bad with dates and birthdays. But really I just had to be reassured that people were interested and the managers and label did that, so I’m totally up for it.”
The singer’s situation might explain his detachment. For the past three years, he’s been living in Berlin’s hip Kreuzberg neighbourhood, working on an electronic-based solo project by day before going out at night to the city’s taste-making nightclubs to catch sets by leading DJs. Well, at least when he can pass the various venues’ inscrutable door codes.
“There’s no rhyme or reason for what happens after you queue up for hours. There are plenty of stories of A-list celebrities getting turned down,” Mandagi says. “They have strict rules and regulations, including stickers on your phone camera so no photos and no Shazam-ing songs you don’t know when you’re on the dancefloor.”
Being at one with music’s elemental power is central to Mandagi and The Temper Trap’s approach. When they’re not recording or touring, the four-piece, divided between Australia and Europe, maintain a scrupulously low profile by design.
“I find what I do important and I’m passionate about it, but it’s not the be-all and end-all,” Mandagi says. “If I’m in a group of people and someone mentions The Temper Trap and the attention turns to me, I’ll entertain it for a few minutes and then try to deflect it.
“I don’t know if that’s good or bad, but I find it off-putting when musicians put the focus on themselves.”