As a kid growing up in Indonesia, Dougy Mandagi heard the adage that necessity is the mother of invention, but didn’t discover its truth until traveling in his late teens, visiting relatives living in countries around the world.
Settling in Melbourne, Australia, he planned on working and enrolling in college. “But it all went horribly wrong, because I couldn’t get a job anywhere,” says the singer-guitarist, who went on to form the anthemic The Temper Trap, now based in London. “So I decided to make my own kind of work.”
Mandagi — who brings his group to The City on Saturday — simply purchased a busking license and set up shop in Melbourne’s busiest shopping district, Swanson Street.
He strummed for spare change, but also relied on his other talent — art — and sold charcoal sketches of tourists for $25 a pop.
“It was more realistic artwork, not so much the typical caricatures,” he says. “In fact, I wasn’t even interested in music at first — ever since I could walk, I was drawing, and all I wanted to do in life was work for Disney.”
Each day, Mandagi would choose what to take with him — acoustic six-string or sketch pad, depending on his mood. “You go at your own pace. You’d go down there at 11 a.m. and work until maybe 4 or 5, and that’s a decent day,” he says.
Necessity fostered his formation of The Temper Trap, too. His first tentative lead singing audition was in a guitarist’s smokehouse among suspended slabs of meat. When even that gig eluded him, he says, “I thought ‘If I can’t join someone’s band, then I’m just going to start my own.’ So I did.”
Mandagi’s soaring vocals (reminiscent of The Call’s late Michael Been) and U2-epic songwriting skills eventually scored a Top 10 Aussie smash with “Sweet Disposition,” from the band’s 2009 debut “Conditions,” also featured in the film “(500) Days of Summer,” and ads for Chrysler and Diet Coke.
“Need Your Love,” the sweeping, synth-filled new chart-climber from the band’s eponymous sophomore release, could replicate the feat.
Is the ex-street musician stunned by how far he and his sound have come? “When you’re in amongst it, you can lose perspective,” he says. “So you need to step out of it and appreciate it for the amazing thing that it is. Because this does not happen every day.”
IF YOU GO
Where: Warfield, 982 Market St., S.F.
When: 8 p.m. Saturday
Contact: (888) 929-7849, www.axs.com