“For me, our life has always been similar to a solar eclipse; it will all eventually line up but it’s really just a waiting game”…
Tera Melos’ X’ed Out has swiftly become a favorite since its release in April. From tracks like ‘New Chlorine’ to ‘Tropic Lame’, its gorgeous riffs, complex rhythms and sweet harmonies makes it a strong contender for album of the year. Maybe a bold statement but it is just so uplifting, complex and yet catchy. We were lucky enough to get a few words with frontman Nick Reinhart.
First of all heard it was your birthday this week so Happy Birthday from all at State.
X’ed Out (your follow up to Patagonian Rats) was released last month to exceptionally positive reviews everywhere. Congratulations. When you started writing X’ed Out, what were you hoping to achieve with this album? How do you feel Tera Melos’ sound has progressed since Patagonian Rats?
Thanks for the birthday wishes! With X’ed Out, I was interested in taking a minimalistic approach to the way we would usually write songs.There were a few relatively basic songs from Patagonian Rats that were really fun to create; songs like ‘Manar the Magic’ and ‘Frozen Zoo’. While I really love making music that lives in a complex technical realm, it’s equally as important to me to explore other areas of sound and song. So our approach this time around was a bit different than the last time. I wouldn’t say that the experiment was a failure, we just ended up with different results than I had initially expected. It wasn’t that we focused on making simpler sounding songs, rather, we didn’t focus on making things extra complicated, or at least “complicated” as defined by the casual listener. In a lot of ways the songs on X’ed Out are far more complicated than anything we’d ever done; melodically, structurally, rhythmically etc.
It was around this time last year that Tera Melos played the Button Factory, Dublin. It was part of a pretty epic tour which I heard you achieved on a tight budget. Can you tell us a bit about that tour, the kind of preparation that went into it? Did it make relationships within the band stronger?
The European tour for X’ed Out sort of happened by accident. we were working with a new booking agent over there and he had misinterpreted some emails from us to mean that we wanted to play as many shows as humanly possible in the course of two months. To be fair, it’s definitely possible that we said that [laughs]. I mean we fancy ourselves pretty ambitious, but when we saw the routing it was a bit shocking.
It was a pretty crazy couple of months. 59 shows in 60 days. The one day off was a long drive day something like 14 hours. Just insane. Almost a different country every day; a new language, new currency, new border patrol assholes, etc. Whenever it got gnarly, I just would think about stories from Get in the Van by Henry Rollins. All the 80’s hardcore/punk bands did all the same stuff and they did it without cell phones or iPods or Wi-Fi. Mike Watt once told us that touring with us reminded him of touring with “the flag and the huskers” that was pretty big for us. So a two-month European tour, no matter how fucked-up or crazy it was, would be written into Tera Melos’ history and that was really exciting. Since it was our first time in mainland Europe, there was nothing that could have really prepared us. It was just a big, weird adventure. No one ended up quitting the band, our gear survived and when we came home we were able to afford a couple months rent. So I’d say that made us a little stronger as individuals as well as a band.
Who did you record X’ed Out with and what influenced your decision?
We recorded X’ed Out with our good friend Patrick Hills at his home studio. he knows the band well, as he did most the engineering on Patagonian Rats, and he’s seen us through all the different eras and member changes. It just made sense to include him and have him document our vision.
Onstage you’ve an impressive array of pedals, can you take us through your set up for any pedal geeks out there? Has your setup changed since Patagonian Rats? It’s totally understandable if you don’t want to share your secrets.
My pedal set-up often changes, usually it’s by default because something is broken. Actually, I think a lot of my “secrets” are probably just techniques that I’ve developed around using busted gear. I’ve had a lot of pedals given to me over the years by really nice fans wanting to trade for a guest list spot to a show or a t-shirt. I think it’s a neat way for people to really connect with our music. Chances are that broken flanger pedal so-and-so gave me will end up on the next record. I wish I could afford nice stuff, but most of what I have can be found fairly easily and for cheap. The trick is getting deep into the particular sound and knowing how it interacts with other effects. Right now, I’ve got two medium-sized boards with a midi foot controller that was modded to control a sampler. With the Patagonian Rats live set my hands got a little busy and I was unable to cue samples, hence the foot controller.
Tera Melos are part of the Sargent House family, for anyone who doesn’t know can you tell us how you got involved in the first place?
We became friends with Cathy Pellow (owner of Sargent House) around 2007. We emailed her about wanting to play with some of her bands at the time and just had a few general questions. At that point, with very little help from anyone, we had released a couple records, toured the country multiple times and built a good fan base. I think she was impressed with what we’d accomplished and wanted to help us move forward. It’s weird because we were with Sargent House before it was a label. We had worked very briefly with a couple other small independent labels, but for all intents and purposes this was our first. It’s hard to have perspective on something that you’ve been attached to since it’s inception. it’s pretty much all we know.
I think we’re a bit of an anomaly on the roster. We’re just sort of this weird thing that you have to just let exist and not fuck with too much. If I was looking into the Tera Melos world from the outside, as a manager or label person, I would have no idea how to handle it. For me, our life has always been similar to a solar eclipse; it will all eventually line up but it’s really just a waiting game. Although, I guess, with an eclipse, science can figure out exactly when it’s going to happen. There is definitely zero science involved with knowing when things will line up for the band. I mean we all work really hard the band and the people at Sargent House. And actually with this record, more-so than ever, things have lined up rather nicely.
You’ve been compared to the likes of Devo and the Flaming Lips, as far as comparisons go that’s quite flattering and accurate. If you were to sum up Tera Melos yourself, how would describe it?
This has always been a paradox for us. The true answer is that it feels impossible for us to label something that we’re creating without the intention of defining it or putting a box around it, therefore it seems to rest upon the listener to decide what it actually is. The problem is that we’re never satisfied with how the listener chooses to define it! Super weird. I guess that means that it’s much easier for us to define what our music is not, rather than what it is. I think by nature we like to experiment with ideas; songs, melodies, structure, sounds, etc. So maybe that makes us an “experimental” band? In any case whatever word someone might use to describe our music would have to cover a broad spectrum of music and ideas. I would be pretty happy with being called a “Devo-Lips” band.
Overall, X’ed Out has such an uplifting sound, for anyone who hasn’t listened to you before it’s perhaps a little more accessible than Patagonian Rats. Would you consider it your pop opus?
Not sure what I would consider X’ed Out to be, other than a record I’m really proud of. I’m happy with every second of it and will always look back on it as a really cool thing that we did. I feel that way about Patagonian Rats too. That’s kind of why I’ve said that I consider that record to be our first real record because we figured out how to accomplish musical goals that we had been working on since the day we started the band.
Finally, what else can we expect from Tera Melos in 2013?
Hmm, that I do not know for certain. probably a European tour and a couple more US runs. We’d really like to play with some more rad bands: the Flaming lips, Deftones, Dirty Projectors, Dillinger Escape Plan. Oh and Devo. Somehow I think Tera Melos magically works with all of those. Probably start thinking about the next record by the end of the year. Actually, I was just thinking about our next record just this afternoon!
Main image by Ron Harrel